Summer sale season has begun, but before you go wild in the swimwear aisles with your hard-earned cash, bear in mind the following sorry sales tale. A friend of mine picked up a pair of spectacular Miu Miu pink glitter wedges for a fraction (like, 1/100th)) of their original price in Selfridges a few years back. One pair left, her size. Debates as to whether they were marked down wrongly dominate our conversations to this day. This - as I'm sure you'll agree - is good sales shopping.

I however, once came home from a sales trip proudly clasping a pair of blue, glittery, camouflage print leggings. I have no excuses, and despite keeping them in my sock drawer for about two years now, have still yet to wear them.

The golden rule of sales shopping is to never buy something just because it's on sale. A dress three sizes too small is not a good buy. A pair of trousers that make your arse look horrendous are not a good buy. Anything you would never normally look at twice is, again, not a good buy. Even if it is marked down to Primark-esque prices, if it doesn't fit, doesn't flatter and won't be worn, it's not a good buy. We've all been swayed by a brand name, but just because those cycling shorts say Prada on the label; doesn't mean it's a good idea to buy them. Pick up what you like, but then find a quiet corner, calm yourself, and actually look at what you're clutching in your sweaty palms. Ask yourself, do I actually like any of this stuff? Chances are, half of it will have been picked up in a moment of sales blindness.

I'd never suggest setting out planning to buy that you actually need. Does anyone really do that when they go shopping? It kinda takes the fun out. If you happen to come across a dress that would be perfect for that upcoming wedding/funeral/bar mitzvah then SCORE! But I wouldn't get too caught up in the idea of using the sales to create the basis of your wardrobe.

Having said that, the sales can be a great opportunity to buy those things that you normally resent spending a lot of money on. For me, jeans are a great example of this. It's pretty rare for me to ever wear trousers, but I realise they have a place in life so when the sales come round, I always make a point to have a poke around that corner of shops I normally stay away from. Same goes for plain t-shirts, trainers, and even household things like nice bedding and crockery.

It's obvious, but one thing worth bearing in mind is that there's not much point in buying high fashion items in the high street sales, as within a few months you won't want to be wearing them. This is where buying those boring items I was just talking about comes in. Gap white t-shirts might not be exciting, but you can pick them up cheap and you will be wearing it long after those sequinned harem pants go out of fashion. Still, if sequin harem pants are a staple of most of your outfits, then go wild, stock up.

A few final words of advice

- Keep your receipt, duh. You should probs do this with anything you buy, but even more so when you're caught up in sales madness. In most shops, you have the same rights as with non-sale goods, so if you get home and decide those feather-trim hot pants really aren't for you, then you should at least be able to swap them if you hold on to the receipt, even if you're not offered a refund.

- Don't camp out in the streets the day before, because as well as being pretty lame, you'll also find many sales get better towards the end. The discounts are bigger, there's less crap to rummage through, and as long as you don't go on the very last day, it should be quieter.

- And finally, to hammer home the point, a bargain is only a bargain if it's actually something you'll wear. You probably won't drop two dress sizes before you go off that dress. You also probably won't reinvent yourself as a cyber goth if you normally dress head to toe in Next, no matter how cheap that leather catsuit is.

So that's it. Go wild, spend, have fun; just don't buy camo-print leggings - you can take my word for it on that one.

[Pic: Guardian]