Shops are bending over backwards this New Year to tempt us through their doors, with many sales already well underway having kicked off as early as boxing day.
Here, we explain how to survive the post-Christmas 'shopocalypse' without losing your sanity...
Plan your shopping trip
It's easy enough to overspend on any shopping trip, but it becomes even easier in the sales as every half-price item seems such a bargain that you simply have to buy it.
However, these bargains can soon add up and before you know it you've spent over £100 on things that you don't need or will never wear.
So plan ahead before you hit the high street, set yourself a budget and make a list of the things that you really need. If you subsequently find them, or something similar, in the sales then you've bagged yourself a bargain.
Remember that if you don't stick to your wish list and blow your budget on things you don't need, sales shopping can quickly become a false economy. Even if you have saved hundreds on the normal retail price of these products, it's wasted money if you never use them.
Buy for the year ahead
It's probably the last thing on your mind in January, but the sales are the perfect time to buy cards, wrapping paper and even presents for next Christmas.
Many of these items will be massively reduced as shops try to get rid of their surplus stock and when was the last time you heard someone saying the paper you wrapped their presents in was 'so last year'?
It needn't end there either as you can pick up items that can be used as birthday presents for friends and family throughout the year.
However, this is where you'll need to be really organised as, by time that June birthday comes around, you may well have forgotten about the gift set that you put aside in January or have lost it among a pile of retail rubble in the spare room.
Sales shopping can be a stressful experience that can turn even the most placid of people into frenzied shop-a-holics who would gladly step over their granny to bag themselves a bargain.
Millions of shoppers are expected to hit the high street sales again this year - a whopping £2.7billion has already been spent in the Boxing Day sales alone - so if you want to avoid the throngs, you may be better off shopping online from the comfort of your armchair.
Another advantage of online shopping is that many retailers will sell sale items on their website before they hit the shops and may offer greater reductions so you save even more.
However, you need to keep the postage costs in mind - make sure that these are offset by the savings you make.
Use the right financial tools
Although accepted wisdom often states that you should hit the sales with a certain amount of cash and, once it's spent, that's your lot, it can often make more sense to spend on a credit card.
For instance, if you have a
rewards credit card, you can use the sales to rack up some reward points or cash back, making sure to avoid the interest payments by paying off the balance with the money you had put aside for the shopping spree.
Barclaycard Freedom Rewards card offers £30 worth of vouchers if you spend £300 or more in the first three months, which you can use against days out, eating out or discounts on your shopping. It also offers nine months at 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers after which point it jumps to a representative APR of 18.9% (variable).
If it's cashback you're after,
American Express Platinum Cashback card offers 5% cashback on up to £2,500 worth of purchases within the first three months. Once the first three months are up you'll earn 1.25% cashback on everything you buy and if you spend over £10,000 a year on the card you'll get double cashback for one month a year.
The card does come with an annual fee ofn £25, but if you apply and are approved before March 10 this year you'll get £25 credited back to your account. To make the most of your cashback be sure to pay the balance off in full at the end of each month as the representative APR is 18.7% (variable).
If you have
a card that charges no interest on purchases, the sales could be a good time to make a big purchase - for instance a new television. You can then pay it off, interest free, over the life of the interest-free period.
Santander Purchase Credit card currently offers a market-leading 18 months interest-free on purchases, and up to nine months at 0% on balance transfers subject to a 3% fee. Once these introductory rates are up the card reverts to a representative APR of 18.9% (variable).
However, be sure to pay it off before the introductory offer ends as paying interest on your purchase could counteract the saving you made in the sale.
It's worth noting too that a credit card will also give you protection when shopping. Under the Consumer Credit Act, card issuers and retailers take joint responsibility for faulty purchases.
This means if you pay for something with a credit card valued between £100 and £30,000 that turns out to be faulty, or which you do not receive because the company goes bust, you can claim a refund from the card provider. In addition, any purchases that range between £30,000 and £60,260 are covered in the same way under the terms of the Consumer Credit Directive.
To sum up, the key to surviving the sales is to be disciplined, stick to your budget and avoid impulse buys. So, when you're in the shops, try to question every purchase you make. Are those maroon and orange, leopard print leggings really the one item you've been looking for all winter? Do you really need that mechanised egg cracker? And don't even go near that neon poncho. It may be raining outside but seriously, step away, right now!
. Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing
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