Saving Money

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

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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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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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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Ten Great Blogs for Over Fifties You Should Follow!

Ten Great Blogs for Over Fifties You Should Follow!

Today, in the seasonal spirit of sharing, I thought I’d list some other great blogs you might like to follow.

All these blogs are written by over-fifties and/or aimed at them. They aren’t all dedicated personal finance blogs, but they all include tips and advice on saving money, and in some cases making money and investing too. All ten are UK-based.

Here’s the list then…

1. Fifty Five and Counting

This is a personal finance blog by Susan Wilson. It is focused on preparing for retirement, and covers topics from solo travel to taking up a new hobby. Sample Post: Unleashing Your Inner Drama Queen.

2. Debt Camel

Debt Camel is a blog by Sara Williams. Sara says: “Debt, including mortgages, is an important issue for the over 50s. The low level of pay rises and cuts to benefits have left many people in a much worse position than they would have expected ten years ago… and they have less time to improve it before retirement.” Sample Post: IVAs – Pros, Cons and Problems.

3. Your Money Sorted

Your Money Sorted is a blog by financial coach Eileen Adamson. Eileen says: “As we get older retirement is something that begins to prey on the minds of many. Don’t ignore those nagging fears though – take action. Find out exactly how much you are likely to need in retirement, as well as how much you are predicted to get on retirement. Then take actions to help you to ensure that you are prepared effectively. The sooner you deal with it, the easier it will be.” Sample Post: Big Savings – Brilliant Tricks with Zeek Discounted Gift Cards.

4. Stupid is the Norm

Stupid is the Norm is a blog by 56-year-old Perry Wilson. Perry reveals on his website, YouTube and Facebook how he is building a fund of £300,000 in 10 years as well as repaying £10k of debt. He says it’s never too late to become wealthy! Sample Post: What Are the Odds of Becoming a Millionaire?

5. Much More With Less

Much More With Less is a blog by Faith Archer aimed at anyone hoping to escape from the rat race. She says, “I blog about moving to the country, living on less and making the most of it. I cover both cutting costs and earning more from investments and pensions, so I can afford to retire.” Sample Post: Investing Isn’t Just for Men in Braces.

6. The Complaining Cow

The Complaining Cow is a blog by Helen Dewdney. It covers consumer rights and how to use them, so you don’t get fobbed off. Sample Post: Think Before You Sign – Top 10 Tips for Saving on Subscriptions.

7. Thrifty Lesley

Thrifty Lesley is a food-focused blog by Lesley Negus. It includes meal plans to help readers feed themselves for £1 a day. Sample post: 8 Sandwich Pastes for Super Cheap Sandwiches and Toast Toppers.

8. Joleisa

Joleisa.com is a blog run by 50-year-old twins Jo and Leisa, who are both teachers who have given up the rat race to live a more fulfilled, happy and stress-reducing lifestyle. Their blog features frugal lifestyle and money-saving tips. Sample Post: Don’t Order Takeaway, Make it!

9. Shoestring Cottage

Shoestring Cottage (great name!) is a blog by Jane Berry. She says, “Shoestring Cottage helps you to save money for the things you love to do, covering everything connected to living a fun but frugal life.” Sample Post: How to Make Money Selling on eBay.

10. Money Saving Journeys

Money Saving Journeys is a blog by Kerry Marriott covering making money, saving money, busting debt, and more. Sample Post: The Beginner’s Guide to Frugality and Freedom Debt Relief.

So there you are – ten great blogs to check out and add to your favourites list! If you have any comments or questions, of course, please do leave them below.




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Mobile Phones: Should You Get a Monthly Contract or a SIM Only Deal (Infographic)

Mobile Phones: Should You Get a Monthly Contract or a SIM Only Deal? (Infographic)

Today I am sharing an infographic about mobile phone contracts kindly provided by Handset Expert.

The graphic contains a variety of interesting information, but it focuses especially on the attractions of buying a phone with a separate SIM-only contract rather than a monthly contract that includes both.

Have a read of the infographic, and I’ll share a few thoughts of my own at the bottom.

Switching to SIM only deals could save Brits a total of £3.4 billion per year | HandsetExpert

I will lay my cards on the table and reveal that I have a SIM-only contract myself. This has always been my preference, but there are pros and cons both ways, so I’ll go through them briefly here.

On the plus side, as the infographic says, having a separate SIM-only contract is likely to work out cheaper overall. In addition, you can change phone any time just by swapping your SIM card to a new handset. And you can switch to a different network provider if you like without having to face the hassle of paying off your contract and “unlocking” your phone.

There are, though, some possible drawbacks as well. For one, you won’t be able to access technical support for your phone so easily if you buy it outright rather than on a monthly contract. In addition, you are likely to have to pay the full cost of your handset up front rather than by monthly instalments. And upgrading will involve buying a new handset rather than simply negotiating a new deal with your monthly contract provider.

Overall, though, my advice for most people would be to choose a separate SIM-only deal. This is likely to offer better value, not to mention greater flexibility. But if you prefer the simplicity of a monthly contract that covers both device and phone service and don’t mind paying a bit extra for this, you might prefer to stick with that. The same applies if you can’t afford the up-front cost of paying for the handset you want – though bear in mind that if you opt for a single monthly contact for this reason you are still likely to end up paying more money overall.

  • So that’s my opinion, but what do YOU think? Do you have a separate SIM-only contract or single monthly contract for your device and phone service? I’d love to hear your views!




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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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