The prospect of a bargain is always an exciting thing. I should know- I’ve made a career out of it!However, one thing I have learned is that a sale is not always the best place to find a good deal, contrary to expectations. It can be, but there are some golden rules to observe, accompanied by more than a pinch of self discipline. Here are my top tips for surviving the January sales:First off, make a finite list of the specific items you are looking for. This will help you focus when you are actually searching, and block out all the other items vying for your attention. Make this list before the sales begin, and make a note of the normal retail price, and pre-sales discount, for reasons which will be clear later.Establish a budget and don’t go beyond it. Sales fever can take hold of the best of us, and some shops make it seem as if there is a bargain on offer when nothing could be further from the truth.Before you step outside the house, check your sales shopping list against what is on offer online. All retailers are currently under pressure and none more so than those on the physical high street with high overheads. With a list of comparative prices online you have a powerful negotiating tool.When you’ve defined your list, make a list of the shops likely to have those items. Research to ascertain if they have those items on sale, what price they are on sale for and whether or not you can reserve your sale purchases – some stores will allow you to do so.Always check the sales price against the pre-sale price to make sure that you are really getting a genuine discount.Once you’ve hit the high street:Don’t compromise or deviate when shopping for your bargains. Say true to your original list.Think about quality and value for money, as opposed to something that is just going cheap. A good cashmere throw will last a lifetime, as will high thread count bedlinen, anything made of top quality fabrics, and hand-made or craftsman made items. In Britain we have a proud tradition of manufacturing some of the best quality merchandise in the world, so always look out for the British made label.Don’t forget to take cash with you when shopping, and ask for a discount for cash. If the sales assistant is reluctant to give you a discount, ask to speak to the manager, as he or she will probably have the authority to negotiate. Remember that that store needs to clear stock to aid cash flow and make way for new lines, so a sale is a sale!Lastly, know your rights – the Sale of Goods Act states that an item has to be fit for the purpose for which it was intended, and that right is not affected by it being sold at a discount. Check the shop’s policy on returning the item if you just change your mind about it – different shops can have quite different policies when it comes to refunds or credit notes.So, in short, make a list, do your research, stay focused, take cash and don’t be afraid to ask for a further discount!Browse the Alison at Home January sale