Now's the time of year to freshen up your wardrobe. Everything from classic coats and beautiful bags to jewellery and glamorous evening wear is available at bargain prices. As we enter 2013, it is time to get ready for what shopaholics see as one of the biggest events of the year; the January sales.

For fashion fans, it is the time of year for totally guilt free shopping. A time to indulge - a time to rejoice at every new found bargain, and a time to skip down the high street, arms laden with bag after bag emblazoned with the one word that every avid shopper loves to see: SALE!

And why not? Reduction signs are springing up left, right and centre on every high street in Ireland, as business clear out old stock to make way for the imminent new season's collections. So if you are one of the lucky ones to discover any spare change lurking at the bottom of your Christmas stocking, now is the time to spend it - because stores nationwide are offering offer shoppers major bargains at knockdown prices.

Most main department stores in Dublin such as Arnotts, Marks & Spencers, Clerys and Brown Thomas have lots of selected products reduced by up to 50%.

And at Debenhams up to 50% are slashed off many prices and discounts include up to 70% off selected women’s, men’s and kids’ fashion - and up to 30% off selected beauty products.

Of course , catching sight of the words '70 per cent off' in big, bold red capital letters is like the proverbial red rag to a bull - it sends blood pressure soaring, hearts racing and the mind buzzing at the thought of rock bottom prices.

This is when mistakes are easily made - and who can honestly call something a bargain if it just hangs forlornly in the back of your closet for ever more? Remember, it’s only a bargain if you're buying something you really want…

To make the sales a stress-free zone, we’ve come up with a few tips to help you bag the kind of items you’ll be thrilled to possess.

1. Don't be tempted into opting for flash in the pan, trend-led party items that will reach their use-by date once spring arrives. Choose clothes, shoes and accessories with staying power that will carry you through winter and into spring. Think investment rather than splurge and stay with classics that will age well.

2. Spend the same in the sales as you would out of the sales but upgrade the quality of what you buy. In other words, try to buy cashmere instead of lambswool, or a designer jacket at half-price instead of a high-street jacket. You will always feel stylish and special in quality, well-made clothes.

3. Check out cosy knits, brightly coloured trench coats and fabulous evening wear. Evening numbers are always a must-buy in January sales. Dresses are seriously discounted in all the major department stores. And remember that sparkly little number hanging on the sale rail for a song could last you for years to come.

4. Jewellery, scarves and gloves both are great investments and buying them in the sales allows you better quality for your money.

5. Don't buy anything you would not want at full price. Be wary of impulse buys, especially shoes. Impractical shoes are no fun at the end of an evening.

6. Don't fall into the trap of buying anything that is ill-fitting, even if it seems like an incredible bargain. It is improbable that you will lose 5lb just to squeeze into that skin tight leather skirt, no matter how gorgeous it looks.

7. The sales are a fantastic time to invest in wardrobe basics for next winter. Leather riding boots, camel coats or well cut military style jackets are great investments as they never really go out of fashion.

Georgina Heffernan