sale_logo.jpgThe 'January' sales have started even earlier than usual this year as retailers try and squeeze as much cash as they can out of us even though we're in the middle of a scary credit crunch. That means you need to be even more savvy about what you actually buy just because it's reduced.

My advice? Avoid the tricky trends, the things you wouldn't have bought full price and the anything that you'll be bored of by next year (unless you still need something for new year's eve). Instead, go for things you'll wear straight away; skirts and tops for work, jeans, flat shoes and boots, basics like t-shirts and sweaters. Keep reading for my top five things to avoid and things to invest in...

GEMMA'S TOP FIVE THINGS TO AVOID IN THE SALES

1) '2-in-1' dresses that look like shirts and skirts
There are loads of these everywhere. There has to be a reason they've not sold full price. Methinks they're heading the way of boho skirts and kaftans, my friends! Think carefully before you buy loads and never wear them. Why not just wear a shirt and skirt?!

2) Strapless prom dresses and dresses with peplums
Unless you've got a big New Year party to go to or a big event early in the year, I suggest giving these a miss. They look great now, but in a few months time they'll have been replaced by some other silhouette, before you've had chance to get any wear out of them.

3) Drop-crotch trousers / harem pants
Are you mad?!

4) Anything sparkly / festive
It'll just remind you it's not Christmas any more, and as much as you fool yourself into thinking you'll wear it next year, I promise you by the time we hit November, you'll be all excited about the NEW Christmas stock and you'll forget that sequinned dress you bought for £20 and hung at the back of the wardrobe. Also, by the time we get to sale time, a lot of the sparkly / beaded / sequinned pieces are falling apart anyway.

5) Obvious designer copies
Love that dress 'cos it's a dead-ringer for Luella? Obsessing over a print that looks like Pucci? Just remember the originals are probably reduced drastically as well. See if you can nab the real thing before you buy the cheap version, because a copy will date even quicker than it's inspiration.

GEMMA'S TOP FIVE THINGS TO BUY IN THE SALES

1) Clothing for work
If you're wearing the same kind of stuff 5 days of the week, it makes sense to invest while it's cheap. You can probably afford to get yourself some slightly nicer stuff in the sales (try shops like French Connection and Reiss rather than the usual Dorothy Perkins and New Look, for example) and there's always a plethora of pencil skirts, blouses and shift dresses in the January sales. If your workwear wardrobe is a little more casual, try online sales for designer jeans, quirky t-shirts and designer end-of-line stuff.

2) A Winter coat
A tricky one - some people advise avoiding these because you'll only wear them for half a season, but the truth is it's so cold in the UK that even if you wear your coat from January through to mid-March, you're getting your wear out of it, especially if it was 50% off when you bought it. Look for coats with great detailing, funky colours or flattering cuts. And pay attention to how it's made; is there a lining, are the buttons secure, does it have decent pockets etc.

3) Designer shoes / bags
If you can bear to get there for the opening, shops like Selfridges and Liberty have amazing designer sales and no doubt this year they'll be dropping prices even more drastically. Wait even longer (til Feb) and hit up the outlets for all the leftovers at giveaway prices. Just remember, if you're a common shoe size, you need to get in there early!

4) Lingerie and nightwear
The Bravissimo and Figleaves sales will be doing very well from me this year as they clear out old stock (seasonal colours etc) and make way for swimwear, shapewear and Summery cottons. This time of year is particularly good for people with odd bra sizes; check out smaller branches of Marks and Spencer towards the end of the sale for £3 and £5 bras...there comes a time when they clear them out of the big branches and sell them off in the smaller ones.

5) Winter boots
I always buy my boots in the January sales, since I tend to wear them right through the year anyway! Look for classic, timeless, wearable styles (flats or 1 - 2" heel, black or brown leather) without any trimmings or additions that could date them. And then get some seriously good insoles to go in them. Your feet will thank you!