In the current economic climate, more and more people are having to tighten their purse strings, and with the hideous vets’ bills I received last year I’m certainly no exception. After 3 months of practicing fairly rigid frugality, here are my top 5 tips.
The Money Saving Expert website is absolutely packed to bursting with information on how to cut your costs. I review all my financial products at least once a year (so many have a special introductory rate that drops to a pittance after 12 months) and this site saves me hours of tedious research by giving information on the current best deals for everything from easy-access ISAs to breakdown cover, to broadband contracts. There is also a weekly email which contains the latest in special offers – anything from financial products, to cheap flights, to free cupcake vouchers – and is well worth subscribing to.
2. My Supermarket
My Supermarket is a website on which you can compare prices or order shopping from Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco or Ocado. You simply fill your basket with shopping, and the site will show you the price of your basket at each of the four stores. Even more brilliant though, is the “swap and save” feature which will suggest alternative cheaper products. As an example, it is cheaper to buy 1kg of loose carrots than a 1kg bag of carrots – and of course they taste exactly the same!
I’ve managed to shave money off my grocery bill by varying which supermarket I use depending on which items I need, and by trying different, cheaper products. If I don’t like the cheaper product I simply return to my old favourite – this isn’t about suffering for the cause, merely not spending to excess if I can’t tell the difference.
3. Cash back Websites
Cash back websites are one of my latest discoveries. I recently bought my car insurance, house insurance and breakdown cover via Quidco. I used price comparison websites (also via Quidco as I earned £2.50 just for that) to get quotes, and then looked up the few cheapest companies to see if they offered cash back via Quidco. I got £80 cash back on the car insurance, £20 on breakdown cover, and £60 on my house insurance. I also paid for them on a cash back credit card which gave me another £25 back! Cash back can take a while before it is payable, and make sure you read the terms of the cash back carefully.
4. Cash back Credit Cards
Cash back credit cards should be given a very wide berth if you are unable to repay the balance in full as the APR is generally very high. If you’re organised with your spending though, you can do quite nicely. I took out a Capital One cash back card which pays 5% cash back for 3 months. After three months the rate drops very low, at which point I will probably cancel it. I keep very careful track of how much I’ve spent on it, and make regular payments to bring the balance to zero. In the first month I earned £45 cash back. I have to say I thoroughly enjoy being paid to do my grocery shopping and fill up with petrol!
I have a New Year’s ritual of an annual clearout. Anything that I think can be sold goes into an eBay box, and anything I can’t goes into charity bags. It is free to list anything with a starting price of under £1 on eBay, and there are regular “no insertion fee” weekends for starting prices of under £100 if you want to play safe and set a higher starting price.
Music Magpie is a good and convenient site to use to sell music, DVDs or PC games, and there are numerous sites to sell old mobile phones and other gadgets. Last year I renewed my mobile phone contract and upgraded to the iPhone 4S, for which I paid £70. I then sold my old iPhone 3GS for £160 which meant I’d in fact been paid for upgrading to a better phone! Can’t be bad eh?