Be A Smart Shopper And Save Money

15 Oct

“I need to cut back on stuff for a bit. Just in till I’ve gotten myself back on my feet.”

“I’m just being careful with the pennies over the next few months to ensure I’ve got enough money for our family holiday!”

The two statements above are ones I’ve heard all too often. Would It be wrong to assume that those reading this have stated one of the above or at least something along them lines. If you haven’t then I’m impressed! Your smart!

You, see saving money should never be a short term goal! It should be a way of life, one that isn’t a chore to undertake. A depressive process that makes us feel restricted and starved of some of life’s pleasures. It should be easy, yet rewarding… Something we do without thinking about it. Bottom line is… Saving money should be a normality.

Changes may need making, though not all will need to be grand or life changing. In fact, we find its a collection of the smallest things that amount to the most significant savings.

Budget planning and careful documentation of finances has provided me with the proof that small changes, even if it means a few switch over of services, can actually amount to some long term substantial savings.

So., why listen to me? Admittedly I’m no well known money saving adviser! What I am is a mother to three children who is extra vigilant with her income.

My eldest son is on the autism spectrum and is registered disabled. I’m therefore his full time carer and this means that other than the benefits we we get including Carers Allowance, we have no other means.

I help other parents of children with autism to get the services they require whether it be educational or personal and do so on a voluntary basis. For this reason I’ve also got an extensive collection of tips and info on ways these families can save money and gain access to services. I’ve incorporated some of this information within this post.

Household Utilities

Energy Bills: If like myself you are on a Pre-pay meter for your gas, electric or even both, you maybe feeling a little ticked off with the constant need to top up your key or card. However, Not having unexpected bills or unpaid direct debits is appealing and was my motivation for opting for Pre-pay meter in the first place. Nonetheless, pre-pay may seem the safest option but in actual fact isn’t the most cost efficient.

Weigh up your options between Pre-Pay and Monthly billing to see what works best for you. Call or visit your service providers website for information and policies on switching from Pre-pay to billing!

Don’t be afraid to switch providers if you find a better deal elsewhere. Shopping around is always a must and should always be done before any signing on any dotted line.

If you find a better deal, give your current provider the chance to match this in order to keep your custom.

Important: Don’t act harshly! Wait till the end of November when all providers should have already updated new prices following any decisions to raise this winters energy prices.

In the meantime, keep bills lower by trying some of these quick tips…

Replace normal light bulbs with the long life energy efficient type.

Never live off your emergency credit. Usage is automatically more expensive per day. You will find that as soon as your on the emergency, electricity and gas is consumed at a much faster rate than if you were not.

If your not a home owner check with council, housing association or landlord if your able to apply for loft or wall cavity insulation. A number of energy suppliers are actually offering both its costumers and non costumers free loft and wall cavity insulation (links will be provide in reference section located at the bottom of the post).

Remember that the DWP automatically send cold whether payments to families on certain benefits such as disability living allowance. Payments are applicable when the weather is recorded to be an average of zero degrees Celsius over seven consecutive days.

The elderly, those with a disability (including a family member) or families caring for someone suffering from an illness may be able to receive greater discounts up to £130.00 from their suppliers under the home-care support programme.

The EDF energy trust, an independent charity can provide grants to low income families receiving certain benefits. (You must be a customer of one of their boards to apply.) The charities focus is on improving poverty by providing help in the way of grants to clear debts of gas and electricity as well as other household debts. The charity also provide grants to those in need of essential items such as appliances.

Mobile phone billing:

Those on contracts who don’t use all their data or call/text allowance should consider requesting that they change their call plan and therefore reduce the cost of their bill for the remainder of the contract. After all why pay for a service you are not using?

Those using iPhone or other smart phones should take advantage of certain apps available to them. Many Apps allow you to send text and multi media to fellow app users. This does only work with an Internet connection but if you use your wifi it does practically make it free saving you a fair bit of money.

Sometimes however, its just better to opt for pay as you go. Most mobile providers offer great deals and bundles such as bolt Ons and family and friends (call certain family and friends who’s numbers you have registered on your plan, free of charge). Basically by opting for pay as you go you can only use your phone when its topped up therefore avoiding any huge scary phone bills.

Sometimes you will find that your mobile provider offers services for home phone and broadband and vis-vesa. They will usually be happy to give you a quote. Given that you are an existing costumer to one of their services, discounts are offered and are usually very good. This really worked out well for me and made the accounts so much easier to manage.

Say No to 0870 is a great website that searches for alternatives to high cost numbers such as 0870 & 0845 by listing their equivalent geographical number. Using this site has saved me a fortune.

Shopping:

Food and daily essentials…
If possible shop online! Don’t stay loyal to one retailer/supermarket but instead be sure to go with the one offering you the best deals. Many offer huge discounts for first time shoppers and I’ve had fun trying them all out.

Be sure to search for the best deals via a comparison website. Also check out one of the many voucher code sites or apps where you can find some fantastic voucher and promo codes that could greatly reduce your shopping bill.

Be sure to take advantage of store loyalty cards and those odd money off coupons you took from the mornings newspaper.

Try to buy certain products in bulk, especially if you find an discount or offer being run on a product you use on a regular bases. Bulk buying may cost more at the time but will certainly save you money in the weeks to follow.

Shopping for other items such as clothing, toys, homewear, electrics and more….

Again scan the Internet for all the latest discounts and introductory offers. Big costly items should be fully researched via review sites, blogs and forums. This way you have a better idea about the product and may even change your mind for an alternative. Be sure to have covered every corner of the web before committing to payment of your purchase.There is nothing worse than later discovering that fabulous deal you missed out on.

Be sure to use a reputable comparison site to find the best price available. Always read T&C before committing to a transaction. This will highlight any hidden extras and charges before you hand over your money.

If your also a bit of a giver you can also donate to a chosen charity without actually sending a penny extra. Just use a platform such as the one provided by ‘Give as you live‘ to enter your chosen store.The greater your spend on an item the more taken from the final sale price and donated to your chosen charity. What’s great is its free, your not spending more than you planned yet your still able to feel good about yourself.

I myself am a huge bargain hunter and love a good charity shop. Other places you may find a good quality homeware, clothing and more include… Jumble sales, bootfairs, high street and online sales, eBay, clothes swapping sites and best of all freecycle. Everything added to the site is free to local collectors. I’ve had some amazing items from vintage lighting to my garden fence.

What’s important here is not to rush into any big purchase decisions! Explore all options and buy with confidence. Also remember that sometimes the more expensive products are cheaper in the long run. It may be more expensive but may last longer and therefore provide better value for money.

Travel – Train, Coach etc…

I’m off to bristol this Saturday with my 10 year old daughter her best friend and my mum. Trying to get the best fare didn’t exactly go as smoothly as I’d first hoped and I quickly discovered the horrifying prices attached to rail travel (even that of advance tickets). After lots of ramaging and much online reading I started to get wiser as I began to discover how to play the travel provider at their own game.

Firstly the earlier you book the better (12 weeks is recommended for best priced tickets)

Use a fare finder like the trainline or red spotted hanky. You can get anything up to 80% discounted from your fare.

It’s great if your flexible as you will often be shown cheaper options for one maybe two dates either side of the original date you had opted for.

Split ticketing. Basically find out the stops on your trains route and then try splitting the fare but not the travel. You simple search for return tickets to the station normally around half way to your destination. Then again search for returns from the halfway mark to the final destination. For some its cut the fare down by half. You end up with double the tickets but the journey remains the exact same… Just ensure the train does stop at the halfway mark to make it work. You don’t even need to get off the train.

Remember sometimes its cheaper to get two singles as opposed to a returned ticket. Apps like the red spotted hanky will show you the best option out of the two.

If you travel on the train a lot as a family or with friends I’ve discovered it’s much better to buy a family and friends rail card for around £26.00 per year. This will get adults up to 30% of their travel and 60% off the child price when you travel together. Family and friends rail cards can even be used in conjunction with most reduced price ticketing and promotions therefore saving you a significant amount of money.

Note: If you are caring for a family member with a disability you can get them to apply for a disability pass from their local council which entitles them to free travel in and around london.

For longer journeys its worth looking at a disabled person railcard which cost £20 for the year and entitles the person with the disability plus an adult companion upto 30% each of their travel.

Family Days Out…

If you and the family are planing a day out which requires you to use the train, london southeastern run all year round offers that give you 2 for 1 entrance at many top attractions if travelling by train.

Families consisting of Pre-school children should consider visiting attractions on certain days around term time. These dates are always cheaper and many attractions offer special price packages for families with toddlers.

If planning a family trip to an attraction during term times advance booking online and collection of tickets at the gate often results in reduced prices.

If you visit attractions more than once per year many places offer annual family passes. In most cases you can buy these at a good reduced price if purchasing on a day you’ve already been visiting the attraction. However this means you have to buy them before leaving the park when many families feel they have simply spent enough.

Always check prices for children with disabilities. These will often come under concessions and many places offer a reduced ticket rate for carers.

Most cinemas are part of a programme that entails a carer of a disabled person who is buying a cinema ticket, a complementary ticket free of charge. Those with disabilities must have a CEA card which cost around £5 and can be ordered online.

Now, I could go on and on all night. After all we haven’t even touched on insurance policies, banking and more. But I guess I’ll have to save this for another time.

Below you will find a reference section with links to some of the services I’ve mentioned above. If any families of a disabled child are reading this please look out for a post I will be publishing later on in the week. This will provide a list of some charitable organisations providing assistance to families of children with certain disabilities and special needs.

REFERENCE SECTION

SMART PHONE APPS TO SAVE YOU MONEY… If you have a smart phone be smart and use it to save money.

WhatsApp: Free messenger (iTunes price 69p) Send text, picture, audio & video. Twitter handle @WhatsApp

IUU: Free Messenger free to download.

Text Me!: Free texting of SMS and IM style messages. Free to download.

Energy bills

Cold Weather payments from Direct Gov

Warm-Home Discount Scheme info on Direct Gov

British Gas Free loft and wall cavity insulation

The EDF energy trust (charitable trust)

Travel Savings

National Rail railcards (RailCards)
Disabled persons Railcard
The Trainline (cheap fare search)
Red Spotted Hanky (cheap fare search)

Voucher Code Sites

vouchercodes.co.uk
moneysavingexpert.com
Savoo
vouchercloud.com

Comparison Sites
USwitch
price runner
MoneySupermarket

This post is my entry into Savoo UKs smartest shopper competition. The prize is for £10,000 a new money saving blog.

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One Response to “Be A Smart Shopper And Save Money”

  1. Tracey Starey October 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Great article, I love the tip about the red spotted hanky – never heard of it but just been and checked the site and bookmarked it, thanks!

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