I have made the mistake of overspending at the post-Christmas sales in previous years and worry that I am going to do this again. I already have debts that I am struggling with and don’t want to make it any worse, but there are things that I need. Can you help?

Post-festive and new year sales can be a good time to pick up a bargain, both online and on the high street.

However, it is important to take into consideration whether we really need items, especially when money is tighter. 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.

Plan in advance & take note

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

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 regularly to make sure you are staying on track throughout your time shopping.

Stay focussed and resist temptation

When out at the shops, it can be tricky to resist other items, particularly items that appear to be cheaper than usual, or that are recommended by store assistants.

However, if you purchase one extra item in every shop you visit, it all quickly adds up. 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.

Check returns policies and T&Cs

Some shops will have 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 these goods; however, any policy changes should not affect your statutory consumer rights.

Shop around! Compare Prices!

It’s important to shop around to ensure the items you are purchasing are value for money. Do your homework and check that that any items you need are not being sold cheaper elsewhere.

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

Watch out for scams

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. Not only could you risk losing your money, but counterfeit goods, electronics and cosmetics can 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 familiar or trusted retail stores online if you are unsure, to prevent purchasing unsafe and untested items.

Additional Support

There are sources of support available if you are struggling with money and debt.

Advice Direct Scotland run and provide free information and support on a wide-range of debt-related issues.

Our specialist debt advisers can work with you to assess your current situation, look at your income and expenditure and decide what to do next. Call us on 0808 196 2316 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm).

The team can offer advice and information on a range of consumer-related matters. Call 0808 164 6000 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm)