I've never been in the USA in November, so have managed to avoid the mayhem of Black Friday; the day after Thanksgiving and supposedly the first real day of Christmas shopping for our friends across the Pond. Stores are notorious for pulling in the punters with big discounts, Black Friday sales and special events, something we usually had to wait until January to indulge in here in the UK. However, though we have no defining event like Thanksgiving to signal the beginning of the Holiday season, we do have a November full of tempting events and offers. This month alone I've been offered 20% off in almost all the big High Street shop, 40% off booze and free gifts from just about every cosmetics company going. And none of this is because I'm an 'insider'. You can grab these discounts just as easily as I can...

At this time of year, stores know how important it is to get people through the door. I'm sure many of you adapt the same 'one for them, one for me' Christmas shopping principle as I do, even if it's accidental. Everyone overspends at this time of year, so offering up the odd discount here and there still makes things pretty lucrative for big brands.

First there are the big in store promotions to take advantage of, particularly in the beauty hall. Usually if you buy two or three products (one skincare) you get something free from brands like Clinique, Elizabeth Arden, Clarins and Lancome. You can snag anything from makeup brushes to cosmetics bags filled with 'luxury' samples if you show a bit of shopping savvy. However it's worth remembering that you can probably blag quite a few of the samples anyway if you chat with the consultants, and there are websites out there that'll sell you the bags with or without the samples for a few quid once they've been replaced with the next 'big' offer. Don't be too easily swayed by these giveaways - will you actually use the stuff they're sampling off?

Fashion wise, there are two ways of going about getting easy (and regular) discounts. The first is by signing up for a store card (you'll need to be over 18 to do this). People who shop frequently on store cards will be invited to all kinds of parties and special events, and will usually be tempted with goodie bags, free drinks and discounts. This works brilliantly at more expensive stores - Liberty give store card holders 10% off sale prices after Christmas. Just remember that the interest on store cards is ridiculous. If you use one, make sure you pay it off in full every time you get a bill, or you'll end up paying more in the long run.

The newer - and less risky - way of getting offers and discounts sent to you is to sign up for online mailing lists. New Look, Dorothy Perkins and Urban Outfitters are just three of the brands that have offered their online VIPs 20% off their purchases in the last few weeks. There's usually a printable voucher that you can use in store as well as a code for online sales.

If you're in close proximity (or willing to travel) to London, sample sales are brilliant and there are loads coming up. They're not as frightening as some people think, and contrary to popular belief you can pick up more than just sizes 6 and 8 if you go to the right ones. I've snagged everything from Gina shoes for £50 to a Gharani Strok top for £15 in the last couple of years. The right sidebar of Style Bubble is always chock full of sample sale information, as is the Urban Junkies sample sales page and Fashion Confidential. Daily Candy also send out sale information frequently as part of their newsletter.

Of course, if you know someone who works in the fashion industry, you're in for even more good stuff. Aside from staff discounts (which are probably being abused enough at this time of year) shops like Selfridges run 'Friends and Family' days, with 20% off all day for those lucky enough to get a golden ticket from a staff member. Journalists sometimes do even better than staff, with press discounts varying from 10% to the chance to buy at cost price depending on the store.

Finally, before you buy anything online, do a google search for a discount code or promo code. It may be unfortunate for the shops in question, but for us the prolific nature of the net means 'exclusive' codes usually get posted on money saving websites within minutes of being sent to the lucky recipients. Reap those freebies, they'll cover postage if nothing else!