We’ve had Cyber Monday and we’ve had Black Friday but all savvy shoppers know that this isn’t the end of the sales as far as the Christmas period is concerned. Boxing Day is the traditional start of sale season and remains one of the best opportunities to get some incredible bargains on everything from electronics to beauty and fashion. If you’re planning a trip to the sales this year then here are a few tips.

Be ready before Boxing Day

As irritating as it is, retailers are always surprising us with sales these days and Boxing Day is no exception. Some stores kick of their ‘Boxing Day’ sales well in advance of the day itself – for example, last year Debenhams started its Boxing Day sale on Christmas Eve. Harrods is probably one of the few sales that still starts on Boxing Day itself and this one is worth queuing for – if you’re in the line when the store opens at 8.30am on Boxing Day then you can expect a red carpet, a celebrity and free hot chocolate and mince pies.

Where are the biggest discounts?

Some sales discounts offered by retailers are – let’s face it – a little bit dismal. 10% off or a ‘buy one get one free’ offer are the kinds of deals we’d expect at any time of year and you don’t want to spend all night queuing only to find that you’ve got pneumonia for a mere 5% off the top you wanted. Do some research into what your chosen retailers offered off their products last year – Next, for example, has a legendary sale that provided some of the biggest bargains on the high street and Selfridges in London is renowned for the discounts on its ranges of luxury goods.

On or offline?

There’s more than one way to get that Smeg fridge at a discount these days and you don’t even necessarily have to leave the house to do it. Remember that most retailers will also put their sales online so if you don’t fancy an overnight stay on the pavement followed by a scrum for all the best bargains then set your alarm and get up when the sale starts on the site. The only disadvantage worth bearing in mind is that if there is too much traffic on the site then it may crash and you may not have the same chance of getting what you want as you might if you were up close and using your elbows.

Identify your target stores

The sales are characterised by wanting, of course, but don’t be too greedy this year or you could miss out on everything. Choose two or three stores to shop, whether online or in store and make sure you know when and how to get those bargains. Whether on or offline, the information you need to have is: what day does the sale start? At what time do the sale items become available? Can you pre-browse the sale selections, either online or in store, if you have an account or loyalty card?

And then select your products

The most efficient sales shoppers know exactly what they’re looking for before they even get through the door (or onto the website). Browsing just does not work in sales situations as you will most likely lose out to someone better prepared or find yourself buying something you have absolutely no use for simply because it has an amazingly large discount. Make a list of what you’re looking for in the sales and then find product numbers, prices and identify the departments (or pages) where you’ll find your target products. That way you’ll be able to go straight to what you want and you’ll know instantly whether the discount makes it worth buying. If you really want to go all out then step into the stores in advance and try on clothes and/or accessories, test out gadgets and handle the tech so that you know 100% which item to go for when the price drops.

How are you going to pay for your purchases?

Are your purchases going on your credit card? Or store credit perhaps? However you intend to pay for your purchases take care you don’t start paying interest as it will soon eat into the savings you (may) have made. Borrowing just to get what you’ve always wanted may not be particularly financially sensible – especially if what you’ve bought ends up being unused!

Don’t forget the postage

If you’re shopping online then your savings can be wiped out by having to pay a hefty postage fee so look for those stores that offer free postage on all their sale items. You may be looking to buy from a brand that is stocked on its own website and also the site of a larger retailer – while most brands will ensure that their discounts are the same on either site, one may offer free postage and one not so it is worth checking in advance.