How to master the January sales

Ten tips to securing a great deal in the last stages of the January sales

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Boxing Day sales

You're not too late to get a bargain in the January sales. While thousands of people were going online in the small hours of Boxing Day and rushing to the High Street as soon as they could escape the clutches of their relatives, seasoned sale hunters know that one of the best ways to secure a brilliant bargain is to wait for the dying days of the sales. Before you go, however, it's worth knowing the ten techniques you need in order to master the January sales.

1. Go early or late
Arriving in the last week or so of the sale is an excellent way to get some hefty bargains. Most stores will cut three times over the duration of the sale - so by now we're in 'further reductions' territory. In many cases it means you'll get 70% or more off the original selling price. The caveat, of course, is that your choices are far more limited. If you happen to be particularly slim or slightly larger than usual, then you're in luck because many of the final reductions are on less common sizes.

2. Make a plan
By far the most expensive approach is to wait and see what catches your eye. You'll end up with all sorts of regrets with this strategy. Before you go, decide what you really need. You should have an ideal scenario (the exact item you want from a particular shop in a specific colour). You should then decide on the compromises you would be happy with: would you accept something similar from another shop, or a different colour? Decide all of this in advance, so that if they don't have the item you need, you can walk away without making any unfortunate compromises.

3. Resist mental accounting
Your brain is designed to betray you when you're at the sales, by tempting you into mental accounting. You will have decided you have a sum of cash to spend on a specific item: if that item isn't available, you'll feel you have the right to spend that sum of cash on something else - regardless of whether you actually need it. It's why so many people head out looking for a new coat and come back with two pairs of trousers instead.

4. Avoid getting caught up in the moment
Part of the fun of the sales is the adrenaline kick we get when we hunt down a bargain, and the endorphins that kick in when we walk out of the shop with our new item in a carrier bag. However, these feelings will be short-lived, so if they are the only reason you have invested in a new pair of curtains and a paddling pool, they will be swiftly followed by far more overwhelming feelings of regret.

5. Price check
Most of us wouldn't dream of making a sizeable purchase without comparing prices on the high street and online. However, when we enter a sale we seem to think different rules apply, and that as long as something is slapped with a big 'sale' placard it's bound to be a bargain. This is far from true, and we should be checking prices against those in other sales and against full price items elsewhere.

6. Don't buy anything 'fashionable'
The winter season is officially over, so the 'must-have' coats, boots and jumpers, are officially 'last season's'. If you pick anything because it's in fashion right now, by the middle of February the fashion pack will have well and truly moved on to the spring trends, and you'll be too embarrassed to wear something so outdated. If you need warm clothes, it's far better to pick up something timeless you can wear next winter too.

7. Don't go out on a limb
When something is vastly reduced, we can convince ourselves that almost anything is a good idea. However, if you don't usually wear neon colours, or high-heeled flip-flops, then there's probably a very good reason for it. If you buy something outside your comfort zone, you'll just feel uncomfortable wearing it, and it'll sit at the back of the wardrobe gathering dust.

8. Try it on
Even the perfect jumper in the perfect size needs to be tried on. People aren't the same shape as coat hangers, and there's no knowing whether something will cling to you in unfortunate places or hang off you like a sack unless you try it on. Size alone is not a good enough guide.

9. Only ever buy in your current size
At this time of year lots of people want to lose a bit of weight. However, experience shows that the best intentions aren't always enough, and that by far the majority of people who plan to lose weight will either not lose as much as they wanted, or fail to lose anything at all. If you buy clothes for the size you plan to be, there's a striking likelihood that they'll never be worn.

10.Wait before you pay
The best way to make sure you don't regret a purchase is to take your time over it. When something isn't on sale it's best to walk away, and consider the purchase against your other options. You need time to separate the fact you want to buy something shiny and new from the actual item you are buying. In a sale, when items are limited, there's a risk that in walking away you'll lose it. However, there's nothing stopping you from holding onto it and retiring to another part of the shop to consider your choices carefully.

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