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Surviving festive season sales

How to avoid being taken advantage of in post-festive season sale madness.

Shoppers walk along Oxford Street to find bargains in central London, on December 26, 2014, in Boxing Day sales. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The number one pursuit of most people at this time of year is, of course, shopping and people are more at risk of being swept away by the "50 percent off" bold bright advertising, missing the small print that could save you cash, says consumer journalist Wendy Knowler.

Because people are often cash flush at this time of year after having been paid bonuses, they don't take the time to consider whether it really is the best time to go shopping.

But are those annual sales even worthwhile and in your best interests?

Knowler says the very important words to look out for are "up to". But people unfortunately, usually pay attention to the "70% off".

We are seduced by the big numbers

"The shops are hoping we don't bother with the small stuff. People think getting there early is going to save them money."

But she says this isn't always the best idea because everyone else normally has the same plan.

"Sales and shopping in general are a highly emotive pursuit. Ask yourself: would you want the item if it wasn't on sale? Even if the answer is yes, walk away for half an hour and if you still really, really want it, then buy it.

"But, always find out what the returns policy is, because most of the time, you can't take it back, usually not at all with sale items. So, go in with your eyes open."

How to manage your money wisely

She recommends budgeting for what you can afford by drawing money and leaving credit and cheque cards at home.

"If you've got plastic, it's more tempting. Rather draw enough and not spend beyond that particular limit.

"When the cash is blown you can go home. Leave your plastic at home! Don't swipe and worry about it later because most of us get paid early in December and it's a long way until the next salary drop at the end of January."

Knowler says there are no real benefits to shopping this time of year, it's more about the festive experience.

"Most people are on leave, you have more time, you're in a laid back, reward-myself-for-a-long-year kind of mood and we are programmed socially and prompted by hardcore marketing to make us feel good. It's part of the holiday vibe and it's extremely easy to overspend.

"Just shop with a little bit of sass, don't get totally swept up. Nothing feels as good as being in control of your finances at the end of January, and nothing feels worse than not to being in control when all those debit orders go off."

This 702 caller gave her take on the post festive season sale madness with her version of 'Jingle Bells'.