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As I get older, it's becoming less important for me to have something to open on Christmas day if I know that it will probably be marked down by at least 50% in the sales the next day. I've been stung a few times by frenzied spending on tat at the Christmas sales, but this year I actually did pretty well and thought I might as well share a few tips for successful sales shopping I've picked up over the years...
1. Wear comfortable clothes and flat shoes and if you are going to an indoor shopping centre like Westfield, Blue Water or Lakeside don't wear a really heavy coat, just a light jacket with a nice warm scarf, gloves and hat to get you to and from home warm. If you're driving leave your overcoat in the car.
2. Bring a bag that lets you have your hands free to root through the racks as stock is often jumbled up and you will have to hunt for your size. Pack a drink, a snack like nuts and lipbalm. Normally I wear a small satchel but this year used a small backpack. A light weight larger backpack can also be useful to stow away purchases - I was on a roll the other day at Westfield but after a few shops my arms were laden down and I had to head home (probably a good thing for my wallet!)
3. Make a list of all the shops you want to visit and what items you want from each shop. This can only be done if you know beforehand exactly what you want, as I've said, going to the sales on the off-chance of seeing something you like is a dangerous game. A list will save time as you won't be going to and from shops and you won't miss anything. If you know the layout of the shopping centre or road you can even plan your route.
4. If you have the time before Christmas, do a reccie online or in stores to determine the things you actually really like and want. Try them on to see how they fit - this is particularly important for footwear. Then watch like a hawk for the online sale, or get down to the shop as early as you can on the morning of the sale. One of the worst things about sales shopping is finding an item you love but realising they don't have it in anywhere near your size.
5. Impulse purchases rarely ever work out because unless you catch the sales on the first day, it's mostly tat left over, and places like Next order in a whole pile of ugly, unfashionable stock especially for their sale. When you're wrestling cheek to jowl with other eager bargain hunters it's too easy to get whipped up into a frenzy and buy something just so you feel it wasn't a wasted trip. If you are just out for a browse, set a budget.
6. If you received presents for Christmas which you see being reduced down drastically in the sale, you can always repurchase the item at the sale price and if you have the receipt for the full price, take back one of the items for a refund. I'd only recommend this if you are very close to whoever got you the gift, like parents of boyfriend as you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings! In the US, many stores automatically will refund you the difference between full and sale price if the item goes on sale within a certain number of days of you buying it at full price.
7. If you've been lucky enough to nab the item you want, don't queue at the most obvious till. I picked up a few bits from M&S the other day and every checkout had a line a mile long, even the mens' section (usually the best place to go as there's never a queue!) so I headed downstairs to the food hall and got served right away, saving at least 20 minutes!
8. Make sure you get and keep your receipt as those inevitable impulse purchases may not look so great once you get them home. Always check with the sales assistant that you will be able to get a full monetary refund if you take it back as many stores only offer exchange only or store credit. I'm looking at you Office and Bench ¬_¬. This may make you think twice about buying the item.
Good luck and happy bargain hunting!