Back in 2017, our polling revealed 4 in 10 of us feel pressured to join in Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, and half of younger people said the ‘deals’ encourage them to buy things they don’t need. Christmas sales seem to run non stop, and with promotions online it's easier than ever to buy things we won’t really use or can't really afford. 

Online sales also have a return rate of more than double of physical stores, which can cause more hassle with postage and returns. 

But sales can be a great opportunity to get ahead on shopping for presentsand get great deals on things you might not otherwise have been able to buy! Here are some tips for how to avoid impulse and unnecessary buys and get the most out of the buying bonanza. 

1) Make a list!  

This is the top tip for anyone venturing into the flashing lights! Prepare by writing a list of what you want to buy and/or people you are getting presents for. Before committing to the purchase button, check your basket’s contents match your shopping list. If it's not on the list, chances are you've been tempted into an impulse buy. We love Fashion Revolution's flow chart to help spot if you're impulse buying clothing that might not get used. 

Some online shops let you create online wishlists. Make your list early – then come the sales, move the items from your wishlist to basket without being distracted by the rest of the site. 

It doesn't have to just be about presents. Are there things you buy frequently that you may be able to find a better price for in the weekend sales too? Thinking about your regular shopping list might help you spot an item that you could get for cheaper. 

2) Shop slow and combined  

Next day delivery puts pressure on delivery drivers to travel to multiple locations and doesn’t allow for the most efficient route planning. Choosing longer delivery options means they can combine deliveries in the same area and reduce air pollution from vehicles. Consolidating orders into one also helps with this.  

3) Click and collect  

Choosing ‘click and collect’ can also help reduce air pollution from delivery drivers, as they have to make fewer individual trips, and you can grab your items when you’re already headed that way. 

4Research real prices 

Price comparison sites aren't just for bills and insurance: some sites compare products too - handy for weighing up all the deals in one place!  

Did you know a Which? investigation in 2018 found a significant number of Black Friday deals were actually cheaper before the sales event? It's useful to do research beforehand to see if something is really discounted or just surrounded by sale signs. Using a price history tool, like PriceSpy, shows price history and tells you if something has been marked up before the weekend to make a discount look like a better deal.   

5) The point of no return 

Looking to buy Christmas presents? Double-check if items in the sale have a different returns policy, as some retailers may only allow an exchange or have a shorter returns window. Otherwise, you may be caught out with Christmas gifts can't be changed, swapped or refunded. As most shopping will be done online this year, keep track of receipts in your inbox. Make a folder so that if you have to make a return, you know where to find your proof of purchase.    

If you’re not sure about something and already planning to return it, it’s definitely better to skip it. The millions of orders and returns we make not only have a huge environmental impact from shipping things back and forth, but sadly not all returns even make it back to the shelf. Often, returns with no faults will simply be sent to landfill, because of the time and cost efficiency of sorting them all out. 

6) Avoid ads 

Tap into incognito mode if you want to browse products without the ads that follow you around afterwards. This will allow you to have a peek without the haunting temptation of ads that won’t take no for an answer. You'll get a new set of cookies for that browsing, but those cookies are destroyed when you leave that incognito session.  

But, if you log in to an account (e.g. Amazon) to buy an item in incognito mode you'll still get ads for it! 

7) Support small and local  

While bigger brands go big on the ads, remember your smaller, local and independent vendors. Some might not be able to hold big sales, but will also be hoping for the extra traffic on the day. You can check in with retailers beforehand to see if they will be running any promotions.  

Sites like Etsy, Depop and Not on the High Street are useful for finding small and independent creatives. 

Hungry for more? 

Find yourself buying clothes that 'don't really go?' A capsule wardrobe is a great way to plan your outfits so you can mix and match, have an outfit for all occasions, and learn to buy things you know you will wear. Here are 10 items to get your capsule wardrobe started.  

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