Saving Money

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

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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How to Buy and Sell Gift Vouchers on Zeek

How to Buy and Sell Gift Vouchers on Zeek

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Zeek. I wrote about their service a few weeks ago in this blog post.

As I said then, Zeek is a marketplace for gift vouchers from a wide range of retailers, including many well-known high-street and online stores.

You can buy vouchers at a discount and also sell any vouchers you may have that you don’t have a use for. Both regular vouchers and electronic ones can be traded.

The nice people at Zeek gave me a promotional credit so that I could show you how easy it is to use their service, so in this blog post that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.

Buying a Gift Voucher on Zeek

When you arrive at the Zeek website you have a choice of ‘Buy Gift Cards’ or ‘Sell Gift Cards’. If you click on Buy Gift Cards, you will see something like this:

Zeek marketplace

There is a range of retailers listed, with many more if you scroll down. The best discounts available on that store’s vouchers are indicated in each case.

In the right-hand column you can filter your selection in various ways. For example, you can choose to see only stores for which physical gift cards are available, or vouchers specifically for restaurants or department stores.

As I am a gentleman of a certain age who does most of his clothes shopping at Marks and Spencer, I decided to use my promotional credit on a voucher from them. I therefore clicked on the Marks and Spencer Online logo and the following list of available vouchers appeared.

Marks and Spencer vouchers

Zeek lists vouchers in order of the discount available. In this case the best discount was 12%, which is pretty typical in my experience.

I decided to use my promotional credit on the £50 voucher with a 12% discount, so I clicked on the Buy Now button on the right and completed the transaction. As you will see, I was charged £44 for it, representing a £6 discount. On this occasion, as mentioned, I was using a promotional credit, but otherwise you can pay using a credit card, debit card or PayPal.

Once you have completed your order, electronic vouchers appear immediately in your wallet on the Zeek site, along with a serial number and CVV/PIN number enabling you to use them on the retailer’s website. If you buy a physical voucher, they are sent free of charge by registered post and should arrive within a day or two.

And that really is all there is to it. All I have to do now is to decide what jumper or pair of trousers to spend my voucher on!

Get a Free £5 Promotional Credit!

Here’s a special promotional bonus I can offer you as a valued reader. Just click through this link and use the code 2X2LW2AF when signing up. A £5 credit will then be added to your account. This must be used on a voucher purchase within ten days.

So you could, for the sake of example, buy the £100 M & S voucher shown above for £88 and get a further £5 knocked off, reducing the cost to £83 in total. In effect, that’s like someone handing you £17!

Of course, you need to choose a retailer where you would shop anyway. In that case, a voucher is as good as money to you.

How to Sell Vouchers on Zeek

I haven’t tried selling on Zeek yet, but the procedure appears simple. Just click on Sell Gift Cards at the top of the screen, and enter details of the card you want to sell. You will be asked to provide a photo of the voucher and some information, including its face value and expiry date. You also have to say how much of a discount you want to offer. In general, the bigger the discount, the faster your voucher will sell.

Zeek charge a £3 processing fee for selling a voucher, but before you put one on sale you will see exactly how much money you will be getting for it. Zeek say that 92% of all vouchers are sold within a day, with the money transferred to your PayPal or bank account. If you are sitting on vouchers received for Christmas or a birthday that you know you will never use, here’s your chance to turn them into cold, hard cash you can spend on anything!

Once again, don’t forget that you can get a £5 promotional credit just by clicking through this link and using the code 2X2LW2AF when signing up. And if you have any questions or comments about Zeek, please do post them below.

 

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Get Money Off Gift Vouchers with Zeek

Get Money Off Gift Vouchers With Zeek

Zeek is a marketplace for gift vouchers from a wide range of retailers, including many well-known high-street and online stores.

As a Zeek member, you can buy gift vouchers (printed and online) at a discount to the face value. Discounts aren’t massive, typically ranging from 3% to 15%, but of course that’s still a handy saving if you were planning on shopping at that store anyway. Here’s a screen capture from the Zeek sales page showing just a handful of the retailers whose vouchers you can order.

Zeek merchants and discounts

As mentioned, Zeek is a marketplace, and that means you can sell your vouchers there as well. If you have any gift vouchers you don’t need, you can use Zeek to convert them to cash instead. Of course, you won’t get the full face value, but you can decide for yourself how much you want to offer them for. This is further discussed below.

I joined Zeek recently and bought a Marks and Spencer’s gift voucher, as I regularly buy clothes and other things there. I got 6% off a £25 voucher, reducing it to £23.50. I also got a £5 new member’s bonus by entering a special code, so that reduced the price still further to £18.50. I’m all set to go shopping there now!

Speaking of bonuses, as a Zeek member myself I can offer you the same one I had. Just click through this link and use the code 2X2LW2AF when signing up. A £5 promotional credit will then be added to your account. This must be used on a voucher purchase within ten days.

Once you have ordered and paid for a voucher (you can use a card or PayPal), it will appear immediately in your Zeek wallet if for online use, or it will be posted to you free of charge using recorded delivery. My M&S voucher was for online purchases, so I got a serial number and pin code to use when redeeming it on the website.

Top Tip! Amazon vouchers are available on Zeek but tend to sell out very quickly. Do a search on the Zeek site, and if there aren’t any currently on offer you will be invited to sign up to receive a notification the next time they are on sale.



How to Sell Vouchers on Zeek

I haven’t tried this yet myself, but the procedure looks simple enough. Just click on Sell Gift Cards at the top of the screen, and enter details of the card you want to sell. You will be asked to provide a photo of the voucher and some information, including its face value and expiry date. You also have to say how much of a discount you want to offer. In general, the bigger the discount, the faster your voucher will sell.

Zeek charge a £3 processing fee for selling a voucher, but before you put one on sale you will see exactly how much money you will be getting for it. Zeek say that 92% of all vouchers are sold within a day, with the money transferred to your PayPal or bank account.

Once again, don’t forget that you can get a £5 promotional credit just by clicking through this link and using the code 2X2LW2AF when signing up. If you have any questions or comments about Zeek, please do post them below.

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Save Money with Cashback Sites

Save Money with Cashback Sites

If you ever buy anything online, you can almost certainly save some money by signing up with cashback sites.

In this post I’ll be discussing the top two UK cashback websites, Quidco and Top Cashback, both of which I have belonged to for some years and can vouch for.

The idea behind cashback sites is that they are free to join (although premium membership may be available at a small cost) and provide links to a range of online retailers. When a member clicks through one of these links and buys something (or performs some other action) the cashback site receives a commission from the retailer. Rather than keep all this for themselves, the sites return some or all of the commission they get to the member in question.

So if, for example, you need home insurance, you could click through to a broker’s website from the cashback site. If you then buy a policy from that broker, some or all of the commission paid to the cashback website is credited to your account. You can then withdraw it to your bank account, PayPal or even as vouchers for your favourite merchant.

As mentioned, I have been a member of the two sites mentioned above for several years now, and have made hundreds of pounds from both. Via Quidco, for example, I recently made £110 in commission when I clicked through their link to the Nutmeg financial services website and opened an investment account. Although described as cashback, really this was more like a bonus, as the money I invested with Nutmeg does of course remain mine and I can get it back at any time. My Nutmeg investment has actually risen in value by over £700 since I invested a few months ago, so this has clearly been a worthwhile investment in more ways than one!

With Top Cashback I recently pocketed a more modest £40 cashback by switching my gas/electricity provider using a comparison service listed on the website (the cashback came from the comparison service rather than the energy provider). I shall be saving around £500 a year by switching provider, so again the cashback feels more like a bonus than the return of any money I have spent.

You don’t always have to spend money to benefit from cashback sites either. Both Quidco and Top Cashback list offers where you can get money simply asking for a quote or some other action. On Quidco you can earn up to £4.95 at the time of writing by ordering a free SIM card from GiffGaff, while on Top Cashback you can get £2.64 by requesting a quote for your car insurance from Confused.com.

You can also make money by introducing friends and family to these sites. Offers change from time to time, but typically you are paid between £5 to £10 when someone joins via your link and earns cashback themselves. The links in this post are referral links, of course.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of cashback websites. I highly recommend signing up with both Quidco and Top Cashback, as they compete feverishly with each other to offer the best deals.



Do Cashback Sites have any Drawbacks?

Not drawbacks exactly, but there are certain things to be aware of.

For starters, you only get paid by the cashback site when they receive payment from the merchant concerned. Sometimes this happens within a week or two but other times it can take a lot longer.

Also, the system depends on your visit to the merchant being tracked by the software, and this doesn’t always work as it should. This happened to me recently when I made a groceries purchase from Asda. It didn’t track for some reason, so I had to open a claim via Top Cashback. Eventually I did get my money, but it took over three months.

So one thing to remember is not to rely on your cashback arriving quickly (or indeed at all). You should only make a purchase via a cashback site if you genuinely want- or preferably need – the item in question and believe it is good value. The cashback then will be a welcome bonus when it arrives.

For Readers Outside the UK

Finally, if you live outside the UK, there are cashback websites in many other countries as well (for example, Top Cashback now has a US operation, Top Cashback USA). Just do a Google search for “cashback website” plus your country’s name and see what results come up. Or check out this article on the MakeUseOf website which lists a number of such sites serving the US. Read the comments section below the MakeUseOf article for a range of international cashback sites as well.

As ever, if you have any comments or queries about Quidco and Top Cashback or cashback sites more generally, please do post them below.

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How I scored a £1200 mattress as an Amazon Vine reviewer!

How I Scored a £1200 Mattress for just 10 Minutes’ Work as an Amazon Vine Reviewer!

I’ve been an Amazon Vine reviewer for around five years now. In some ways it’s been the most profitable sideline I’ve ever had.

For those who don’t know, Amazon Vine is a programme run by Amazon where they send products free of charge to selected individuals (known as ‘Vine Voices’) in exchange for reviewing them. You don’t get paid for these reviews, but you can of course keep the item concerned.

You might imagine that the main thing Vine reviewers get is books. It’s true that there are plenty of these on offer, but of course Amazon sell loads of other things as well. In the time I’ve been a Vine Voice I’ve reviewed all the following:

  • lawn mower
  • saucepan set
  • vacuum cleaners (two of these)
  • clothes airer
  • hair-dryer
  • back-massager
  • suitcase
  • cordless iron
  • cat treats
  • microphone
  • bathroom bin
  • and many more!

The most valuable item I have ever had as a Vine Voice was a £1200 luxury mattress. Considering that I only had to pen a couple of hundred words about it, that probably counts as my best-paid writing job ever. As you might expect for that price, it is very comfortable! I’ve put a link to the Amazon sales page below:

And here’s the review I wrote about it, in case you can’t find this:

The first thing to say is that this is a VERY heavy mattress. I had to pay two men to manoeuvre it up the stairs and into the bedroom, and was afraid that the younger one in particular would do himself an injury.

Thankfully you don’t have to turn this mattress over, just from end to end, which I might just about manage without having to call for reinforcements…

Another practical point to bear in mind is that this mattress is deeper than most, so on a normal divan base you will be quite high up. If you worry about falling out of bed, therefore, this may not be the mattress for you.

With all that said, the mattress is very comfortable to sleep on. It is described as Medium/Soft, which worried me a little, as I tend to prefer my mattresses on the firm side. It turned out not to be a problem, though. The material moulds itself to the shape of your body, giving even support from head to toe. I have been sleeping very well on it, and waking up without any bed-induced aches or pains.

Overall, as you might expect for the price, it is a very good, comfortable mattress, which I would have given five stars apart from the practical and logistical issues mentioned above.

I see the price has come down quite a lot since I reviewed it. But still not a bad return for the few minutes the above took to write, wouldn’t you agree?

The Downside

Does Amazon Vine membership have any drawbacks? Well, not really, but it has its limitations. For starters, you can’t just pick anything to review. As a Vine Voice you get access to a dedicated web page where a range of products is set out and you can pick any you like to review. As you might expect, there are limited stocks of review products, and popular ones tend to be snapped up quickly. So you have to get in the habit of checking regularly to see what is available, and move quickly when you see something you like.

The other slight drawback is that you aren’t supposed to sell the products you receive. That means you can’t just review a product, then put it up for sale on eBay. Or at least, if you do this and Amazon find out, your tenure as a Vine Voice will be swiftly terminated. For the record, I have never done this myself, although I do sometimes give the products away to friends.



How Do You Become a Vine Voice?

Ah, that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? I never actually applied to Amazon – I had reviewed a few products in the past – not a vast number – and received an email out of the blue inviting me to join.

And that’s the thing. You can’t just submit an application. It’s invitation only, so you have to wait for the call to come. New reviewers are constantly being recruited, though, so you can boost your chances by regularly submitting reviews of Amazon products. Obviously you won’t receive any payment for this, but it’s all good practice and effectively represents your letter of application.

At the risk of stating the obvious, you need to create high-quality reviews that gain good feedback and ‘helpful’ votes from customers. Your reviews should be honest, mention both positives and negatives, and answer the sorts of question a potential buyer might ask before buying the item concerned. If you do this regularly, there is every chance you will be invited to join Amazon Vine at some point in the future.

The Vipon Alternative

Alternatively (or as well) there are sites that will allow you to get Amazon products at a discount or sometimes free. It’s fair to say that the vendors hope you will review their products, but since a recent change in Amazon’s terms and conditions they are no longer allowed to make this a requirement.

One of the main such sites is Vipon, previously known as Amzreviews. Once you’ve been accepted for this (and most people are) you can browse their marketplace for products to request. Your application must be accepted by the vendor and sometimes you get turned down for unknown reasons. But usually within a day or two you will be approved and receive a voucher letting you order the product concerned at a discount from Amazon. Note that the site is US-based but they accept people from anywhere in the world. Once you are logged in, you can set the site to show products on Amazon UK only.

Clearly this isn’t as good as getting free stuff with Amazon Vine, but it does have the advantage that you get a wider choice. I’ve had great discounts on household products from Vipon/Amzreviews, though you shouldn’t expect to see expensive items such as laptops and televisions offered here.

As I noted above, there is no obligation to review the products you receive on Vipon, though it is at least a courtesy to the vendor to do so. In addition, all such reviews may help you achieve your ultimate ambition of becoming a Vine Voice.

If you have any questions about Amazon Vine reviewing and/or becoming a Vine Voice, please do post them below and I will do my best to answer them.

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