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[Image: Mark Dodds]

As a Shopping Editor, I'll often be plagued with questions from friends and family outside working hours regarding what to buy, when to buy it and where to buy it from. Really, shopping is a law on to itself and as a general rule, there are no rules - it varies greatly from person to person as to how one likes to shop. But when it comes to the January sales (similarly to the pre-Christmas rush) there are a few (not strict) guidelines on how to come out on top. So here goes...


Goal keeper: If you go out into the January sales with no focus or idea of what you're looking for, you'll fail before you've even left the house. Do a little pre-shopping analysis and make a hit-list.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail: If you're shopping for clothes, save time in the changing rooms by wearing few layers, plain separates and smooth undies. If you're looking for households goods, make sure you take colour swatches and measurements.

Try, try and try again:
When it comes to clothing, January sales are notorious for funny return policies and nightmare customer service counters. To avoid big queues try things on so you can make a committed purchase.

Go it alone: You may feel like you need a friend to turn to for advice when sale shopping, but in the busy January sales it can just slow you down and make it more difficult. Look at the positives; you're less likely to be coerced into buying things you don't need and you'll be able to manoeuvre the busiest shops faster.

Avoid impulse: Although some items can seem like they're a bargain at the time, it's not always the case. Remember these things are in the sale because no one wanted to buy them first time around at full price.

Basic instinct: Keep your eye out for things you know are useful all year round; think simple staples you'll use again and again. In terms of clothing look out for jeans, blazers, flat shoes, nightwear and underwear, and stock up while they're cheap!

Wise investments: If you've been toying with the idea of treating yourself to a designer item, now is the time to think about investing in brands you perhaps wouldn't be able to afford usually. Make sure you pick timeless piece which has longevity.

Be determined: Those one off bargains aren't going to jump out and present themselves to you - get stuck in and route around to bag those bargains. January sales shopping isn't for the feint hearted; remember hard work pays off.

Shy away from sparkle:
Post Christmas, there's always lots of enticing sparkle, glitz and glam around, but think carefully before you purchase. Will you even remember you've bought it by the time December 2012 comes around?

Shop Online:
Easy solution - avoid the madness all together and shop online from the comfort of your own home. You'll often find reductions are made online first so it's a great way to bag those bargains before anyone else does. There are also lots of shopping sites, like OSOYOU.com, which does the hard work and selects the best buys out there for you.