The UK is not a nation known for haggling. Most of us tend to pay whatever is on the price tag without question. But, a surprising amount can be saved on all sorts of items, from food to clothing and toiletries to entertainment – even if you aren’t brave enough to barter.
We’ve pulled together a two-part guide to a few things we think you should never have to pay full price for, and how you can avoid it. If you enjoy the read, why not tell us why at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us your own hints and tips. We’ll pay £100 for the star letter. And don’t forget - read part two of our guide next month!
Shopping online can be cheaper than heading to your local mall, and most retailers have end of season sales. These are worth holding out for as garments are significantly marked down to clear retail space for new stock. Bear in mind however that you’ll probably have to rummage and won’t necessarily be able to find your size. If your size isn’t available, why not buy a bigger one and alter it yourself, or find a professional alteration service. It may cost less than you think if you shop around.
If you want a whole new wardrobe without paying a penny, why not organise a clothes swap with friends? Take it in turns to host, bring a bottle or nibbles to make it more social, and strut your stuff in front of your nearest and dearest! If you make it a regular event, you may never have to pay for clothes ever again.
If a catwalk party isn’t your style, but you don’t mind buying second hand, you could hunt out your local charity shop, where barely worn clothes and shoes are only a few pounds. Vintage clothing never goes out of fashion either. Some pieces may even be worth more in a few years if you look after them. So, find your local vintage shops or fairs, and relive your youth, or your parents’.
You can also go it alone by using a clothes swapping website like Big Wardrobe or Swap Style. But if you prefer your fashion brand new, by signing up for free to websites such as vouchercodes.co.uk and myvouchercodes.co.uk, you can get money off coupons, delivered direct to your inbox.
Designer gear can also be accessible without breaking the bank. Rent the Runway lets you borrow rather than buy, and membership sites such as Gilt and Beyond the Rack offer up to 80 per cent off, as well as daily sales.
By buying clothes through a free cashback website like TopCashback or Quidco, you can earn money back as the online retailer pays the site commission for driving traffic to it, so you get a percentage.
Make the most of regular BOGOF or three for two offers at big retailers, or spend the points earned from loyalty cards such as the Boots Advantage Card on make up, cosmetics and toiletries.
Bulk buy everyday items at your supermarket by opting for their own brand to save a few pounds each month, or visit a pound shop. Look out for magazines with free gifts. Sometimes it will be worth the cover price for that top end mascara or miracle face cream sample.
We all like to pamper ourselves now and then, but if you have a favourite luxury brand, encourage your friends and family to buy these as birthday or Christmas gifts. Or if you’re feeling brave, make your own! Household foodstuffs and other products can blend to make great skin and hair treats. The Old Farmer’s Almanac and Bathbomb.biz have great recipes to try. This could double up as a fun activity to do with the kids, and as well as helping you save on bathroom goods, the products are better for you, and the environment.
If you can’t forego your salon indulgences, why not consider using the spa at your local beauty college. Treatments, haircuts and colours by students learning their trade are a fraction of the price of those on the high street, and can be every bit as good.
If perfume is your pleasure, then duty free remains a good option. If you aren’t going away yourself, see if friends and family can pick things up for you, or check if your local airport holds an annual sale of duty free and duty paid goods.
If you don’t live near an airport, discount chain The Perfume Shop has a branch in hundreds of UK towns and cities. You can also buy online with free delivery on all orders, and the site has regular offers. It also has a Rewards Club to earn points for perfume each time you spend.
Holiday costs can build up once you’ve taken everything into account, from insurance and currency to excursions and tips - on top of food, flights and accommodation. It’s a luxury that some understandably feel is beyond them. But if you’re prepared to put some time in to ferret out the best deals, you could save hundreds of pounds.
Try to be flexible about when you travel. Choose a midweek evening or overnight flight, rather than flying on a weekend afternoon. If you can, avoid school holidays. If this isn’t possible, try to aim for as late as possible in the summer. Compare the price of flights on websites such as Skyscanner and Kayak so you can make sure you aren’t paying over the odds.
Book several months in advance, or leave it till much later. Late package deals tend to crop up a couple of months before they leave. But you could nab one even cheaper if you book later still, or are willing to be allocated-on-arrival. Check lastminute.com for options.
If you do choose a package deal, don’t pay using a credit card as there is usually an administration charge of around 2.5 per cent added. Use a debit card instead. Or, if you keep everything separate, compare hotel prices on Travelsupermarket, Trivago, Expedia or Hotels.com. Load any spending money onto a pre-paid card or get commission-free currency ahead of time, rather than at the airport.
Self-catering is a good option to save a few quid and you can rent at reasonable prices through Owners Direct. Take teabags and other non-perishables with you to save on groceries once you’re there, and minimise eating out.
Daily deal websites Groupon and Living Social offer both international and UK breaks. Self-catering accommodation and package deals are available at knock-down prices. These sites work by negotiating discounts of up to 90 per cent with suppliers and then encouraging group buying via a daily email.
Once you’re booked, it’s a good idea to take out travel insurance straight away, to guard against cancellations. Compare policies at Confused.com or Compare the Market. Consider taking an annual or family policy if there’s a chance you may go away again. And check your home contents insurance to see if single items like cameras are covered while abroad, instead of paying extra on your travel policy.
Before you travel, make sure you’ve all visited the dentist, as nothing can ruin a break quicker than toothache. Treatment can also be pricey. Contact your local university to see if they train dentists. If they do you may be able to receive treatment for free from an undergraduate.
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