Guest Post: Top Tips for Picking Up a Bargain!

Guest Post: Top Tips for Picking Up a Bargain!

Today I have a guest post for you from my fellow money blogger Vicky Eves.

Vicky loves nothing more than picking up a bargain, and in her article she shares some of her best tips and resources. Over to Vicky then…


 

I love a bargain. I mean, who doesn’t? Whether you are financially well off or not, why would you pay over the odds if you don’t need to? It’s not good financial sense. Buying second hand is also better for the environment so it’s a win-win. Here are my favourite places and ways of finding bargains.

Freecycle

I recently moved from a one bedroom flat to a three bedroom house. Much as I don’t want to fill my new place up completely, I knew it was going to be rather bare with only the belongings I already had.

Once the ball was rolling on my move I started planning and thinking. I would be using the third bedroom as a study or computer room. I had made do with my laptop on my knee for the last 12 years and I was so excited that I was going to have a study. I’d looked online and found a desk I really wanted. It was from Ikea and it wasn’t cheap, but as I’d never had a study before I built that expense into my budget.

A few weeks down the line, I was browsing Freecycle when I saw the EXACT desk I wanted. I thought it was too good to be true and that I would never get it (on Freecycle you have to be pretty quick off the mark as it is usually first come first served) but the owner still had it and was happy for me to take it. I went over there after work, and after putting all the seats down in the car and with the owner helping me take it apart I managed to squeeze it in. My move got held up so it was stored in pieces in the corner of my lounge for many months, but I am sat here now in my new house sat at my awesome FREE desk as I write this.

It is definitely worth bookmarking Freecycle and joining a few groups (it is done by area so you just find things that are close to you) and keeping an eye on it. I’ve got and given away other things via the site before but the desk is my favourite Freecycle item. Just remember that if you are meeting a stranger to purchase an item that you either go with someone else or that someone knows where you are – bad experiences are few and far between but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Charity Shops

Such an obvious place to find a bargain – but how many of us actually go there when we are looking for specific items?

I regularly visited charity shops before I moved. I soon worked out which were cheaper and when each one would reduce or rotate their stock. I got some amazing bargains – including a little record player for my retro diner themed kitchen. Sometimes if you go in regularly you might get to know the staff and if they know you are looking for something specific or along a theme they will keep their eye out for you.

Car Boot Sales

Another obvious one, but do you ever go? I got so much awesome stuff at car boot sales over the summer before I moved. I found a big one near me that was every Sunday and I was there for a few weeks in a row. I’m still not convinced whether it’s better to get there early (to get the best things as soon as it is open) or later (when the sellers are getting bored and ready to go home and reduce things), but either way you can get some great things.

Don’t be afraid to haggle either. The first couple I went to, I was rubbish at it. They would say a price and I’d go “Wow, bargain” and just hand over the money. I know you won’t want to offend the seller, but they want rid of the stuff, so even if you just try £1 or 50p less than they’ve suggested and they meet you half way, the savings adds up!

Facebook Selling Groups and Shpock

Facebook selling groups are almost like online car boot sales, and Shpock even calls itself the “Car boot app”. With Facebook you join groups local to yourself and browse or search the items that people are selling. With Shpock you can search for the item and set a search radius.

You can still haggle online – negotiate with Facebook sellers via the messaging facility and Shpock is set up to haggle – you make an offer and they counter it until you find a price that works for you both. You would then arrange a mutually convenient place to pick up the item and make payment. Again, remember your safety when meeting people in person.

What If You Don’t Want Second Hand?

Whether you don’t want second hand items, or you just can’t find what you want via any of those methods, some of my favourite places to find bargains are outlet villages and clearance shops. Be sure to do your research online to make sure that the special offer or price is as special as they say, but if you know what you want and have a price in mind, you can really find some great deals.

Whilst technically second-hand, if you are on a budget or like a bargain, have you considered getting reconditioned items? They will have been pre-owned but they will have then been serviced or checked over and you will get some form of guarantee from the retailer. I know people with Dyson, Sony and Apple reconditioned items which they say are as good as new but they got for a fraction of the price! I’m definitely considering going down that route next time I need something electrical.

I’d love to hear about the bargains you’ve found. Please comment below, and pop on over to ibeatdebt.com for more money making and saving tips and articles.


 

Many thanks to Vicky for an eye-opening article. I would just like to add my recommendation to hers for reconditioned items. In the last few months I have bought a reconditioned digital radio and portable DVD player, both at around half the standard price for new products. Both were (to my eye anyway) indistinguishable from new and worked perfectly out of the box. In my experience that isn’t always the case when buying new from retailers or wholesalers.

As always, if you have any comments or questions about this post – for me or for Vicky – please do post them below.

Happy bargain hunting!



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Matched Betting: Start Preparing for Cheltenham!

Matched Betting: Start Preparing for Cheltenham!

I’ve talked about matched betting on various occasions on this blog. To recap, it’s a way of making risk-free (and tax-free) cash by taking advantage of bookmaker special offers and promotions.

Matched betting is perfectly legal and (done properly) it’s not gambling. You can read my introduction to matched betting here, and why I believe it is such a great money-making sideline for older people in particular here.

I am writing about it again now because in a few weeks (13-16 March 2018) the Cheltenham Festival will be upon us. This is arguably the best week for matched betting in the entire year. Last year I made around £500 profit taking advantage of bookmaker offers. Others I know made thousands.

For those who don’t know, the Cheltenham Festival is one of the highlights of the racing calendar, with large, top-quality fields competing for some of the biggest prizes in racing, culminating in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. And the bookmakers pull out all the stops at this time to attract new clients and get current and former clients fully involved. I expect to see a stream of offers in the coming weeks, increasing to a torrent during the Festival itself. This gives us the potential to make substantial tax-free profits by applying matched betting principles.

If you’re already a matched bettor, therefore, now is the time to ensure you have plenty of money in your exchanges (I mostly use Smarkets for its low commission fees but others prefer Betfair). And keep watching your email for offers sent by bookmakers you have accounts with.

If you’re new to matched betting, I strongly recommend joining up with a matched betting advisory service. As well as providing tutorials to get you up to speed, these services provide essential online tools, including odds-matching software and calculators. They will also alert you to a wide range of money-making opportunities, and offer support and advice if needed.

There are various advisory services you can use. I cut my teeth with Profit Accumulator and still recommend this very popular service. It’s suitable both for those brand new to matched betting and for experienced matched bettors. You can join PA free initially and they will provide details of two bookmaker offers you can take advantage of. These should make you around £45 in net profit. If you wish to proceed further, you can then pay to become a Platinum member and get access to the full range of offers and services.

Currently I am subscribed to MatchedBets.com, a new service with some cutting-edge features (as long as you can tolerate the rather garish colour scheme!). You can read my in-depth review of MatchedBets.com here.

Joining MatchedBets.com currently costs £14 a month or a best value £99 a year. That is cheaper than most other services, e.g. Profit Accumulator currently charge £17.99 a month or £150 a year. You can also sign up for a free trial, which includes access to three matched betting offers that should generate around £50 in net profits for you.

If you think matched betting may be for you, I highly recommend that you sign up with either of these services today. You will then be perfectly placed to take advantage of the many money-making opportunities the Cheltenham Festival 2018 presents.

As ever, if you have any questions or comments about matched betting, Profit Accumulator or MatchedBets.com, please do post them below.

Disclosure: As well as being a member of Matchedbets.com and former member of Profit Accumulator I am also an affiliate for them. If you join and become a paying member after following any of the links in this post, I will receive a commission for introducing you. This does not affect in any way the cost of the service to you or the benefits you receive.



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How to Save Money on Everyday Purchases by Haggling

In Britain we are notoriously poor at haggling. Yet if you always pay the advertised price, you are leaving thousands of pounds on the table. That is money that could potentially be used for many better purposes 🙂

Haggling (or bargaining if you like) is definitely not something to be reserved for souks and bazaars. It can work very well on the high street too.

Money-saving expert Martin Lewis recently conducted a survey on his Moneysaving Expert website and found that hagglers enjoyed over 60% success rates in some big-name stores. His top ten list with success rates for hagglers is as follows:

1. Carphone Warehouse – 77%
2. TK Maxx – 74%
3. John Lewis – 72%
4. Homebase – 68%
5. Tesco – 62%
6. B&Q – 60%
7. Currys/PC World – 59%
8. Debenhams – 55%
9. Clarks – 47%
10. Marks & Spencer – 39%

Those surprisingly high figures show that it is well worth trying for a discount. If you can get over your natural reticence, you may surprise yourself with the deals you are offered. In any event, it costs nothing to try!

Here are some top tips to get you started.

Tips for Haggling

  • Research your proposed purchase carefully beforehand. Find out as much as you can, including how much similar items are selling for at other stores and online. You can use shopping engines such as Kelkoo to compare prices on a wide range of consumer goods.
  • Have a maximum target price for your purchase and approach the haggle with this in mind. Be prepared to walk away if you don’t get the price you want. You can always try elsewhere.
  • Go at a quiet time rather than when a store is heaving with customers. A salesperson will be less inclined to spend time negotiating with you if they can see that there are lots of other willing buyers in the shop. Mid-morning on a weekday can be good.
  • Choose the right person to haggle with. The best is a supervisor or assistant manager, as they will have more discretion. The “big boss” may not be as good, though. He or she will be pressed for time and may not be so bothered about a single sale.
  • Take your time and try to build rapport. Don’t even talk about price for the first five minutes. Ask the salesperson a few questions to show you are genuinely interested in buying, and explain why you need the product in question. Tell them your name, and ask for theirs.
  • Never be aggressive when haggling. This will simply put the salesperson’s back up and make getting a deal less likely. A successful haggle is a bit like a seduction. It’s best done with a twinkle in the eye!
  • Look for flaws on items that may make them difficult to sell – a small dent on the side of a fridge, for example, or a mark (somewhere inconspicuous) on clothing. Even if you’re not a seasoned haggler, this is an easy opportunity to get money off.
  • Keep an eye out for items with prices ending with a 1, 7 or 8 (e.g. £72.08). These prices are generally applied to end-of-range products the store wants to get rid of, to make room for new stock. You should be able to get an extra discount on them without any problem.
  • Stock phrases can be useful if you’re nervous about haggling. “What’s the best price you can do on this?” is one popular option. “I like this but it’s over my budget. Can you do it for £80?” (or whatever is your target price) is another.
  • Haggling can work particularly well in independent stores. In such cases you will often be dealing with the owner, who clearly has more leeway than a sales assistant. If you give the impression you may become a regular customer, he/she is much more likely to cut you a deal.
  • But if you can’t get a discount, at least see if they will throw in something for free. If you’re buying a laptop, for example, ask if they will give you a wireless keyboard as well. It’s worth spending a little time beforehand looking round the store to see if there is a particular extra you would like.

Haggling Online

Although above I have referred mainly to haggling in stores, there are also opportunities to haggle on the internet.

One of the best is by using the “live chat” facility offered by many online stores. Don’t go straight in with a request for a discount, but ask a few questions first. You’re unlikely to get a massive saving this way, but you might be offered 10% off or a free bonus.

Another ploy worth trying when shopping online is the “abandoned shopping cart” trick. Put the product you want in your basket and proceed as far as the checkout, then simply close the page. The retailer will see what has happened and rather than lose the sale may get back to you with an offer or discount code.

Good luck with your haggling. Do leave a comment if you have any other tips to share or examples of successful haggles you have concluded yourself.



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Save Money and Make Money with Product Testing

Save Money and Make Money With Product Testing

If you’re looking for an enjoyable sideline that can bring you both cash and freebies, product testing could tick all the boxes for you 😉

A growing number of companies now engage freelance reviewers to help them with product testing and development. This feedback is important to them to ensure they are producing things the public will want to buy, so they are happy to send out products free of charge to achieve this.

How It Works

Product-testing opportunities are generally advertised via company or agency websites.

The businesses concerned send out sample products free in exchange for honest reviews. Reviewers get to keep the products they are sent, and in some cases receive a fee as well. Fees may be paid in cash or gift vouchers.

The type of review required varies. In some cases you may be asked to complete a questionnaire, in others to upload a review to Amazon or some other retail site. There are also opportunities for people who have their own blog or website to get free products for reviewing on them.

Here are seven of the best product-testing websites to get you started.

Toluna

This is a paid surveys site, but they also offer free products for review. Once you have joined and signed in, go to the “Test Products” page under the “Community” tab and choose the item you want. If you are selected to provide a review, your product will be sent in the post.

Tesco Home Panels

Tesco Home Panels offer free products of all types from Tesco – anything from cat litter to clothing. You need to have a Tesco Clubcard to be accepted for this one. As well as keeping the products you review, you are credited with points which can be converted to £10 “Bonusbonds”. You can use these at a number of retailers (not only Tesco).

Boots Volunteer Testers

High street chemist’s Boots recruit people to test a variety of skin-care products, cosmetics and toiletries. As well as home-based testers nationwide, they require people to attend on-site sessions at their Product Evaluation Centre in Beeston, Nottingham. Payment for the latter is from £10 to £125. You need to live within 30 miles of Beeston to apply for these paid sessions.

Clicks Research

Clicks Research conducts product trials for a range of top brands, including Liz Earle, Sanctuary, Marks and Spencer and The Body Shop. They also run surveys. You get Clicks points for completing these, typically 25 to 200 per survey. Once you’ve earned 2,500 points, you can exchange them for £25 cash.

As well as the Clicks Research main panel, you can apply to join their “Sensory Panel”. This involves taking a short online training course. You can then join their on-site food-hall trials and focus groups. You get to enjoy free products on the day with these and a cash reward too.

Savvy Circle

Savvy Circle is a product testing site for Proctor and Gamble products, including food, health, cleaning and laundry products, cosmetics, and so forth.

This site works a little differently in that as well as giving feedback on products, you’re expected to mention them in everyday conversation and online. The site awards stars each time you contribute to a “campaign”, e.g. by submitting a report on a chat you had with a friend or commenting on a blog. The more stars you get, the more freebies you’re awarded.

I-say

This is another survey site that also dishes out freebies. Register to complete surveys and you’ll occasionally receive invitations to take part in product trials. It’s worth signing up for the surveys anyway, as you’re awarded points for doing them that are converted to Amazon vouchers. You get points for taking surveys on the free products you receive too.

Amazon Vine

Amazon Vine is the product testing arm of the world’s favourite online store. As a “Vine Voice” you get to choose from a selection of products on sale at Amazon. All you have to do is test and review the products on Amazon and you can keep them.

The one drawback with Amazon Vine is that you can’t apply for it. You have to wait for an invitation to arrive. You can improve your chances of this happening by regularly leaving good-quality reviews of things you buy at Amazon.

I have been a Vine Voice for several years now and highly recommend it. As I said in this blog post, as a member I have received some great freebies, including an expensive memoryfoam mattress, a lawn-mower and a £1000 gaming laptop. So it really is worth making an effort to get into this if you can. Once you are accepted, as long as you review the items you receive, the freebies will keep on coming for as long as you want them.

More Top Tips

As mentioned earlier, if you have a blog or website you may be able to get free products in exchange for agreeing to review them on your site. You may also be able to earn extra fees by including an affiliate link to the business concerned, e.g. via the Awin affiliate marketing platform.

One thing you aren’t normally allowed to do is sell on the freebies you receive. Amazon in particular are very strict about this and will terminate your Vine membership if they discover you are doing it.

You can also make money testing company websites and reporting back on them (although of course you don’t get to keep the websites!). Two sites to check out for this (both of which I have mentioned on PAS before) are What Users Do and People For Research.

As ever, if you have any comments or queries about this post – or any other product testing websites you recommend – please do leave them below.



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