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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How to Cut Your Energy Bils

How to Cut Your Energy Bills

For older people in particular, energy bills can be one of their biggest expenses. So today I thought I’d set out some ways you can save money on them. Following these tips could save you hundreds of pounds on your annual fuel bills, perhaps even more.

Switch Energy Supplier

The Government estimates around 13.5 million households in the UK are missing out on £2.7 billion by sticking with the same energy company.

But even if you have switched in the last year or two, it’s worth checking again now, as some great new deals have come on the market recently.

The quick and easy way of doing this is via a price comparison website. There are a number of these available, but my personal favourite is the long-established uSwitch.

Just visit this site and enter a few details, including your current supplier and tariff and how much you spend on gas and electricity in the course of a year (it doesn’t have to be exact). The site will then show you the best deals currently open to you and how much you could save by switching to them. In most cases you can also start the switching process by clicking on the relevant link. Before you do, though, it’s worth checking on cashback sites like Quidco and Top Cashback, as some energy companies pay cashback via these sites to people switching their supply to them.

Switching energy suppliers is usually quick and easy, and can save you hundreds of pounds a year at a stroke. It should be high on your list of money-saving measures.

  • If you are one of the 1.1 million households who use oil for heating, you can save money by shopping around for suppliers too. Check out the oil price comparison service BoilerJuice. Type in your postcode and how many litres of heating oil you’re looking to buy, and BoilerJuice will show you quotes from suppliers covering your area.

Get Financial Help

If you’re in certain priority groups, you may be able to get cash payments to help offset your energy bills.

Winter Fuel Payment is a one-off annual payment of £100 to £300 made to everyone over a certain age. To qualify this winter, you must have been born on or before 5 August 1953. If that applies to you, this money should be paid automatically, but you can phone the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 0345 915 1515 if you haven’t received the payment before and need to claim.

In addition, those on certain welfare benefits (including Pension Credit, Income Support and Universal Credit) may be eligible for Cold Weather Payments. This is £25 for any period of seven consecutive days when temperatures fall below zero. More information can be found on this page of the government website.

Finally, you may be eligible for £140 off your electricity bill under the Warm Homes Discount Scheme. This is run by some (not all) of the energy companies. If you get the Guaranteed Credit element of Pension Credit you will qualify automatically. But if you’re on a low income (under £16,190 at the time of writing) and meet the energy supplier’s other criteria, you may also qualify. Contact your supplier directly for more information. The large energy companies such as EDF and British Gas all operate this scheme, but some of the smaller ones don’t.

More Top Tips

Here are some more ways you may be able to save money on your energy bills.

  • Have your boiler serviced regularly, to ensure it is operating at peak efficiency.
  • If you have an old boiler that keeps breaking down, the time may have come to replace it. The Energy Saving Trust say that you could save up to up to 40 percent on your gas bill by installing a new ‘A’ rated condensing boiler with a programmer, room thermostat and thermostatic radiator controls.
  • Upgrading your insulation can also cut bills by reducing the amount of heat going to waste. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get a free boiler and/or insulation under the government’s ECO (Energy Company Obligations) scheme. You can apply for this via your energy company. Even if you’re not on a low income, you may be able to get a discount on home insulation, so it’s worth checking to see what’s available.
  • If your radiators aren’t heating up properly at the top, you may need to bleed them to release air in the pipes. Depending on the radiator, you may need a special key to do this or a flat-bladed screwdriver.
  • Turn down your thermostat by one degree ­- this can reduce your heating bill by 10%.
  • Replace old light-bulbs with new energy-saving bulbs. The latest LED bulbs are just as bright as old incandescent bulbs and use a tenth of the energy. They last longer too.
  • Exclude draughts with heavy curtains and draught excluders by doors.
  • Turn off heaters in rooms you aren’t using and close the doors.
  • Don’t leave electrical appliances on standby.
  • Wash clothes at 30 degrees and try to avoid using tumble driers. Hang washing outside to dry whenever possible.
  • Get a smart meter installed. The energy companies are fitting these free at the moment. They are great for seeing when and where you are spending money on energy and identifying ways you could save money as a result.

By taking these steps you should be able to cut your energy bills significantly over the course of a year.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, as always, please do leave them below.



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Take the Penny Challenge!

Take The Penny Challenge to Save £667.95 by This Time Next Year!

Today I wanted to share with you a clever money-saving idea I came across on the excellent Wow Free Stuff website.

The Penny Challenge offers a painless way to save money every day – so in a year’s time you will have the substantial sum of £667.95 stashed away. That’s money you could put towards a nice holiday or some other big purchase you have set your heart on.

How It Works

The challenge itself is very simple.

On the first day you put aside one penny. Each day after that you add another penny to the amount you save. So on the second day you save 2p, on the third day 3p, and so on. Over the course of a year (365 days) the amount you have to save each day is shown in the grid below.

Penny Saving Challenge

As you will see, by the last day of the challenge you will have to find £3.65 – still an easily affordable sum. And once you have done that, you will have a total of £667.95 to spend on anything you like.

I really like this challenge and plan to do it myself, starting from 1 February 2018. It will be great to have a savings pot of £667.95 by this time next year. I’m already planning what I might spend it on!

Please let me know if you decide to take the Penny Challenge too by posting a comment below. And, of course, if you have any other comments or queries about it, feel free to post them also.

Statutory Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for which I am receiving a fee.

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How to Jump Start a Car with a Flat Battery

How to Jump Start a Car with a Flat Battery

Sponsored Post: At this time of year flat batteries are a common problem for motorists. Batteries have to work harder in the winter, to power the lights, wipers, heating fans, and so on, and it’s easy for them to get run down.

This is even more likely to happen if – like many older people – you don’t use your car regularly or use it only for short journeys. It’s always best not to leave it too long between trips and try to fit in the occasional longer run that will power up the battery again.

But what if, despite all this, you find yourself with a flat battery? Don’t despair – as long as you have a set of jump leads (jumper cables as they are also called) and another car that is working normally, you can be up and running again in a few minutes. If you don’t have jump leads already, you can pick up a set cheaply at any local motoring store or Amazon.

jumper cables

Jump leads or jumper cables

Here’s what you need to do.

1. Park the cars nose to nose, so that there is easy access from one engine compartment to the other. Switch off both cars’ engines. Ensure that the brakes are on and the cars are in neutral (or Park in the case of automatics).

2. Open the hoods of both cars. Attach the red jump lead to the positive (+) terminal of the car with the flat battery. Attach the other end of this cable to the working car’s positive (+) terminal.

3. Attach the black cable to the working battery’s negative (–) terminal and the other end to an exposed metal section on your car, e.g. a bracket, bolt or strut. This must be at least a foot away from the battery.

4. Now start the working car and let it run for a few minutes, revving the engine slightly.

5. Then attempt to start your car. Nine times out of ten this will work. If it does, remove the cables in the reverse order you connected them, i.e. starting with the black cable attached to exposed metal on your car. Close the hood, but don’t switch off your engine yet! Drive around for at least 15 minutes to charge up your battery.

If your car still won’t start, leave it connected to the other car for another five minutes and try again. If you still have no success, it may be that your battery is too drained and needs replacing. Or there may be another fault in your car’s electrical system. Either way, it’s probably time to call in the professionals. The same applies if the problem occurs again the next time you try to start your car.

Good luck, and I really hope you don’t need to use the advice in this post too often!

  • For much more advice about buying, selling and maintaining cars, check out Cars.com.
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Earn a sideline income renting out your possessions

Earn a Sideline Income Renting Out Your Possessions

Lots of us have belongings we seldom use but don’t want to get rid of. If that includes you, rather than letting them gather dust, why not have them make money for you by renting them out?

This is another manifestation of the so-called sharing economy, where people make money and save money by sharing items of all kinds. The trend has been driven by peer-to-peer rental websites such as Rent Not Buy, Rent My Items and Zilok. These sites make it easy for would-be lenders and borrowers to find each other and agree terms.

People can list items on the sites they are willing to lend, along with what they are charging and any special conditions (e.g. whether a returnable deposit is required). Would-be borrowers can then contact them directly or via the site.

Most peer-to-peer rental websites don’t charge for listing items. They typically make their money by taking a cut of the fee paid and/or other methods such as advertising.

What Can You Lend?

The range of items listed on peer-to-peer rental sites is huge.

At one end of the scale is industrial and agricultural machinery. At the other is household items such as cameras, tents, power drills, computers, kitchen equipment, and so on.

Fashion and beauty is another popular area, with people (mainly women, I assume!) offering to lend their handbags, designer shoes, ball gowns, and so on.

Other items regularly offered include musical instruments and equipment, art and collectables, disability aids, bicycles and cars, and even boats.

Lenders can specify dates when an item isn’t on offer if they will be needing it themselves. A facility is provided on most rental sites to allow borrowers to check whether a particular item is available on the dates they want it.

What Can You Earn?

Lenders specify a rate per day, week and/or month. Obviously, the more valuable the item, the more borrowers would expect to pay. Here are a couple of example items from the Rent Not Buy website.

(1) 5m bell tent

Location: York

Minimum rental period: 3 days

Rate: £20 a day or £100 a week

Deposit required: £150

Other requirements: Photo ID required.

(2) Canon 550D camera with two lenses and a battery pack

Location: Bristol

Rate: £10 an hour, £20 a day or £60 a week

Minimum rental period: 1 day

Deposit required: £150

Other requirements: Must return in same condition and without any damage. Memory cards must be wiped on return. Cannot be rented for more than 2 weeks.

If you want to hire out possessions of your own, the best plan is to search Rent Not Buy and the other sites mentioned above and see what people are charging for similar items. This should give you a good idea of “the going rate” for whatever you want to lend.

More Tips

Here are a few more tips for anyone hoping to make money this way.

  • Clearly you should take sensible precautions to minimize the risk of loss or damage to your possessions. Always check a potential borrower’s feedback on their public profile. This will reveal what other lenders have said about their experiences renting to this user.
  • Asking for a deposit is another safeguard. It’s also a good idea to ask the borrower for proof of identity (a driving licence or passport, for example) and take a photo of this.
  • Insurance is also a consideration. Some of the more specialized rental sites (see below) provide insurance for lenders so they are covered if their item is damaged. With expensive items especially it is important to check what cover is on offer from the rental site, and also whether your normal household insurance would pay out in a worst-case scenario.
  • As well as the general sites already mentioned, there are specialist sites that are worth considering for more expensive and/or unusual items. Examples include Spinlister for bikes, The Handbag Rental for designer handbags, and Curtsy for fashion clothing.
  • Remember that any money you make from lending possessions counts as taxable income and should be declared to HMRC. Failing to do this could land you with a tax bill and a fine on top if they find out.
  • Even if you don’t have any items you want to rent out at the moment, you can still save money by using peer-to-peer rental sites to borrow products you only need occasionally.

Good luck, and I hope you make lots of money from the sharing economy!

If you have any comments or questions about this post, as always, please do leave them below.



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What Users Do: earn a Sideline Income Testing Websites

What Users Do: Earn a Sideline Income Testing Websites!

A few weeks ago in this post I discussed People for Research, a website that pays people to take part in consumer research.

Today I want to share with you another website that pays people to help companies with their research. What Users Do has some similarities with People for Research. Unlike PfR, though, it is entirely focused on website testing.

What Users Do recruits people to visit and test websites from home, and pays them £5 per test for doing so. Tests typically take around 15 minutes, so it’s not a bad rate of pay. A few longer tests pay more, up to £25 in certain cases.

To work for What Users Do you will need a microphone (or headset) to record your commentary. Some tests have to be done on a desktop computer, others a mobile phone, so ideally you should have both. There is no need for any particular technical skills, though.

How to Apply

The application procedure for What Users Do is quite straightforward. You start by filling in an application on this page of the WUD website.

You then have to download their proprietary screen-recording software and complete a short test with it. This involves visiting a sample website and recording a commentary mentioning any issues you can see with the site and how you think it could be improved. My own attempt at this was pretty stumbling, but I was still accepted without quibble.

Once you are on the panel, you will be notified by email any time a new website test is available for you. You can then click through the link in the email, answer the screening questions and – if you are accepted – proceed to the test itself.

Payment for all completed tests is made via the online payment platform PayPal. You are paid on the 25th of each month for tests completed the previous month.

What Will You Be Testing?

You won’t be surprised to hear that the sites concerned are wide-ranging. They include some well-known brands such as Channel 4, Virgin Atlantic and Asos, and others you probably won’t have heard of.

In each case you will be given detailed instructions by What Users Do about what they want you to do in your test. This may involve finding certain information or products on the website, checking the menu navigation, and so on. Clearly, whatever instructions they provide, you should follow them to the letter.

More Top Tips

Here are a few more tips on making the most of What Users Do.

  • You are likely to get screened out of quite a lot of tests with What Users Do. Often they have very specific requirements, e.g. if it’s a website about caravans they might only want caravan-owners to comment. This can be frustrating, but if you are patient and persistent you will definitely find tests you can do.
  • Tests fill up quickly, so it’s important to keep an eye on your email. If an invitation pops up, click through to it as quickly as possible.
  • Depending on the quality of the tests you complete, you can expect to receive more and better-paying opportunities. So it really is important to give them your full concentration. This is definitely not something to do while watching the telly!
  • Speak slowly and clearly during the tests and try not to lapse into long periods of silence. Aim to describe exactly what you are doing step by step as you are doing it.
  • What Users Do run easy monthly competitions for panelists with cash prizes, and these are well worth entering as well.
  • Another way you can make money from WUD is by referring friends or colleagues. You will get a small cash payment once they have completed their first website test.

In my view What Users Do is another opportunity well worth adding to your sideline-earning portfolio.

If you have any comments or questions about What Users Do, as always, please do leave them below.



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Earn Extra Cash as a Mystery Shopper

Earn Extra Cash as a Mystery Shopper

If you enjoy going shopping, here’s a great opportunity to get paid for doing it!

In today’s competitive business environment, retailers are desperate to ensure that their shops and other outlets provide the best possible service to consumers.

To check this is the case, many now use mystery shoppers. These people visit stores anonymously – as ordinary customers, in other words – and report back on what they find. As well as physical stores, mystery shoppers evaluate websites and telephone services too.

Mystery shoppers are generally hired by specialist agencies rather than companies themselves. As a mystery shopper you will work for the agency on a self-employed basis and report back to them. The agency will pay you and (in most cases) reimburse the cost of any purchases.

This is a great opportunity for retired and semi-retired people who have some time available during the day. The work is generally interesting and enjoyable, and as well as being paid you will get a bit of fresh air and exercise as well!

Typical Tasks

Mystery shopping tasks are incredibly varied, but here are some typical assignments you may be asked to perform.

  • Visit a fast-food restaurant and order a meal. Time how long your order takes to arrive, check that the condiments area is well stocked, and visit the toilets to check for cleanliness.
  • Visit an electrical store and see how long it takes for a staff member to acknowledge you. Ask them about the different types of appliance they sell, rating their helpfulness and product knowledge.
  • Phone up a hotel and book an overnight stay, noting how easy the process is and how well the receptionist answers your queries. At the hotel evaluate the service you receive, how clean and comfortable your room is, the quality of meals, and so on.

Getting Paid

Payment rates vary, but you shouldn’t expect to earn a fortune. Although a few people do this as a full-time job, mystery shopping is best regarded as an enjoyable money-making sideline.

For a basic mystery shopping job that takes maybe 20 minutes to complete, you could expect to earn in the region of £8 to £12. Travel expenses may be paid on top of this (although by no means always).

  • One thing to bear in mind is that mystery shopping assignments often require you to make a purchase. This will normally be reimbursed, but the money may take several weeks to arrive. So if you can’t afford to be out of pocket during this time, this opportunity may not be for you.

In some cases, rather than a fee you may be offered a free or discounted product or service – a meal at a restaurant, for example. It’s up to you whether to accept such assignments. Obviously, a free meal at a nice restaurant is appealing, but you won’t make any money doing this type of job.

Where to Find Work

Mystery shopping is huge nowadays, and there are hundreds of mystery shopping agencies in the UK alone.

One leading company that works on behalf of many high street stores is Market Force. My fellow money blogger Emma Drew, a highly experienced mystery shopper, recommends Market Force as the first agency people starting out in this field should join.

To become a Market Force mystery shopper, visit their website and click on Register. You will be asked to enter some personal details and complete a short test of your spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Assuming you pass this – and it’s not exactly rocket science – you will be able to download their free app and start finding work near you. Then it’s just a matter of doing the jobs, filing your reports, and getting paid!

Some other mystery shopping agencies I have heard good reports about include Grassroots, Red Wigwam and Retail Maxim.

More Tips

Here are a few more tips for would-be mystery shoppers.

  • When you apply to mystery shopping agencies, they often ask you to write down why you think you would make a good mystery shopper. Saving this for your next application will save time in future.
  • Be sure to read any brief you receive carefully and fulfil the terms to the letter. This way you will avoid disasters, e.g. going to a shop on Monday and subsequently discovering you were required to visit at the weekend.
  • Try to schedule more than one assignment per day. If you’re making a trip across town for a mystery shop, check to see if there are any other shops nearby that also require visits.
  • Set aside time to make notes as soon as possible after completing an assignment, while the experience is still fresh in your mind. The more useful details you can provide, the better clients will rate you.
  • Don’t talk about your assignments. Most, if not all, mystery shopping agencies don’t allow you to mention their clients.

As mentioned earlier, for most people mystery shopping will be an enjoyable money-making sideline, but you can also save a lot of money on leisure activities by this means.

Mystery shoppers are also hired to assess hotels, restaurants, airlines, package holidays and even cruises – so if you enjoy travelling and eating out, you can save hundreds or even thousands of pounds on these activities. Naturally there’s a lot of competition for the most desirable assignments. Someone has to do them, though, and there’s no reason why it couldn’t be you!

If you have any comments or questions about this post or mystery shopping generally, as always, feel free to post them below.



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