How to grab a January bargain

Love them or loathe them, this year’s January sales are better than ever thanks to the credit crunch; stores have resorted to heavy discounting of up to 75 per cent to attract customers. So, how can you make the most of them and get your money’s worth?

Do your research

It helps if you have an idea of what you want to buy, to avoid falling into the trap of buying clothes you’ll never wear but bought because they were cheap. Cut pictures out of magazines or look on the internet and make a list. Key pieces or items you’ve long lusted after are much better options than hard-to-wear, on-season trends that will soon be out of fashion.

Go for items that are versatile, and it doesn’t matter what the fashion bloggers are saying – you know what suits you. Decide on a reasonable budget, because if you do end up overdoing it you don’t want to still be paying off the bill for clothes you hate come next Christmas.

Don’t buy before you try

You are not a hanger, so clothes won’t look the same on you as they do on the rail. Take into consideration things such as leg lengths and pay attention to fabrics. Will it catch easily and get pulled? Will it ride up or go out of shape? If it’s embellished, is the detail likely to come off?

Dry clean-only clothes are expensive in the long term, so check the care label for washing instructions. Also consider whether you have anything else in your wardrobe that will match it; if not, leave it. If you’re uncertain ask for a friend’s opinion, or that of another customer. Don’t ask a sales assistant: they’re paid to make you buy stuff, especially if they’re on commission.

How low can you go?

All damaged clothes should be clearly labelled as such. If not, you’re within your rights to ask for a goodwill discount – usually 10 per cent – which makes it non-refundable. Check seams for holes and hanging threads, and the garment itself for marks and faults. Missing buttons can be replaced: the spare button is often attached to the inside label.

Some shops offer student discount on top of sale discounts, so ask. Also bear in mind that chain stores often run additional discounts when you open a store card, so it may be worth having one to take advantage of the offer. You can then pay off the full balance before cancelling it.

These are just a few things to bear in mind - let us know if you've got any tips of your own. And remember: shopping should be fun, but nobody needs fluorescent-yellow hot pants – even if they are half price.