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How to save money and shop safely during the January sales

How to find great deals and avoid scams

How to save money and shop safely during the January sales

Before you get stuck into some post-Christmas shopping, check out these tips on how to save money and stay safe during the sales. 

Every year, hundreds of thousands of UK shoppers descend on the high street to snap up great bargains in the Boxing Day and January sales. But this Christmas, social distancing means many of us will be hunting for deals from the comfort of our own sofas.

While convenient, online shopping has its risks. Here we highlight some ways to avoid scams and get what you’re looking for at the best price.


Looking to find the a great deal at the beginning of 2021? Read our guide on the best deals in the January sales.

How to shop safely

Some deals really are too good to be true. Dodge the duds with a few simple steps:

Look out for fake reviews

It’s always a good idea to read the reviews before you buy something. But bear in mind that not all reviews are trustworthy.

Some sellers use Facebook groups and other platforms to incentivise people to offer money or gifts in exchange for positive reviews about their products. If the item you’re looking at has hundreds of five-star reviews, you’d be right to exercise caution.

Watch out for fakes and copycats

Beware of any item that’s tantalizingly cheap – you may be looking at a counterfeit.

Counterfeits are often poorly made and sometimes dangerous. In one study, we found that a shocking 66% of 250 products we bought from online marketplaces failed our safety tests.

Check the delivery and returns policy

Some retailers have warned that deliveries are taking longer than usual because of COVID-19.

Always check the delivery date before you buy. If you’re purchasing from overseas, the product could take a lot longer to reach you.

You should also check the returns policy. If you want to return a non-faulty product, you have 14 days from when you’ve received the item to return it.

Pay safely

Never make your purchase via bank transfer or pay the seller outside of the site, as you’ll struggle to get your money back in the event of a dispute.

For orders of more than £100, consider using a credit card. This will ensure your purchase is protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, meaning you can claim the money back from your credit card provider if something goes wrong.

Be wary of ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) products such as Clearpay, Klarna and Laybuy. While paying later or in instalments may seem like a sensible at the time, your spending can easily get out-of-control.

The Which? Money Podcast

Sneaky tricks to watch out for

Some retailers will use underhand tactics to make you think you’re getting a better deal than you are:

1. Anchor pricing

When we looked at products on promotion across a range of retailers in the first six months of 2020, we uncovered some items that were on sale more often than they weren’t.

Web tools such as CamelCamelCamel or PriceRunner allow you to check a product’s price history so you can see if something really is good value.

2. Pressure selling

’30 people are viewing this right now!’

‘Only 1 left on our site!’

Some sites will use pressure-selling tactics to try and push you into making a purchase. Whenever you see a notification like this, take a moment to ask yourself if you definitely want the product and if you could find a better price somewhere else.

3. ‘Was £300, now £250’

We’ve found many instances where several retailers sell the same product at the same price, but one of them claims it’s on special offer.

This is why it’s always worth comparing prices across different sites before you hit ‘buy’.

Finding the best price

Shop around

This may sound obvious, but before nabbing a deal it’s important you check to see if you could find it cheaper elsewhere.

This doesn’t mean you have to check all their competitors’ websites. You could use a service such as Google’s Shopping tab to compare prices across retailers and marketplaces.

If you do find an item going at a lower price elsewhere, some major retailers, such as John Lewis & Partners, may be prepared to match that price for you.

Subscribe to email lists and membership deals

Keep yourself in the loop about what deals are available by signing up to emails from brands you like.

Some brands offer an instant discount for signing up to their newsletter.

It might be worth setting up a new email for this purpose – especially if you think you might not buy from the seller regularly. You don’t want to get bombarded with emails for the rest of the year.

You could also try using an aggregator site such as Love the Sales or a browser extension such as Honey to find deals.

Get cashback

It’s worth checking if you can get cashback on your purchases.

Use a cashback website such as TopCashBack or Quidco, or a cashback credit card to earn back a percentage of what you spend with certain retailers.

Be aware that cashback is never guaranteed and you may have to wait months to convert it into cash.

Best Boxing Day deals revealed

Before you hit the shops, make sure you do your research so you know which products are worth buying.

After all, there’s no point getting a big discount if you end up with a product that’s not right for you.

Our product experts have searched the web to find the best deals for you. The most popular product categories are listed below:

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