Saving Money

Posts about saving money from a 60-plus perspective, including cashback schemes, deals sites, discount offers, and so on.

Twelve Ways to Save Money and Stay Out of Debt This Christmas

Twelve Ways to Save Money and Stay Out of Debt This Christmas

Christmas is many things to many people, but one thing it is for nearly all of us is expensive!

So today I thought I’d share a selection of tips and advice on saving money while still enjoying the festive season and not having to face a mountain of debt in the new year.

1. Declutter for Cash

Chances are you’ll be planning to tidy up anyway before putting the decorations up, so why not take the chance to get rid of any bits and bobs you no longer need but someone else might want? You can then put the money to good use for Christmas. You could sell the items on eBay, your local Facebook sales page, or the new ‘boot sale’ app Shpock. Or you could sell them at a real car boot sale, of course!

2. Buy Discounted Gift Vouchers at Zeek

Zeek is an online marketplace for buying and selling gift vouchers. If you know where you want to do your Christmas shopping, you could buy a discount voucher for that store at Zeek and get up to 25% off. Both physical and electronic vouchers are available. See my blog post about Zeek for details of how you could get an extra £3 off your first voucher purchase by joining Zeek via my link!

3. Make Good Use of Cashback Sites

These pay a proportion of your money back when you click through a link on the cashback site and make an online purchase at the store in question. In the UK the two best known are Quidco and Top Cashback. You can read more about cashback sites in this blog post.

4. Get Free Delivery at Amazon

If you’re planning to do some of your Christmas shopping on Amazon – and let’s face it most of us do nowadays – remember that if your total order value is over £20, delivery is free of charge. If you’re just under the £20 threshold, it can make sense to buy a small item to bring it to the magic £20. Before I joined Amazon Prime (see below) I often bought a pen for this purpose.

If you can’t find a small item for the right price, visit Filler Checker. At this website you can enter whatever price you require to bring your order up to the free delivery threshold. It will then display items you can add to your order to achieve this.

5. Consider Joining Amazon Prime

Okay, this does require an annual fee, but for this you get free next-day delivery of millions of products on Amazon (and same day delivery in some major cities). There is a growing range of additional benefits for Prime members as well, including instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows, free borrowing of thousands of e-books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and secure, unlimited photo storage with anywhere access. If you’re a regular Amazon customer – or planning to do a lot of your Christmas shopping there – it’s well worth considering Amazon Prime, especially as you can try it free for 30 days.

6. Make the Most of Black Friday Sales

Black Friday is a US tradition that in recent years has been imported into the UK (though not without some controversy at first). Officially Black Friday is Friday 24 November this year, but in practice many retailers are starting their Black Friday sales earlier than this. Many high street stores are running Black Friday promotions this year, with big discounts available on their websites too. Just beware of being swept up by the hype. Check that the discounts on offer really are worthwhile and not just reductions of prices that were artificially inflated before.

7. Consider Part-Time or Short-Term Work

Okay, this won’t appeal to everyone, but there are all sorts of seasonal opportunities on offer right now with companies from Amazon to the Post Office. Many stores also take on temporary staff for the Christmas season. Take a look also at my recent blog post about Viewber, a company that needs people with a bit of time available in the day to show prospective purchasers around houses. You can earn from £20 a viewing for this, plus expenses.

8. Abandon Your Shopping Cart!

When shopping online go as far as the checkout page and then close it. The stores will see this and many will send you a discount voucher or other incentive to try to persuade you to complete your purchase.

9. Use Live Chat to Haggle

This can be another effective tactic for getting money off when online shopping. Don’t go straight in with a request for a discount, but ask a few questions first. You’re unlikely to get a massive discount this way, but you may be offered 10-20% off, or a free bonus.

10. Check for Discount Codes

If you know where you want to shop, it’s always worth checking whether any discount codes are available for the store in question. Voucher Codes UK is a great place to start. When I checked just now, some of the top offers included 40% off online orders at The Body Shop and 25% off all orders at Habitat.

11. Use This Free Service to Get Price Drop Alert Emails

A website called Love Sales lets you add items from hundreds of online retailers to your ‘wish list’ and name the price you’re willing to pay, or ask for an alert when the price drops.

You first have to register on the site. Then when you’re browsing a particular item from one retailer, add it to your list. After that, the wait is on for the price to fall and the email to arrive in your inbox.

12. Check out this Christmas Deals Predictor

Finally, you can be ahead of the game with the annual Christmas Deals Predictor on Martin Lewis’s Moneysaving Expert website. Based on previous years (and any other info they may have), this tool predicts the likelihood of certain offers being made in the run-up to Christmas.

At the time of writing they are predicting a £20 discount on Amazon Prime membership (see above) next week. So if you are thinking of buying this, it may be worth waiting a day or two to see if it happens as forecast.

I hope that by following these tips you will have a very happy Christmas and a debt-free new year!

If you have any comments, questions or additional suggestions for saving money at this time, please do post them below.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post in association with Creditfix. Click here for information about Individual Voluntary Arrangements for people in debt.

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How to Check What Your State Pension Will Be

How to Check What Your State Pension Will Be

Today I thought I would discuss the state pension. This is a subject that concerns everyone, but may be of particular interest to readers of this blog who are approaching retirement age.

Of course, many people have one or more workplace or private pensions. However, the state pension is still a very important component of most people’s income in later life.

And unlike many workplace/private pensions, it rises automatically every year at the rate of inflation or above (under the current triple lock guarantee). That makes it increasingly valuable as you get older.

In this article I’ll be revealing how to check how much state pension you are due and when. But I’ll start with a look at the various changes to the state pension in the last few years and how they affect anyone coming up to pensionable age now.

Speaking of which, let’s start with one of the biggest changes…

Your State Pension Age

It’s unlikely to have escaped your notice that the pension age is rising. At present men can access their state pension at 65 while women get it at around 64. The age for women is in transition at the moment as it rises to equalize with men in 2018.

By 2020, the pension age for both men and women will go up to 66. Between 2026 and 2028 it is due to rise again to 67, and under current government plans it will go up again to 68 in 2037.

You can check when exactly you can start to claim the state pension by entering your date of birth and gender at this government website.

The New Flat Rate Pension

This is the other major change to the state pension in recent years.

Prior to April 2016 everyone received a basic pension (currently £122.30 a week). This was (and still is) topped up by additional state pension elements (S2P and Serps) which you accrued during your working life.

Anyone retiring from April 2016 onwards now receives a ‘flat rate’ pension currently worth £159.55 a week. If, however, you ‘contracted out’ of S2P and Serps at some point in your working life, you may get less than this. The presumption is that your contracted-out pension will provide another source of income for you, so you don’t need (or qualify for) the full flat-rate pension.

A further complication is that the government doesn’t want people who accrued large state pension entitlements under the old scheme (basic pension plus S2P and SERPS) to miss out. So when you reach pension age your entitlement under both the old and new methods of calculation will be worked out and you will receive the larger of the two. That means some people could actually qualify for more than the new flat-rate pension (£159.55 currently). If this is the case, it will be shown separately as a ‘protected payment’ on your state pension statement.

Also, to get the maximum new flat-rate pension you need to have at least 35 years of qualifying National Insurance contributions at the full (non-contracted-out) rate. If you have less than that you will get a reduced pension; and if less than 10 years, nothing at all.

In some circumstances – which I’ll discuss shortly – you may be able to pay a lump sum to fill in gaps in your record. Even if you do have 35 years or more of contributions, though, it may not entitle you to a full pension. The government website (see below) tells me I have 37 years of contributions, but because I was contracted-out for some of these years and so paying a lower rate of National Insurance I still have to contribute for another three years to get the full flat-rate pension. Here’s a screen capture of my actual statement:

State pension statement

If you’re confused by all this, I’m not surprised. The rules are complicated and still being tweaked. So to avoid any nasty surprises it’s important to check what you are due to receive as well as when you are due to do so. There is now an official website where you can access all this information in one place.

Checking Your State Pension

Anyone aged 55 or over who has lived and worked in the UK for 10 years or more (even if they are not British citizens) can now visit https://www.gov.uk/check-state-pension to get an estimate of how much state pension they will receive when they retire.

Doing this is a bit more involved than just checking your start date on the pension age site mentioned earlier. You have to sign in with proof of identity, so allow a bit of time for this. If you already have an HMRC online tax account, the good news is you can use this to log in.

Once you’ve done so, you will see a forecast of how much state pension you will get once you’re eligible to start receiving it. This is based on current figures, so if you won’t reach retirement age for a few years yet, it will of course have risen by that time.

Boosting Your State Pension

If you’re disappointed by the amount forecast, one thing you can do to boost your state pension is defer taking it. Under the new rules you will receive an extra 1% for every 9 weeks you put off claiming.

Obviously, to benefit from this overall you should be in good health. For women especially, as their life expectancy tends to be a few years longer than men, deferring your pension (if you can afford to do so) could well be a profitable option. In a way this is a form of investment, underwritten by the government.

No special action is required to defer taking your pension. You just delay claiming and it will be assumed that you wish to defer it.

Another thing you may be able to do to boost your state pension is buy extra voluntary contributions to fill in any gaps in your record. Buying a year of extra contributions (normally Class 3 National Insurance) costs around £733 and will boost your pension by around £230 or £4600 over a 20-year retirement. This can be well worth doing if, for example, you were contracted out for several years.

There are some restrictions, however. In particular, as a general rule it must be done within six years of the end of the tax year concerned. So if the gaps in your record go back further than this, it’s unlikely you will be allowed to make up the whole shortfall in this way.

There’s also the question whether paying voluntary contributions to fill gaps in your record will be cost-effective for you. There is no easy way of calculating this, and I highly recommend getting advice from an independent financial adviser specializing in pensions if you are thinking of going down this route. It’s also a good idea to contact the government’s Future Pension Centre to find out what your options are.

Finally , it should be said that while the state pension provides a baseline income (currently equivalent to around £8,300 a year), on its own it won’t stretch to many (or any) luxuries. Most people will have private or workplace pensions and perhaps other investments as well, and this will be very important if you hope to enjoy your retirement rather than merely survive it. I will look at these in more detail in future posts.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions on this post, please do leave them below.



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How to Save Money on Days Out With Your Grandchildren

How to Save Money on Days Out With Your Grandchildren

Today I’m delighted to bring you a guest post from my UK money blogging colleague Fiona Hawkes.

Fiona’s post covers a subject I am sure many readers of this blog will be able to relate to – how to have a great day out with the grandchildren without spending a fortune.

Over to Fiona, then…


 

There are currently around 14 million grandparents in the UK and more and more of them are taking on the role of childminder for their grandchildren, as growing costs mean that more families need both parents to work to make ends meet.

One in three over-fifties in the UK are grandparents and they help families cut the costs of more formal childcare arrangements – especially during the long six-week summer holidays.

But some grandparents may find that the continual extra mouths to feed and days of entertaining the little darlings are having an impact on their own finances. While the older generation of course love their children and grandchildren and want to help out however they can, it shouldn’t come at the expense of their own financial health.

While this generation of grandparents may be the ones who know how to be thrifty and make do and mend, they may not be quite so savvy when it comes to saving money online, for example.

I realise most grandparents may already have plenty of thrifty ideas for days out – picnics in the park, feeding the ducks, museums, etc – so in this post I am going to discuss ways to save money on the more expensive days out, e.g. to theme parks and attractions.

While they may not be the sort of thing you want to (or could afford to!) do every day, I do think children and adults alike look forward to days out doing something fun and different, such as country farms, zoos and trips to the cinema.

Saving on Trips To Adventure Parks, Zoos and Farms

Down here in Somerset there are several local attractions that we usually try and make a visit to during the summer holidays. These include Crealy Adventure Park, Woodlands, Longleat Safari Park and Bristol Zoo. I know there are similar parks dotted all over the country and there are bound to be similar ones near you. Wherever you are based, though, there is bound to be one thing in common – entry is not cheap.

Here are my tips for saving on adventurous days out with your grandchildren.

  • Book online. Most places offer discounts of between 10% and 20% if you pre-book tickets up to 48 hours in advance.
  • Check out sites like Groupon and Living Social for discounted tickets and cheaper entry special events. Bristol Zoo, for example, has special evening events throughout the year.
  • Some places offer a ‘return in the next 7 days for free’ – plan in advance to ensure you are able to take up this offer and get two days out for the price of one.
  • Most pubs, shopping centres, etc, have leaflets offering discount vouchers – look out for these and pick a few up when you see them.
  • Use OAP discounts and Family tickets wherever you can.
  • Annual membership could save hundreds if you live close to a popular attraction and plan to go there often. If you’ve already bought tickets for that day they will often be deducted from the cost of an annual pass.
  • Look out for free open days – I recently attended one that offered free tractor rides and animal petting at a local farm.

Saving on Trips to The Cinema

Trips to the cinema can soon start adding up – tickets alone can be as much as £10 each (I’m looking at you, Odeon!) and that’s before adding in drinks, sweets and popcorn!

  • If you’ve used Compare the Market in the last year and opted in then you should be entitled to 2 for 1 cinema tickets at participating cinemas on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You can download the app, apply the code when booking online or print it out to show at the cinema. If you haven’t used Compare the Market before buy inexpensive travel insurance once and get 2 for 1 tickets for a year. Valid for two people. Don’t forget to check this is cheaper than a family ticket. Plus, this offer can be used when you don’t have the grandchildren too!
  • During the school holidays and most Saturdays and Sundays many cinemas have cheap kids’ movies being screened. These films tend to be older ones that have been around a while but tickets are much cheaper and usually the same price for adults and children. Showings are usually in the morning, around 10am, and will be called something like ‘Kids AM’ or ‘Kids Club’.
  • Take you own (well hidden) drinks and snacks. Wilko’s is our favorite for pick ‘n’ mix and Poundland is great for 2 for £1 bottles of fizzy drink and £1 bags of chocolates.

Saving on Eating out in the Holidays

Eating out in the holidays with grandchildren can be tricky. Places like McDonald’s offer a quick fix but aren’t really what can be considered a ‘nice’ dining experience. Go to somewhere ‘family friendly’ like Harvester and the cost soon starts to creep up. Try these tips for saving on eating out with grandchildren.

  • Loads of places offer ‘Kids eat free’ or ‘Kids eat for £1’ during the holidays. Find a list online and plan your days around where it’s cheap (but nice!) to eat.
  • Tastecard offers 2 for 1 meals at lots of chain restaurants including Prezzo, Zizzi and Ask as well as many local eateries too. If you can’t save on the kids’ meals at least you can save on the grown ups! Tastecard is around £30 for a year but we usually make that back after two meals out. [Note from Nick: You can get the similar Gourmet Society discount card for just £3.99 if you get an NUS Extra card, as described in this recent post.]
  • Wherever you plan to eat, always check for vouchers online before you go or download a vouchers app such as vouchercloud.
  • With older children and teens who have a big appetite, something like Pizza Hut’s Pizza buffet is a great choice as they can eat as much as they like for one set price. It can also be great for fussy eaters as if they don’t like something they can choose something different without it costing any more money.

I hope you find these tips helpful in planning some cheaper days out with your grandchildren!Fiona Hawkes

Byline: Fiona Hawkes (pictured, right) is a personal finance blogger who loves saving money almost as much as she loves spending it. She saves hard to be able to live better, afford a few small luxuries and see a bit more of the world. Fiona blogs at www.savvyinsomerset.com. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


 

Many thanks to Fiona for an enjoyable and thought-provoking article. Do you have any additional tips to share for having a great day out with the grandchildren (or children) without it breaking the bank? If so, please do post them below!




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How to Get an NUS Extra Card Even if You're Not a Student

How to Get an NUS Extra Card Even If You’re Not a Student

I saw a great blog post by my fellow money blogger Andy Webb this week that I wanted to share with my own readers.

Andy runs a popular blog called Be Clever With Your Cash. In his latest blog post he reveals a way anyone can quite legitimately get their hands on an NUS Extra card, whether or not they are a student. As far as I know there are no age limits either.

Once you have your NUS Extra card – which if you use the method Andy describes will cost you £13.50 – you will qualify for student discounts on a huge range of products and services. Some of the best discounts mentioned by Andy include:

Apple student discount – If you’re going to buy an iMac, iPad or Macbook then having an NUS card means you can get the Education Discount. It’s worth up to 10% off, and if you buy in August and September Andy says you can usually get some free Beats headphones thrown in.

Spotify student discount – Spotify Premium normally costs £9.99. Students can get it for just £5 a month. Apple Music has a similar deal.

Cinema student discounts – Most cinemas will have a discount for students, but Andy says the best is Odeon, which offers an extra 25% off student prices Monday to Thursday.

Amazon Prime student discount – Students get six-months free with Amazon Prime, then pay just £39 a year for three years. That’s an amazing deal and makes paying £13.50 for an NUS card well worth doing on its own.

STA Travel student flights – Andy says he and his partner have used their ISICs (which now come as standard on one-year NUS cards) to get huge discounts on flights. “This year though I’ve noticed a few additional restrictions. Virgin and British Airways have added an age limit of around 30 or 32 years old. I don’t know about other airlines, but it’s ruled me out! However if you can get these, the savings can be massive.”

The full method is described in Andy’s blog post, which I urge you to click through and read. But briefly it involves signing up for a distance learning course with an NUS-approved institution such as Shaw Academy. The latter offers a wide range of inexpensive courses on subjects ranging from Photo Shop to financial trading. But if you don’t want to pay anything at all, you can cancel before their 30 days’ free-trial period is up. You will still be able to apply for an NUS Extra card, costing £12 a year plus £1.50 post and packing.

A further benefit is that as an NUS member you can get a Gourmet Society card for just £3.99 a year (a considerable discount on the normal price). If you enjoy dining out at restaurants, you could save a lot of money using this card (up to 50% on food and drinks), even if you do get the odd snarky comment about being a bit old to be a student (just tell them you believe in life-long learning!).

Thank you to Andy for a valuable and eye-opening post. If you have any comments or questions about this, as always, please do post them below.

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How to choose your next mobile phone

How to Choose Your Next Mobile Phone!

As a home-based worker of a certain age, I must admit I was slow to see the benefit of mobile phones, but wouldn’t be without mine now. I have a mid-range Samsung J5 smartphone and use it all the time at home and when I’m out.

And, of course, for older people generally, having a phone with you is a reassurance in case of accident or emergency, and lets you stay in touch with family and friends wherever you are.

Nowadays the mobile phone market is hugely competitive and you can choose from a vast range of handsets and tariffs. But I’ll start with a word about the most basic choice of all…

Smartphones vs Dumbphones

The first decision you have to make is between a simple mobile phone that just does voice and texts (sometimes called a dumbphone) and a smartphone that allows you to receive emails, browse the internet, and much more.

If all you want is a phone for staying in touch with family and/or emergency use, a dumbphone may be sufficient. They do have the advantage of very long battery life, and they are obviously cheaper.

On the other hand, if you want to be able to receive emails, Facebook updates, WhatsApp messages and more, only a smartphone will do. And only a smartphone will let you look up recipes, watch online video, check bus and train timetables, read maps and weather forecasts, buy things on Amazon and other online stores, and much more.

There is, of course, no objection to having a cheap dumbphone (e.g. in the car in case you break down) and a smartphone as well for all the extra features it can offer.

Choosing Your Phone

If you want a smartphone especially there are many considerations to take into account, including brand, operating system, screen size, memory, camera, SIM (network card), cost, contract length, and so on.

All very well if you’re a mobile phone fanatic, but what if you’re an ordinary individual who simply wants to get the right phone for their needs without paying over the odds for it?

If that sounds like you, a new website called mobilephonechecker is well worth a look. It’s been set up by the same person who made the tools on the well-known Moneysaving Expert website, which is a good recommendation in itself. The site is free to use, and can save you an awful lot of time, hassle and  – most importantly! – money.

Mobilephonechecker has a simple, uncluttered design (see below) and is very easy to use. As you will see, the main menu runs across the top of the screen.

mobilephone

The main sections are as follows:

Contracts – This lets you compare contract deals (handset and SIM) from a wide range of providers. If you’re starting from scratch – and you want a smartphone with all the features they offer – this is a great place to start.

Build Your Own – On this page you can specify exactly what handset and SIM you want and compare quotes from a range of providers. This is brilliant if you know exactly what phone and network services you require.

PAYG Sims – Pay As You Go SIM cards are a very popular option among occasional mobile phone users in particular. If you have a handset already and just want a PAYG SIM card to go in it, this is the page to look.

PAYG Phones – And if you want a Pay As You Go phone, here’s the place to find one. I was amazed by how cheap some of these models were. If you’re not bothered about looking cool and trendy, you can find a basic PAYG phone here for under a tenner.

SIM Only – If you already have a smartphone and just need a SIM card for it, this page shows you the options. You can search here for a deal that includes the right mix of calls, data and texts for your needs. Contracts range from a month to a year and over.

SIM Free – Here you can compare handsets that are sold unlocked with no SIM card, so you can use a PAYG SIM or SIM-only deal, as you prefer. Hundreds of handsets are listed here, costing from £10 upwards.

Other Tools – This section has links to special offers on phones, e.g. Amazon Warehouse deals, which are well worth checking out. There is also a free text reminder service, which you can set to notify you when your current contract is close to expiring. There is a page listing refurbished phones and also one you can use to find out about upgrades if you are with EE, O2 or Vodafone (for other networks, you’ll need to use their own website or contact their customer services team directly).

Guides – Finally, in this section you can read articles about a variety of mobile-phone related matters, including cashback deals, network coverage, number porting, what is 4G, and so on.

If you need a new mobile or are reaching the end of your current contract, it’s important to spend some time assessing your options carefully. This way you can ensure that whatever you get meets your personal requirements and doesn’t cost a penny more than it has to. In my view, the Mobilephonechecker website is an invaluable resource for doing this.

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

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for which I am receiving a fee. I am not employed by mobilephonechecker and have no other financial interest in the site.

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Upgrade and Save Money with Hassle Free Boilers

Upgrade and Save Money with Hassle Free Boilers

Central heating boilers aren’t the most exciting subject in the world, but the huge majority of us in Britain depend on them for heating and hot water.

In recent years boiler technology has improved dramatically and modern gas boilers are vastly more efficient (and environmentally friendly) than their predecessors. But of course, they aren’t cheap to buy and install.

So what do you do if you’re stuck with an old, inefficient boiler that is generating large gas and repair bills or even worse gives up the ghost altogether? If you don’t have a few grand in the bank for a new one, your options may appear limited.

A company called Hassle Free Boilers offers a solution to this problem. They will install a new, modern boiler for you at a competitive price and maintain it for a monthly fee as low as £19.99. You can choose from a range of premium ‘A’ rated Vaillant, Ideal or Worcester boilers. The fee includes annual servicing, breakdown call-out cover, full system flush, thermostatic radiator valves and a magnetic filter to ensure the ongoing maximum efficiency of your gas heating and hot water system.

Hassle Free Boilers have a range of finance arrangements for the boiler, including a ‘nothing to pay upfront’ option. Obviously, though, if you are able to pay an initial deposit, your monthly payments will be lower. HFB quote a representative example on their website of someone paying £1,999 up front for their boiler and installation, followed by payments of £19.99 a month.

Hassle Free Boilers offer a 12-year contract, which in effect serves as a warranty or guarantee. They say, “You’ll always have a gas boiler in your property and you’ll never have to worry again and can get on with the other things you want to do in your life. We’ll always be there to ensure your boiler and heating system do what they’re supposed to throughout this period.”

If you decide to move home, you can pass on the contract to the new buyers if they wish to take it over. Alternatively, you can settle out at any point. HFB say that you could pay as little as £299 in your third year. In any event, whenever you decide to move, they say you will never have to pay more than the price of the boiler.

What if you’re not quite ready for a new boiler yet? Hassle Free Boilers say they can cover your current boiler and central heating until you are ready to upgrade. This cover will include all parts and labour and a full system flush, and you can then decide when you are ready to have your new boiler installed.

Big Savings

There are substantial savings to be made by installing a modern efficient boiler. The Energy Saving Trust say that heating accounts for about 60 percent of what you spend in a year on energy bills. They state 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. In  money terms this can translate to savings of up to £570 a year.

Viewed in that light, Hassle Free Boilers’ offer (including servicing and repairs) provides the potential for big savings, not to mention reducing your carbon footprint and giving you twelve years’ peace of mind. The company are part of the part of the award winning Ecovision (Group) Ltd. They are Which? Trusted Traders and have already installed over 7,000 systems across the UK. You can read nearly 400 independent reviews of the company on the Reviews UK website.

For more information – and to request a free, no-obligation quote – visit the Hassle Free Boilers website or give them a call on 03456 474747.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Hassle Free Boilers for which I am receiving a fee. I am not an employee of Hassle Free Boilers or an affiliate for them.

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Make a Sideline Income Renting Out Your Driveway or Garage

Make a Sideline Income Renting Out Your Driveway or Garage

Today I thought I’d share a sideline money-making opportunity that – if you’re in a position to do it – can bring in a steady income for very little effort.

The shortage of parking spaces in many towns and cities has created an opportunity for anyone who has a driveway or garage they aren’t using all the time.

One of the best-known operators in this field is JustPark. Through their website and mobile app, they put drivers in touch with home-owners (and businesses) who have parking spaces available near their destination. They claim to have over a million registered users and over 200,000 parking spaces on their books.

Listing your space is free (JustPark add up to 25 percent to your asking price and take this as their payment) and you can set your own price, based on how long the driver wants to stay. JustPark say that charges are still typically 60% lower than on-street parking (if you can find it), which makes the service attractive to motorists as well.

One big attraction of JustPark is that they handle all the admin on your behalf. All payments are made via the website, and space-owners can withdraw earnings via PayPal or direct to their bank account. JustPark also ensure you still get paid even if the booker doesn’t turn up.

All drivers using the service have to register on the site, so you know exactly who will be using your space on any given day. There is also a rating system so you can see any comments other users of the service have made about them. Space-owners are also rated by drivers, incidentally.

You can offer spaces by the day, week or month, and set any restrictions you wish on when your space is available. Anyone is welcome to advertise spaces on JustPark, but the locations in most demand are those near airports, stations and stadiums, and in major cities. According to a recent article in the Daily Mail, people in such areas are making more than £3,000 a year doing this. Even if that doesn’t apply to you, though, you can still earn from a few hundred pounds a year to £1000 or more by this means.

Of course, if you don’t have a suitable space to offer, you won’t be able to benefit from this opportunity. You could still use JustPark to save money on your own parking costs, though. Either way, the service is well worth checking out!

Disclosure: As well as being a registered user of JustPark I am an affiliate for them and will therefore receive a small commission if you click through any of my links and sign up. This will not affect the money you earn through the site and/or any savings you make if you use them to find parking spaces.

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How I Saved £252.72 on my Virgin Media Broadband Bill

How I Saved £252.72 on my Virgin Media Broadband Bill

I just saved £21.06 a month (equivalent to £252.72 a year) on my Virgin Media Broadband bill, all by making a quick phone call. Here’s the full story…

I have a broadband-only contract with Virgin Media (I use the internet-based Vonage for my home phone service and am happy with Freeview for the TV). I have had this for several years, and the price has kept nudging upward. When it went over £50 a month I realised I really had to see if I could get a better deal, or else switch to another provider. I was reluctant to do the latter, though, as I have cable broadband from Virgin and switching suppliers would have involved getting a landline phone reconnected. And anyway, I’ve had good service from Virgin and my broadband connection is fast and stable.

So not without some trepidation I phoned up Virgin’s customer relations department (the number is 150 from a Virgin Media phone or mobile or 0345 454 1111 from any other phone). I told them I was unhappy with how much I was paying and was thinking of switching. Their operative didn’t seem the least surprised. He explained that I was on ‘an old contract we don’t offer any more’. And he immediately offered me a new, cheaper contract, with a faster connection and a £3 a month ‘loyalty bonus’ (until October 2018).

So I am now paying £29.25 a month for my high-speed broadband service. I guess I could have saved a little more by switching to someone like Plusnet, but I didn’t want the hassle, and anyway the connection would have been slower.

I did think at the time that it would have been nice if Virgin Media had alerted me themselves to the fact that I was on an obsolete contract. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they were happy enough to go on taking my money so long as I was happy enough to go on paying it. But then again, it’s my fault as well for not reviewing how much I was paying sooner. As a money blogger I really should have known better!



Top Tips for Cutting Your Broadband Costs

Here then are my tips for reducing your broadband bill if you find yourself in a similar position to the one I was in…

  • Don’t be afraid to phone up your ISP and see if you can get a better deal. The companies are well used to this and will often be happy to offer you a better rate rather than lose your custom entirely.
  • Remember that broadband has become a commodity a bit like energy or mobile phone services. All the main ISPs have special offers and discounts running all the time. If you reach the end of an offer and are put on their ‘standard tariff’, call them up and ask if they have any better deals going. They almost certainly will, the only downside being that you may be tied in to using their service for another 12 or 18 months.
  • But if you can’t get the deal you want, it’s easy enough to switch. In most cases you just sign up with a new supplier and they will make all the arrangements for you, including contacting your old ISP and arranging a changeover date. I recently helped a couple of friends switch from BT to Plusnet. It all went smoothly and they cut their monthly bill by more than half as well as getting £50 cashback. They are even still using their old BT modem/router, although I have tried hard to persuade them to switch to the more modern one provided by Plusnet!
  • Be aware that in some cases it can actually work out cheaper to have a broadband and telephone service from one supplier than broadband alone. My own circumstances are a bit unusual. I do like the Vonage (VoIP) service, as it includes various free features that other suppliers charge extra for. But if I was starting over again now I could undoubtedly save money overall by buying my phone and broadband services from the same company.
  • Make a point of reviewing your broadband costs at regular intervals and also any time your bill goes up or you reach the end of an offer. Don’t rely on the internet for this. There really is no substitute for phoning up your supplier’s sales or customer services department and negotiating politely but firmly.
  • And finally, if you decide to switch, bear in mind you may be able to save even more money by joining your new provider via a cashback site such as Quidco or Top Cashback. You can read my recent blog post about cashback sites here.

Good luck, and if you have any comments, tips or questions about Virgin Media or switching broadband suppliers, please do post them below!

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12 Great Ways to Save Money on Amazon

12 Great Ways to Save Money on Amazon!

I admit I’m a bit of an Amazon addict. I love their huge range of products and the fact that you can read reviews of the products concerned from actual buyers. I’ve always found their customer service first rate as well.

Prices on Amazon are generally competitive, but over the years I’ve discovered a variety of ways to ensure you get the best value for money from them. So here are my top twelve tips for saving money on Amazon…

      1. Always search for the product you are thinking of ordering on eBay as well. Often you will find the same product there, and sometimes cheaper as well. Of course, you will want to check that the eBay seller has good feedback and the delivery charges are reasonable.
      2. If you’re going with Amazon, getting free delivery has become trickier in recent months. In general, though, if your total order value is over £20, delivery is free of charge. If you’re just under the £20 threshold, it can make sense to buy a small item to bring it to the magic £20. Before I joined Amazon Prime (see below) I often bought a pen for this purpose. I can always use more pens!
      3. If you can’t find a small item for the right price, visit Filler Checker. At this website you can enter whatever price you require to bring your order up to the free delivery threshold, and it will then display items you can add to your order to achieve this.
      4. You might also want to think about signing up with Amazon Prime. This service requires the payment of an annual fee, but for this you get free next-day delivery of millions of products on Amazon (and same day delivery in some major cities). There is a growing range of additional benefits for Prime members as well, including instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows, free borrowing of thousands of e-books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and secure, unlimited photo storage with anywhere access. If you’re a regular Amazon customer it’s well worth considering Amazon Prime, especially as you can try it free for 30 days.
      5. Prices on Amazon go up and down to a surprising extent. Only last week I was looking at a snazzy digital radio for under £50. I went back the next day and found it had gone up to over £100! To keep track of the price of any item you are interested in, you can sign up at the oddly named Camel Camel Camel and they will notify you by email if and when the price of your chosen product falls below a certain level.
      6. If you’re unsure whether a particular product is good value or not, Camel Camel Camel can tell you that as well. Enter any product details and it will show you the price that particular product has been selling at on Amazon over the preceding weeks and months. You can also install their ‘Camelizer’ browser extension (Chrome and Firefox) to view the price history of any item on Amazon.
      7. Check out the Today’s Deals link at the top of most Amazon pages. Items listed here include ‘Deal of the Day’ and ‘Warehouse Deals’. The latter are pre-owned and refurbished items, and you can pick up some real bargains.
      8. If there is something you buy regularly – e.g. vitamin pills or nappies – you may be able to save money by placing a regular order using Subscribe and Save. Subscribers typically get a 5% discount on the usual selling price, and you can of course cancel at any time.
      9. Check on cashback sites such as Quidco and Top Cashback to see if you can get cash back on your Amazon purchase by clicking through a link on the platform in question. Cashback tends to be available on specific categories of product rather than across the board, but if you’re thinking of buying a large product it’s always worth checking whether cashback may be available for it. See my recent blog post about cashback sites for more information.
      10. And even if you’ve earned cashback on Quidco or Top Cashback from purchases at other stores, you may be able to take your cashback in the form of Amazon vouchers. Typically you get a few percent more this way than if you ask for money.
      11. Lots of market research and survey sites also offer Amazon vouchers as a payment option. People for Research is one that I have done well from myself.
      12. Leave reviews of the products you buy on Amazon. Not only is this public-spirited, it may lead to an invitation to become a Vine Voice (as I am) and get products free in exchange for reviewing them. See my earlier blog post for more information about reviewing for Amazon Vine.

I hope you find the list above helpful. If you have any other tips for saving money on Amazon, please do share them below!

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Save Big Money on Rail Travel Every Year with Railcards

Save Big Money On Rail Travel Every Year With Railcards

At the age of 61 I just got my first Senior Railcard.

I must admit I hadn’t realised I was even eligible for a Senior Railcard – I assumed you had to be over 65 for this and/or receiving a pension. That’s definitely not the case, though. As long as you are 60 or above, that’s all that’s necessary.

I already saved most of the cost of my card within a month visiting a friend who was in hospital in Birmingham (now safely home, I’m glad to say). So in this post I thought I’d say a bit about Senior Railcards and railcards more generally. If you ever travel by train, they can generate big savings for you over the course of a year.



Senior Railcard

The Senior Railcard (which I now have) costs £30 a year, or you can save yourself £20 by paying £70 for three years.

Once you have your card, you can save a third on most types of ticket, including standard and off-peak, single and return. One thing you can’t do, though, is use them to get a discount on season tickets. You are also barred from using them between two stations in London and the South-East during morning peak time. A full list showing when you can and can’t use your Senior Railcard can be found here.

If you really feel like travelling in style, you can also use your railcard to get a third off a first class ticket. That would almost certainly cover the cost of the card in one trip!

For travelling from Lichfield City (my nearest station) to University (the station for Birmingham University and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital), using my railcard cut the cost of a day return from about £9 to £6. Obviously, for longer journeys the savings would be even greater.

To use the card, you have to present it at the ticket office when buying your ticket. It is also available as an option on automatic ticket machines and when buying a ticket from websites (where this is possible). One important thing to remember is that you must have your Senior Railcard with you when travelling, as a ticket inspector may want to see it.

You can buy a Senior Railcard at any staffed railway station, or on the Senior Railcard website. I did the latter, and my card duly arrived by post two days later. Note that in order to buy a Senior Railcard online, you will need to enter your driving licence or passport number to prove your eligibility.

One other thing to note is that Senior Railcard holders are eligible for certain additional benefits as well, such as discounts on Warner Leisure Hotels and Haven Holidays. More information about this can be found here.



Other Railcards

If you aren’t over 60, there are still other railcards you may be eligible for. They are listed in the table below. In most cases holders of these cards get 1/3 off the normal fare. There may be some restrictions, e.g. you may not be allowed to use them in the morning rush hour (in London and the South-East especially).

Railcards

Name of CardPrice/yearTermsNotesApply online?
Senior Railcard£30Age 60 or overYes
Two Together£30Two adults of any ageMust travel after 09.30 on weekdaysYes
16-25 Railcard£30Age 16-25 or full-time mature student of any ageYes
Family & Friends£30Up to 4 adults and 4 childrenGives 1/3 off adult fares and 60% off children's faresYes
Network Railcard£3016 and overValid anywhere in the London and South-East regionYes
Disabled Persons£20Must have a disability and/or receive a disabled person's benefitAlso valid for an accompanying adultNo
HM Forces£17Must be a serving member of UK armed forces or reservist, or spouse/partner of one, or a dependantNo

For more information about any of these cards and links to apply (for those cards where online application is available), visit this page of the National Rail website.

If you have any comments or queries about this post, as ever, please do post them below.

See you on the train!

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