Sophie Hulme oversized envelope clutch, €520, Net-a-Porter

Ok, look. Here’s the thing. There is no surefire way of getting the exact and specific designer handbag you love, desire and want on the cheap, and there is 100% no way you’re going to get your hands on this year’s absolute IT bag for less than retail value either.

Unless, of course, you know someone with a store discount or you’re down with the designer. Then, sure, you might get a new season bag for 20% or more off. 

So be a bit realistic. Getting your hands on a Celine Mini Luggage in 2013 for less than about €1,350 probably isn’t going to happen. But there are a few ways to nab a designer handbag for a lot less than you’d normally pay if you’re willing to wait a bit, or compromise on a different bag from that same designer you love.

Wait for the sales

Sure, there’s no guarantee as to what’s going to be left at the end of season but these days, quite a lot tends to be.  And the discounts can be really generous, often up to 40% and beyond.  Ask for vouchers for your favourite department store for birthdays and Christmas and stockpile them against your big purchase too.

Head to an outlet

Kildare Village has a small range of bag shops including Anya Hindmarch, Coach and Furla, all of which offer decent deals. Anya Hindmarch in particular has some really pretty stuff and Furla’s bags are incredibly good quality for the price. Coach does classics well.

Sample sales

Get on designers’ email lists and wait to hear about sample sales. Not all have them or make them available to everyone but smaller and local designers tend to. Typically these happen once or twice a year and result in display and sample stock being sold off for half price or more.

Buy second hand

Can you bear to carry pre-loved? Lots of people trade in their one or two-season old bags when they don’t want to be seen with them anymore and that’s good news for you if you’re not quite at the same level of fussy. Temple Bar duo Siopa Eile can be a great bet for designer leather goodies as can Ruby Ruby in The Royal Hibernian Way (just in behind Grafton Street). 

The key with second hand is to make pals with the gals behind the counter. Explain your preferences and they’ll let you know when something comes in they think you’ll like. Online, look at Covetique, a website specialising in great-quality pre-loved designer goodies.

Buy diffusion lines

Does it have to be the top-level brand you buy? Marc by Marc Jacobs is about half the price of the Marc Jacobs line and Pauric by Pauric Sweeney is similarly much more affordable, but you’re still getting the name-based cachet.

Shop online

Unless you’re really savvy when it comes to eBay shopping and know you’re not going to get stung, I’d tend to steer clear for high-end luxury purchases. Instead, I’d tend towards the old reliables like The Outnet, and ASOS, all of whom regularly have great bargains on beautiful bags.

Buying from the states? Sure, you can take advantage of the weakened dollar but if you get nabbed by customs you will be paying that fee, so I’d be inclined to stay within Europe. Psst: Google for an extra discount before you hit the final payment button too, they’re often floating about online, especially for ASOS.

Google alerts

Want to know when sales and offers are happening? Sign up to the newsletters of selected websites you like the offerings on. Set up Google Alerts at too. Enter in various terms for things you like, such as “Christian Louboutin X sale” and when Google finds a matching search term, it’ll send you an email, helping you stay ahead of the pack and hopefully nabbing a bargain to boot.

What NOT to do …

And lastly, here’s what you should never do: buy a fake. It’s a crappy thing to do and serves no one well except for organised crime. You’re paying less, but you’re not getting the real thing. Plus, the fact is, you’re not actually supporting that designer you apparently love and admire so much, so what gives?