I’m planning to hit the January sales but have been known to overspend considerably in previous years. Can you offer any advice before I go shopping??

The January sales can be a good time to pick up a bargain, both online and on the high street.

There are different things that we can do as consumers to make sure that we avoid living beyond our means.

Create a Budget

The simplest way to prevent an accidental overspend is to create a budget. Think about how much money you can afford to spend during the sales before you even venture online or set foot on the high street.

In advance of going shopping, sit down and plan your purchases and the shops you would like to visit, along with your budget.

Think about items you might need throughout the year or even for next Christmas and head to the shops or online stores armed with a list.

Make a List and Track Spending

It can be helpful to keep an eye on your spending, either by jotting it down in a notepad, or by checking your online banking to make sure you are staying on track throughout your time shopping.

When out at the shops, it can be tricky to resist when you have reached the cash desk and a friendly assistant recommends another must-have item. However, if you purchase one extra item in every shop you visit, it all quickly adds up.

Avoid Unnecessary Purchases

Having a list will allow you to stay focused and avoid the all-too easy impulse purchases. Also keep in mind that it’s only a great deal if you will use or need the item.

Be Aware of Differing Returns Policies

Some shops will be running slightly different returns policies on sale items, so it is important to double check retailer terms and conditions before making a purchase.

Some might be offering an exchange-only policy on sale items; however, these policy changes should not affect your statutory consumer rights.

Shop Around

It is important to shop around to ensure the items you are purchasing are value for money. Do your homework and check that that item you are eager to buy is not being sold cheaper elsewhere.

Price comparison sites can be useful tools to help you suss out the best deal, and it is worth bearing in mind that some stores may also price match items.

Be Wary of Scammers

If you are shopping online, it is also important to consider that you may be targeted by scammers, especially through social media marketplaces and targeted advertising.

If in doubt stick to the mantra ‘If it seems too good to be true, it probably is’.

When caught up in an online retail scam, the goods you purchase may never arrive, or turn out to be counterfeit items. Not only could you risk losing your money, but counterfeit goods, electronics and cosmetics also pose a direct risk to your health and safety.

Packaging often serves as an indication that an item is counterfeit, however when shopping online it can be trickier to ascertain whether goods are genuine.

Stick to Trusted Stores / Brands if Unsure

Stick to familiar or trusted retail stores online if you are unsure, to prevent purchasing unsafe and untested items.

The Knowledge Centre has information on a range of consumer-related topics, including pre-purchase advice, shopping safely online, and how to avoid common scams.

I hope this helps, and happy shopping at the sales.

You can access free, practical, and impartial advice by visiting, or alternatively, by calling 0808 164 6000 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm).