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Top 10 tips for sales season

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

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Last updated: 17 December 2020
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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. 

Check retailers' social media pages and sign up to newsletters 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.

Shopping centres are designed to maximise the chances of you parting with your hard-earned money. If you go in knowing exactly what you're after, you're far less likely to make an impulse purchase you might later regret.

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. (This is particularly true of discounted mattresses.) 

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.

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 the big brands. See our Christmas kitchen gift guide for some examples of products you can splurge or save on.

Consider whether you need the latest model. 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.

Tip 8: Push back against pushy salespeople

No matter how attractive an offer may seem or how persistent a retailer is, don't fall for the hard sell. You could end up with something you don't need or want, or worse – a dodgy product. 

To avoid being pressured into an impulse purchase, it pays to learn how to handle pushy salespeople.

customer returning gift at shopping centre

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

Tip 9: 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 10: Make sure the products are safe

Sign up to 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