plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

January 2, 2010

how to take advantage of the January sales

Filed under: shopping — Tags: , — plonkee @ 11:27 am


identify gaps

You need to make a plan of attack, and that starts, not at the shops but in your own home.

Firstly, what kind of shopping are you thinking of doing? Things for the house, electrical goods, new cds or dvds, clothes, Xmas decorations for next year? Consider whether you received any gift vouchers / certificates / cards for Christmas. What kinds of shops were those for? That will help you decide which categories to shop the sales in.

In any case you probably already have some stuff. Go through the things that you already have in each category and note any gaps. These are the things to buy in the sales. Identify all the things you need – these should get top priority in your list – and all the things you’d want or like to have – if you see a good bargain, you can then choose to buy those. Write everything down in a little notebook to take to the shops with you.

I’m looking for clothes, and going through my existing wardrobe I have the following gaps, compared to my ideal wardrobe:

  • casual trousers (up to 2 pairs)
  • work trousers (up to 4 pairs)
  • fine knit sweaters (up to 3)
  • long sleeved t-shirts (up to 3)
  • chunky knit cardigans (up to 2)

So, with my clothes shop gift card I should be looking out for only those things in the sales. Since my existing clothes have worked out ok for the last 2 or 3 months none of these are strictly essential, if I can’t find things that I like.

In the electrical goods items, I don’t have but would like the following:

  • microwave
  • toaster
  • freezer
  • ipod
  • printer
  • george foreman style grill

Of those, probably the most urgently required are the microwave, grill and printer. I received some cash for Christmas that could be usefully spent on some of these items.

thinking about specific shops

Where exactly are you going to hit the sales? I have no car, and live about 45 mins walk from a major city centre, so that’s where I’ll be going. There’s one electrical goods store, so I’ll see if I can get a bargain in there. Otherwise, I’ll tackle the shop that I have a gift card for, and a couple of others that stock clothes in my difficult to buy for (short, round) size.

Maybe you’d be better off buying online? That could certainly work in some categories (not clothes so much) and might be a better use of your time. It’s not normally worth hitting more than one or two major shopping centres for the same types of items. especially clothes – the discounts don’t vary all that much from town to town.

setting price limits

It’s oh so easy in the sales to spend more than you intend to because the bargains are so good. Once you’ve identified all the things that you want or need, set maximum prices on them and write these down. This stops you spending more just because something has been reduced a lot even though it still costs more than you’d really want to spend.

With my clothes selection, I’d set limits on categories plus an overall limit – e.g. no more than £40 on casual trousers, no more than £30 on long sleeve t-shirts, and no more than £100 all together. I’d do the same if I was looking to buy books or cds or dvds.

With electrical goods, I prefer to set a price limit for each item, and an overall limit. I’m not going to spend more than £60 on a microwave for example.


Some things benefit from a little research in advance. This mostly applies to electrical goods. Do this before you go, and write down any suitable brands and model numbers.

hitting the shops

Time to put the plan into action.

Wear comfortable shoes and layers as the temperature can vary wildly. Take enough money to cover tea breaks and lunch out and ideally a reasonable sized bag with you. If you will be trying on clothes, wear something easy to change in and out of.

Only go into the shops that you identified previously. Don’t veer off the list. Stick to your price limits. Take a break every 2 hours or so. When you can’t carry on, stop and go home. There will be other sales.

Good luck.

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