Jenny Keefe: Don’t Be a mug at the Boxing Day sales

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The post-Christmas offers are well under way. Here Jenny Keefe, of MoneySaving Expert.com, gives her tips to securing the best bargains.

SALE, half price, 70 per cent off, final reductions. At this time of year, shop windows pulse with promises to entice us to spend hundreds of pounds.

Yet stay level-headed to avoid expensive mistakes. Here are the top January sales tactics, from haggling on already reduced prices to your return rights if items are faulty.

Try haggling on sale items

If the price is already reduced in a sale, there’s often more flexibility. The boundaries have already been flexed, so the psychological loss for the salesperson is reduced as they have already given up the idea of getting full price.

Towards the end of a sale especially is a golden haggling opportunity, as shops are keen to reclaim their display space for new stock. It’s worth pointing this out in a friendly way.

Shop assistants often give an extra ten per cent just for asking

They just don’t want to advertise it. We did a poll of 2544 people recently, and 63 per cent of people who tried haggling at John Lewis were successful. Other examples include 51 per cent at TK Maxx, 44 per cent at New Look, even 19 per cent at Topshop.

If you’re shy, try stock phrases such as “I like this, but it’s slightly above my budget, can you do it for £40?” or “What’s your range of flexibility on this price?”

One of my favourites is “I’d love to buy those shoes, but my boyfriend will go bonkers if I pay that.”

Try outlets for up to 80 per cent off

Many people drive miles to outlet villages to snap up end-of-line bargains. Yet now the trend’s moved online, with a host of big names slashing prices by up to 80 per cent off via web 
outlets.

Our Online Outlet Stores Discount Finder tool searches more than 30 outlets for huge discounts on clothes, furniture and toys. Big names include M&S, House of Fraser, ASOS, Argos and more. Try it at www.money savingexpert.com/outlets

You can still return faulty goods

Much claptrap is spouted by shop assistants during sales. If one tries to tell you that you can’t return sale goods even if they are faulty, they are wrong. You always have a right to return faulty goods – you’ve the same rights in sales as any other time.

Buy online and 
you have more 
consumer rights

You’ve no legal right of return when shopping in-store (unless it’s faulty). So don’t buy clothes in the sales assuming you can change the size if it doesn’t fit or shoes don’t go with a dress. Some shops will allow it, but they don’t have to – and most don’t allow refunds or exchanges during sales.

Yet unlike buying in-store, buy online and “distance selling” regulations give you a seven-day right to change your mind for a full refund including delivery. This applies even during sales, so if you’re umming and arrring over whether you really want it, buy online for safety.

Start your Christmas shopping now

No, you didn’t misread. It’s the perfect time to buy goodies for Christmas 2013 – grab gift wrap, Christmas cards, baubles, decorations or even a new plastic tree as heavy discounts hit now. You could even grab and pressies and pop them in the present cupboard for next year.

Don’t think I’m a lone voice. By the first week of January, in a poll of 8000 on our site, 39 per cent had already bought the next year’s Christmas cards, 32 per cent wrapping paper and 18 per cent gifts.

Don’t assume it’s a bargain

Just because it’s on sale, doesn’t mean it’s a bargain. As different comparison sites are good for different things, we’ve designed MegaShop Bot.com to help you instantly find the right site whether you want to compare prices for games, gadgets, books, perfumes or anything else.

Work out the cost per wear

When sales shopping, always ask: “Is it worth it, will I use it, and can I get it cheaper?” With clothes, to help work out the “Will I use it?” question, I always consider the cost per wear.

That £50 orange mohair dress, worn once before being bundled into the back of the wardrobe, would have a cost per wear of £50. But a classic navy coat for £100 in the sale – wear it for two winters and that’s 33p per wear.