To score a true bargain at sales, have a game plan to avoid what's truly horrible.
Katie Trotter: price is not the only focus of discount shopping
Sales can throw even the most directional shoppers off their game, and bargain shopping certainly has its pitfalls - most of us need only to look into the back of our wardrobes to be reminded of our embarrassingly expensive mistakes.
What we forget when we pop into the sales, blissfully unaware of the damage about to be created, is that we failed to orchestrate a game plan - a meticulously planned list and a strict budget. There is no point in buying something that has been heavily reduced if you don't really need it. If you will never use it or wear it, the amount of money saved is absolutely nothing.
Make sure you are careful about your rights. Shops are not legally obliged to take back any goods simply because you don't like them - although many will offer a refund or exchange - so make sure to sort this out clearly before your purchase. The same goes for online; check the price - including any extra charges for postage and packing - the description, the terms of sale, and any guarantees. Always check the policy on returns. If you have to return faulty items overseas it could cost. For extra protection, pay by credit card, as you can claim a refund from your company if goods costing more than £100 (Dh570) that were bought online turn out to be faulty.
A coat should be the No. 1 purchase as fantastic deals can be found in wool - not to mention you can wear your bargain straight away rather than waiting for the season to change. If you see a classic trench coat in your size snap it up. They've been a spring and autumn classic for decades, and they will almost never go out of style. Tan, navy, black and nude are all colours that will work for most seasons.
Good-quality jersey is something that most of us simply don't think about, even though the humble T-shirt is a staple in most wardrobes, so use this time to stock up. Look for quality fabrics, and avoid anything with even the tiniest hint of a man-made fiber. Fine cottons are the best as they give a much nicer silhouette.
A good leather bag can also make a great investment. A classic, soft, slouchy leather tote in mushroom, tan or black can last years and smarten up any outfit.
Flat boots are also a great investment as it is more often than not the style of heel that goes in and out of fashion.
In conclusion, avoid anything that falls under the term "trendy". Make sure to take a moment to question whether you will want to wear a pair of patent men's brogues next season when everyone else is in a narrow-fit slingback. Because more often than not you will not. Remember that bargain-basement items are unusually cheap only because they are unusually horrible.
This week's highs and lows
YOUNG TALENT Selfridges' 2011 "Bright Young Things" initiative welcomed some brilliant talent this year, including one of our upcoming faves, Sorcha O'Raghallaigh.
MODEL BORE Why is Gisele in Givenchy's new ads? She looks uninterested and the images are just plain boring.
ALL ABOUT VINYL Marni's recycled vintage vinyl record necklaces epitomise the concept of green fashion.
OFF THE MARC We may be huge fans of Marc Jacobs but his recent statement about couture being archaic has him in the bad books for now.
MAMMA MIA Looking for reasonably priced, good-quality printed jeans? Look no further than the cool American brand Mother this spring.