Juliette Bains: Battling January blues with stressful spending sprees

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With the festive cheer of Christmas well out of the way, the time of year has come where we find ourselves in the middle of the serious business of bargain hunting.

No sooner has the last mouthful of mince pie been devoured than the city’s shopping centres are bursting at the seams with eagle-eyed shopaholics.

January sales turns casual shoppers into mad men and women on a mission to find the best bargain out there.

The painful memories of the stressful Christmas shop, which was just a matter of days ago, seem to be completely forgotten by the time the Boxing Day sales come around.

Driving down the motorway on Boxing Day, I spotted hundreds of cars queueing just to get near the shopping centres.

Just a whiff of a discount and it drives out the bargain hunter inside every one of us.

And those who usually find shopping a chore find themselves attracted to stores like a moth to a flame.

It seems like such a good idea – grabbing a good deal on something you’ve wanted to buy for a while but haven’t quite been able to justify the price tag.

It’s great, in theory.

But that’s not really what happens.

Despite psyching yourself up to battle your way through crowds of crazed shoppers, you will more than likely end up walking away with armfuls of junk that you don’t need, want or really understand how to work.

I’m a victim of this myself.

There’s a playsuit at the back of a cupboard that I bought back in 2008 with its sales tag still intact.

Yet I can’t bring myself to throw it away.

It doesn’t and hasn’t ever fitted me and, being truthful, I probably won’t be able to ever squeeze myself into it.

But that pink ‘sale’ sticker is a proud reminder of the relentless rail-raiding and the determined fight I fought for that one incredible bargain buy.

It’s a trophy symbolising my victory against the hordes of other panic-buying bargain hunters.

The whole premise of panic-buying is a risky business.

One female friend spent hours walking round the shops looking for the perfect gift for her then-boyfriend.

After a soul-destroying day of searching, and just before it was closing time, she went for the closest thing in front of her, which, on this occasion, turned out to be a water cooler.

Not the most romantic of birthday presents, perhaps.

They’re not together now – and that’s not to say it was the water cooler that did it – but after chuckling about the utterly useless present, it definitely brought them closer together and provided a good giggle for the rest of us too.

All kinds of gadgets and gizmos get snapped up in the sales mayhem.

It’s a chance to buy that coffee machine/juicer/blender you’ve been after for years but will only use twice in the space of a few hours before shoving to the back of the shelf, never for it to be seen again.

January sales are a chance for stores to wheel out the rubbish they’ve not been able to sell the rest of the year by luring gullible shoppers in with all kinds of ‘reduced’ stickers.

No wonder us Brits suffer from the January blues.

It’s not just the weather and our bank balances that are taking a toll, but the post-sale slump when you realise you’ve bought armfuls of stuff that you can’t or won’t use.

It’s devastating seeing those Christmas presents you chose so carefully in December back on the shelves at a fraction of the cost you originally forked out for it.

That being said, I might have a little browse... just in case there’s a really good bargain out there.

Women lead the way with New Year’s Honours

BEING brought up in the Spice Girls era, I do enjoy a bit of Girl Power.

And it seems 2013 was a good year for the ladies, if the New Year Honours list is anything to go by.

More women than men made the list for the first time since the Order of the British Empire was founded in 1917.

It was a close run though, with 610 women being awarded honours – which works out as 51 per cent of the recipients.

And apparently, the figure is up from 34 per cent 10 years ago.

That’s a sign of progress if ever I saw one.

A whole host of women of various ages and industries were recognised, including actress Penelope Keith, singer Katherine Jenkins, Gavin and Stacey co-creator Ruth Jones, businesswoman and star of The Apprentice, Karren Brady, and Katy McLean, captain of the England women’s rugby team.

OK, it’s not the biggest milestone but it’s an important one nonetheless.

The are the kinds of inspiring women that girls should be looking up to.

Here’s to more Girl Power in 2014.

Personalised number plates driving me round the bend

There’s something about personalised number plates that really winds me up.

I can’t seem to grasp what the point is.

If it’s about making sure your particular vehicle is easily identifiable, that might make sense.

But there are much cheaper ways of doing that.

Sticking those awful eyelash accessories onto the headlights or just choosing a car in a bright colour would achieve the same effect.

Some how, I don’t think swiftly pinpointing your car is the reason.

So what is the point?

The only answer is: to be flash.

I’m not a fan of flashy cars in general, but I can understand why some people are.

A former colleague (who owns a BMW) once frustratedly explained to me that if someone’s worked hard and earned the money, why not splash out and treat yourself?

That part, I can sort of understand, even if I’m of the mindset that a car is just a vessel that gets you from one place to another.

Nonetheless, the need for a personalised number plate part is a whole other ball game.

Before Call Lane was pedestrianised at weekends, you could bet your bottom dollar that almost every vehicle (which wasn’t an ambulance) that cruised down the road would have a personalised number plate.

And, generally, it would be crammed full of men hollering at slightly worse-for-wear women, as if they expect them to fall at the souped-up Fiat’s wheels.

It’s something that certainly doesn’t rev my engine.

Spectators at Edgewater Park in Cleveland watch the sun set as the planet Venus crosses the upper right portion of the star, Tuesday, June 5, 2012. The next transit of Venus won't be for another 105 years. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Could Venus have started its life as a comet and have been responsible for the Biblical plagues?