It happens all too often, I'm hoping I'm not the only one. A week after payday - bank balance zero... Or worse, it has that dreaded minus sign before the figure.
Fortunately, all my Christmas presents had been purchased over the past few months so there would be no last minute panic buying on the early payday two days before Christmas.
Unfortunately, the minus bank balance + 2 1/2 weeks till the next payday = no shopping for me. =DISASTER! I am feeling some withdrawal symptoms of steering clear of the stores and feel most weepy as I mournfully browse ASOS, knowing I cannot proceed to checkout.
I cannot wait until the sales! But unless I want to quickly revert back to the minus in the long 5 week month of January, I must have a gameplan, and I'm going to share my tips with you girlies:
1. Set yourself a budget
Boring, I know but it's easy to get carried away then, before you know it, back into debt from those spontaneous splurges. Set yourself a limit and draw out that amount of cash - research has shown that it's harder for us to hand over the physical cash, than hand over a credit/debit card.
2. Early bird catches the worm
That old saying has a lot of truth to it. I'm sure the people that get up to go to Next sales at 5'o'clock in the morning get some right bargains. Personally that's a tad too early for me, but the principle is important all the same. And no dithering! Your first instinct of "oooooh, that's nice" is a strong reaction - if you umm and ahhh too much and leave it while you look around and have a think, you will miss out! And if you're anything like me, you'll obsess about it and kick yourself for weeks to come about that one that got away.
3. Plan your route
I don't mean get a list of directions off the AA website, I mean have a think about which shops you want to go to first and what they're closest to so you're not going back and forth and wasting time trying to make your way through the crowds. Get to your first choice before the shop opens so you can quickly nip in as soon as possible, get your shoes (see no. 4 below!) and get to the till so you can move on to the next shop.
4. Shoes, glorious shoes!
As a standard UK size 5, sometimes 6, I almost never find decent shoes in the sales. Has anyone else noticed shoes in the sales are pretty much either a teeny size 3 or a large size 8? 5's and 6's must be the first to go. My tip is to go try the shoes you have your eye on a week or so before the sales start, so that as soon as the shop shutters raise, you can make a beeline straight for your correct size and don't have to faff about with taking a seat, taking your socks off etc - you can take them straight to the tills before anyone else grabs them. Remember, the best time to try shoes on is in the evening as your feet tend to swell slightly as the day goes on.
5. Dress accordingly
I personally hate trying things on instore - the changing rooms in high street shops can be grotty to say the least, with chewing gum stuck to the walls, with not enough hooks to hang the many items you've grabbed on the shop floor, no stool, unflattering lighting and mirrors, and the pungent smell of sweat in the air (hmm, clearly I don't shop in high-end stores!). If I am forced to try something on, I make sure I'm in and out and not wasting too much time getting undressed and dressed again. Therefore, tights are out - they take me too long to put on! Leggings and jeans are ok. You want to be warm in the cold January air but not roasting hot when you're in the crowded shops. Don't wear too many layers but equally don't wear a big heavy coat that you may have lug around when you start feeling too hot. Shopping in New York last January when it was freezing cold outside and sauna-hot in the stores was not an enjoyable experience!
6. Invest in the trends for next season
Research the upcoming trends for next season by reading fashion magazines. Of course, don't go and buy heaps of bright orange items based on one magazine feature, particularly if it's not your colour! Use your common sense and stick to things that suit you, and things that you will actually wear. Chances are that they may have got that one wrong, then you're stuck with looking like you've been tangoed...
7. "But when will I wear it? I've just had my Christmas do."
What about next year's? There's ALWAYS going to be parties and countless office do's. It happens every year. So why not think ahead and buy a fabulous outfit now, while it's on sale instead of scouring the shops next winter looking for the perfect yet affordable dress and settling for something not quite as fabulous? Glitz and glamour never goes out of style. Gold, silver and sequins will always be on trend in the run up to Christmas.
8. Don't buy it just for the sake of it.
We've all done it. I was a victim of it when I first discovered Primarni - buying something just because it's cheap: "TWO POUNDS?! I'll have it!". Often, the alluring low price tag will cloud your judgement of whether you actually like the item. I have to keep thinking "Would I still like it if it was full price?" - if you wouldn't buy it at full price, don't buy it now it's in the sale.
9. Aim to get the best quality that you can afford.
I'm not big on designer, often because I feel they do make clothes only for the size zero models that stalk down their runways, but I do appreciate that often (but not always!) the quality of the material or the cut of the item is better. For many of us, designer clothes are not normally in our price range but in the sale, it's a different story - that skirt you've been wishfully gazing at in Vogue is suddenly within your reach. So instead of buying countless high street items that are likely to fall apart or shrink over the next few months, grab that better quality item that will last a whole lot longer! When else are you going to be able to afford it?
10. That's soooo last year.
Don't buy something that is instantly recognisable as being "the" item you should have been wearing last year. You're entering 2011, don't look like you're stuck in the past. That being said, sometimes trends can last over a few seasons, coming back each year - for example, maxi dresses. I think I bought my first one in 2007 and I've worn it every summer since. This winter I've noticed that they've made the transition from being summer only, to a winter item that can be layered with knitwear. Chunky knitwear will always be around (jumpers are always a necessity), shift dresses always stylish, and you can't go wrong with block colours. If you know it suits you, and it is likely to make an appearance again in the coming year, by all means, buy it.
11. Check the refund policies
Most major stores will refund you as long as you have your receipt so if you're not entirely sure about something, buy it anyway (see No.1 re no dithering!) and if you decide it's not quite you when you try it on again at home, you can return or exchange it for another item or a credit note. But be aware, some shops do not do refunds or will only exchange sale items. And keep your receipts safe!
12. Stock up on presents
Sales are great for buying presents in advance for birthdays in the coming year. Don't think of it as spending your money at once - you're saving money in the long run.
13. Timeless classics
This is an obvious one. I shouldn't even have to write it, I'm sure you all know it anyway but I'm going to drum it in one more time. White shirts, black t-shirts, a camel coloured coat or mac, cashmere jumpers, tan boots. Season after season, year after year, you WILL wear these! So why not grab them while they're in the sale?! In fact, with some of the cheaper items (t-shirts), if you find the perfect classic t-shirt, buy in bulk! Earlier this year, I bought about seven of the same t-shirt, in black, white, and grey because I know I will them until they fall apart - and they were only 7 quid each!
14. Do it online
Finally - if you can't bear facing the post Christmas crush, take advantage of the world wide web and hit the sales online instead. You can jump the queue to get some banging bargains, you're likely to be able to find a discount or free delivery code via moneysavingexpert.com - and all from the comfort of your cosy couch.
Sales dates for your diary:
23rd December -
New Look online
Christmas Eve -
Christmas Day -
House of Fraser online
Boxing Day -
New Look in store
House of Fraser in store
27th December -
Do you have some other top tips for us fellow shopaholics?