The REAL sale rules

The summer sale season is in full swing now, with offers all over the place. What’s the best way to do the sales without putting your blood pressure through the roof or maxing out the credit card on items you’ll hardly ever use?

Rule 1: Think about what you need
Is there anything in your home or wardrobe that needs replacing, or might need replacing in the next few months? Electrical goods, clothes, bedlinen, towels, glassware and crockery tend to be on my list. Do you have any occasions coming up where you’re expecting to give a gift of some sort?

Rule 2: Find the item that ‘pulls it all together’
One small purchase might help you to make better use of the things in your wardrobe: perhaps you already have a great skirt or pair of trousers but you never wear them because they need a belt/ a shirt/ the right pair of shoes that you don’t have. An amazing ornament might pull your home design together and complete the look. A baking dish, a lunch box or some freezer boxes might make it easier for you to have friends round for dinner or cook more economically. You get the idea.

Rule 3: Know what you can afford
You aren’t saving yourself money if you overdo it and get into debt. Make a rough budget, and rank items you want in order of priority. I confess that I always build something completely frivolous into the budget so there’s something fun to look forward to, even if it’s just a tiny treat. I also allow myself a ‘discretionary overspill’ – if the perfect interview suit turns up, for example, I’ll go up to a certain amount on the credit card and pay it off before the charges come rolling in.

Rule 4: Make a shopping list
It reminds you of the important things that you need, so that you don’t get dazzled by all the other pretty things in the shops.

Rule 5: Know what things are worth
A little internet research will show you who’s got your favourite things at the right price. You might also be able to buy online and save yourself a journey. Also find out which clothing trends are set to continue for the next few seasons, and you’ll get a lot more wear out of what you buy.

Rule 6: Plan your route and timing
There’s a limit to how much ground you can cover in one day, or one lunch break. If it’s likely to be a popular sale go early or go during an off-peak time if you can. Camping on the pavement for two days to save £50 on a telly is insanity, however. Wear the right outfit: comfortable shoes to get around quicker, and if you’re looking for clothes then wear plain underwear and things you can whip on and off quickly.

Rule 7: Go alone
It’s so much faster, you don’t have to worry about being democratic or taking umpteen extra loo breaks, nor will you end up having a bun fight with your friend who wears the same size clothes and shoes as you.

Rule 8: Be nice to the shop assistants
Seriously. They’ve already been run ragged by assorted needy, greedy and rude people since the sales began. Treat them nicely and they’re more likely to nip back to the stock room for the last size whatever, or do you a discount for that missing button or broken zip.

Rule 9: Know your rights
If you buy something you know to be faulty then your chances of being able to return it are slim to none. All other goods, regardless of discount, if sold as non-faulty must be fit for purpose – if something goes wrong with them then you’re entitled to a full refund (you don’t have to settle for vouchers or exchanges if you don’t want to). If in doubt, buy from established retailers who have a good reputation for after-sales service, such as John Lewis.

Rule 10: Don’t get sale fever
It’s easy to become mesmerised by items that would fit perfectly into your fantasy life. Oooh, a ballgown! Sorry, got a little distracted there, and I don’t fancy going to a ball. Oooh, £500 off an £800 designer bag!! Hang on, I don’t have £300 to spend on a bag right now. Quick, let me have another look at that shopping list so I don’t forget what I came in here for. Also avoid: things that might go off if you’re planning on keeping them for a while, this season’s fad, technology that’s about to be replaced by something better, clothes that you’re hoping you can slim into in the next few months, anything that needs several other purchases to make it useable/wearable, and anything that needs mending/altering unless you’re the sort of person who sorts that out right away. But you’ve budgeted for at least one fun purchase, haven’t you? I’ll be the one in the lime green diamante sunglasses, ciao.

It’s murder out there, good luck.

Similar Posts


  1. Some great advice. You can get some amazing bargains in the sales but you can also end up coming home with a load of clothes that you don’t want or need

  2. Thanks PSCS. Although I do love my lime green diamante shades and will be wearing them every day until November, I swear.

    I would say the rules are very different for getting real bargains at sample sales and swapping parties. But that’s a whole new blog. Drop me a line if you’d like to join in.

  3. Top tips Penny – excellent! I’m certainly not one of those types that gets up in the middle of the night to get to the Next sale that opens at 6am – that’s got to be a sure sign of madness!

  4. Hey discofizz, I’ve never understood it either. Especially when you can buy their stock online anyway. I can’t see how the savings would outweigh the hassle – never find much in there any more that I like in the first place. Sorry, Next.

  5. I should also add that if you have nerves of steel then you can wait for a couple of weeks or more to see whether your chosen shop makes further reductions on your favourite items. You’re taking the chance that it might sell out, but you could end up with an even better deal too.

  6. I always fall down on number 10.

    “Oooh, Designer @ 90% off? I need it and it very nearly fits.”

    Very nearly = not enough to look half normal even, and thus will never be worn.

  7. Oh dear, Pete. We’ve all done it though…

    I’m just remembering the size-too-small designer mules I had to stretch out with baking potatoes wrapped in freezer bags. I can *feel* the shoe gals taking in a collective horrified breath as they read this. Relax ladies, it worked and the ickle wickle shoesies were unharmed. I’m so naughty.


Comments are closed.