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Top tips for sales season

Avoid sales fails with our top tips for the sales season.

colourful shopping bags
Last updated: 21 December 2021

Even if you're not keen enough to line up outside Myer at dawn, it's all too easy to get caught up in sale madness and spend far too much money on stuff you don't really need anyway

But with some planning (and a healthy dose of self-control) you can hit the shops with less stress and bag a bargain on the things you actually need.

Tip 1: Make a plan

Many retailers release their sale prices ahead of time (for example Boxing Day sales prices may come out on Christmas afternoon) so you can get a head start before you hit the shops. 

And some Boxing Day sales start well before Christmas has even begun. Keep an eye on your favourite websites, sign up to newsletters and follow retailers' social media pages so you get the inside scoop on sales. Make a list and check it twice so you have a clear idea of what you want to buy and where.

However, in the sales chaos, retailers can sell out of stock and websites can crash. If you're not having any luck with one retailer, it pays to know in advance who's selling the product you're after, and for how much. 

If you're able to create a wishlist on your favourite websites, then do – that way you'll be able to easily see when your favourite products go on sale. 

Tip 2: Do your homework

If you're planning on buying a big-ticket item, check out how it performed in CHOICE's reviews first. 

We independently test each product in our labs to bring you unbiased results so you can choose the best product for your needs.

Tip 3: Set a budget

It's hard to not buy all the shiny things you see on sale, but if you set a budget up-front, you'll save yourself from buying things you don't need. 

If you can, try not to use your credit card or payment schemes like Afterpay. The last thing you want is to end up with financial 'debt lag'.

shoppers on bench holding shopping bags

Compare products and prices before you buy to make sure you get the best deal.

Tip 4: Compare products and prices

Just because something is on sale doesn't mean it's the best deal. 

A 20% discount in-store might seem like a good deal, but you'll be kicking yourself if you later find out that you could have bought it cheaper elsewhere. It's also worth checking whether your preferred retailer will match prices to secure a sale. 

If you have a smartphone, check prices from other retailers while you're in the shop to make sure you're actually bagging a bargain.

You could use a price tracking tool such as CamelCamelCamel, ShopSavvy or PriceRunner that tracks a product's previous prices, so you can figure out whether that bargain really is a bargain. 

Tip 5: Consider an alternative brand or model

With some products, you pay a premium for the brand name, but a lesser-known brand might perform just as well. 

In our testing, we often see cheaper products outperforming more expensive 'big' brands, so don't just buy something on the brand name alone. 

Don't just buy something on brand name alone

Having said that, sometimes the lesser-known brands are lesser-known for a reason – which makes it doubly important to do your research. 

It's also worth considering whether you need the latest model when you buy. Last year's model may have most or all of the same features, at a greatly reduced price. Here's how to grab a bargain TV in the sales.

Tip 6: Avoid expensive add-ons

If you've snapped up a bargain-priced TV, don't undo your hard work by paying a premium for pricey accessories or unnecessary extended warranties

If you can, hold off on buying accessories like HDMI cables from the store and try to find them cheaper online instead. Or ask the retailer if they'll bundle the accessories with the TV for a cheaper price to secure the sale.

Tip 7: Haggle

Even when things are on sale, you may be able to negotiate a cheaper price – particularly for big-ticket items like whitegoods and TVs. And if you can pay in cash, you may be able to get a lower price on the day.

Some retailers offer price matching, so find out which ones do and use that to your advantage. But read the fine print: some retailers don't price match during sales season.

Never haggled before? Check out our how to haggle guide for some clever bargaining tips.

customer returning gift at shopping centre

Keep the box and receipt in case you change your mind.

Tip 8: Check store policies in advance (and keep the box)

While retailers must provide a remedy (refund, replacement or repair) for a faulty product, they're under no obligation to refund or exchange for change-of-mind purchases. 

But many retailers do, so if you're not 100% sure your grandma will love those fluoro-yellow sneakers you've bought her, check the store's returns policy. Keep the box and the receipt in case you do change your mind.

But if you're returning a product because it's faulty, you don't need the original packaging. To make sure you know what you're entitled to, check out our article on refund rights.

Tip 9: Make sure the products are safe

Sign up to productsafety.gov.au to stay in the loop about product recalls so you don't inadvertently take an unsafe product home with you. 

If you've bought an unsafe product, take it back to the retailer for a refund, replacement or repair.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.