Photo: Getty Images

Hello, my name is Lisa, and I have a problem: I'm addicted to members-only online sample sale sites.

I get my fix on a daily -- and sometimes hourly -- basis thanks to constant emails promising such delectable goodies as Flash Sales, Brazilians for only $19!, and this season's must-have strappy, ankle-wrapping Sigerson Morrison sandals at 60 percent off.

These tantalizing taunts are sent by enabling websites like Gilt Groupe, Ruelala, theOutnet, Shop It To Me, and Swirl, Totsy (I've got a six-month-old baby to dress too), One Kings Lane (and an apartment to decorate), and countless others, that dangle discounted designer fashion, accessories, beauty and home products in front of my desirous eyes.

Not to mention the the local deal sites that have been popping up like (magic) mushrooms after a lightening storm: Lifebooker, Groupon, kgbdeals and Tippr all offer deep discounts in your city, town or region.

The catch is, these sites are exclusive. Many are invite-only, meaning that you have to know someone who's already a member to reap their benefits. This exclusive aspect makes it more attractive for designers to divert their "extra" merchandise here (the items returned from stores due to poor sales). Many top brands who would rather not publicly discount their clothing will do so on these sites, since they maintain the insider cache of a sample sale.

The problem is, for addicts like me (or, well, anyone who digs a deal) it's nearly impossible not to buy this stuff. Much like the feeling I get when I go to an outlet mall or an in-the-flesh sample sale, the bargains are so amazing that I feel compelled to shop, regardless of whether or not I really need it, or even like it. And, unlike brick-and-mortar stores, on the online sample sale sites there are shiny, new things to covet every single day. It's enough to make a girl go broke.

A recent example on my reckless online shopping is my new Missoni bathrobe. You see, I love all things Missoni and it was advertised on GiltGroupe.com for only $89 (compared to original price of $305). But it's not exactly the color I want, or the size I wear, and I bought a perfectly nice robe six months ago. And yet, one glimpse and I was overcome by a feverish excitement that glued my shaking thumb to the mouse button until the brightly-patterned terrycloth wrap was safely in the mail.

My recent Missoni bathroom purchase. Photo: Amara.co.uk



I know I'm not alone, because I've heard similarly-afflicted friends and coworkers confess tidbits like, "I don't schedule meetings at noon anymore because that's when Gilt sales start," and, "I love the iCal feature -- the sale goes right into my calendar and syncs with my iPhone so I get a reminder five minutes before it starts."

One doctor friend recently told me, "I'm literally excited to check my BlackBerry when I wake up in the morning to see what the new deals are -- it makes me happy!"

These are hard-working women with major jobs. Why are we letting these sales rule our schedules, and run our hard earned savings?

For some it's the thrill of the "get" -- the satisfaction of knowing you bought that perfectly-tailored Michael Kors sheath for 70 percent off. For others it's "FOMO" (shopper slang for "fear of missing out") -- if I at least check out every sale there is, I'll surely never miss the one pair of classic Louboutins in size 35 that goes on sale in our lifetime.

Even the pros get swept away by the sales. Celebrity stylist and TV personality Robert Verdi (he makes Eva Longoria's biggest red carpet decisions) admits he loves the ease of the online sales.

His guilty pleasure? Gilt Groupe, of course. "At 11:50 AM I'm poised and ready and I don't get how the clothes are already in shoppers' carts. It drives me nuts. I feel like I'm not quick enough!," he tells StyleList. But, Verdi is a master at maintaining laser-like focus when it comes to the brands he loves -- McQueen, Harry's of London and Thom Browne to name a few.

We pumped him for tips on how to avoid drowning in a sea of ill-fitting sale merchandise in off colors:

Avoid browsing at all costs. "Don't log in without a list or a goal," says Verdi. So if you're in the market for a new trench, keep your eye on the subject lines for corresponding sales. But if all your spring shopping is done, then delete the emails before opening them. You're too weak for such temptations.

Some of the fruits of the online sample sales: Chole sandals at TheOutnet.com, a Brian Reyes Dress at RueLaLa.com, and a Y-3 blazer, also at TheOutnet.com.



Do your homework. "Know your size in a particular brand, go to a store and try things on before the sale, even if it's not the same item you can get a feel for the fit of a line." suggests Verdi. This will help you avoid time-consuming returns -- if returns are even a possibility, as many of these sites are final sale.

Know what you need in your wardrobe. "Look for replacements or additions, but don't collect random pieces," says Verdi. "The best-dressed people have much less clothing."

And finally, think before you click. Take a deep breath and really consider every purchase you're about to make, how it will fit into your wardrobe, if the cut and color will really look good on you, and if there are other things in life that you may need more -- like money towards buying a house, saving for your kid's college fund or adding to your 401k. Not to mention charity.

These discount buys may seem like huge deals, but they're still eating away at your savings -- often at a faster clip than their full-priced counterparts which your apt to wear more often, and for a longer time. Verdi's motto: "You're always better off paying full-price for something you'll wear often than half price for something you'll wear once."

The takeaway? Keep the credit cards in your wallet and your iCal clear of shopping appointments. Unless, of course, there are Missoni sweaters to browse.

Or maybe that's just me.

Speaking of wardrobes, do you know how to tidy yours for the summer season? Here's a handy guide.