Go to a sale? Are you mad?

No, you don't want that purple swing coat. Annalisa Barbieri puts her foot down

Don't be tempted by the sales. I have never understood people who are drawn to clothes sales. Anything any good would have sold ages ago. Now, those steely retailers are just hoping that adding an orange swing ticket to that shapeless jumper the wrong shade of grey - which is why it never sold - will cause the blood to rush to your fingers and propel you to flip your credit card on the counter and say: "I'll have this, please."

Sales shopping is really simple. Get up early, dress in comfortable layers (not your best clothes) and easy-on, easy-off shoes. Then go to the local nice place to eat, order a huge almond croissant and fluffy cappuccino, sit down and read the papers. Stay away from the shops. Those buyers will soon learn that if only they'd bought the jumper in the proper shade of grey in the first place; or if the "designer" had bothered to design that dress properly so that it looked good, instead of making you look as if you have a distended belly and the arms of a truck driver; or if they had simply priced things right, and not been so damned greedy to begin with, you'd have bought it six months ago. And by now, you'd have had six months' wear out of it (something else you have to factor in to a sale price: how much wear does it have ahead of it? Very important, this).

I have never bought anything of any value or consequence in a sale. You may have, but look, I've got my fingers in my ears and I'm not listening. For every person who found the buy of her life in a sale, there are 12,316 others who decided, on a whim, that a purple swing coat was a good idea, or that their calves would slim down by half to allow them to do up those must-have boots.

Sales also attract lots of desperate people who think that a bargain is anything which has "bargain" written at the point of sale. The queues for the changing rooms are so long that you start to think the chance to see your own body in some ill-fitting, wrong-shaded garment is something actually worth waiting for. Stop it! Then there is the little-recognised (but deeply debilitating) phenomenon that is Someone Else Wanting The Same Thing As You. If you weren't sure whether you really wanted those ruched lilac ankle boots, there's nothing like someone else wanting them, too, to cause you to narrow your eyes to sniper aperture as all around you loses focus and meaning. Never mind what happens when you half think you want something, only to find that the shop doesn't have it in your size. Before you know it, you've rung every store this side of Berwick-upon-Tweed. It doesn't matter that the postage renders it more expensive now than it was at full price: you simply have to have those shoes, that skirt/jumper/coat. It is, you suddenly realise, where your entire life force emanates from.

Sales are not a good place to spend a January day. What you need is good hot chocolate and brushed cotton next to your skin (more on this next week), and to be relaxing and reading magazines. No one ever died from not buying anything at a sale.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.