Drive In, Dine Out at Pizza Express

This month, I’m filling my car up at BP to collect vouchers for Pizza Express.

Pizza Express

It’s pretty straightforward. Fill up with 35 litres or more at participating BP fuel stations and you get a code. Enter 3 codes here and you can get a free main course Sundays – Fridays between now and 9th August. As you can use up to 7 codes at once, we’re planning a meal with friends sometime soon.

PS I’ve collected 4 codes so far and have noticed that you often need to (politely!) ask for a voucher – don’t be shy!

Donate Nectar Points to Help Oxfam in Nepal

The relief effort in Nepal is in desperate need of more funds, with thousands now homeless. You can make a difference without spending any money, if you haven’t got cash to spare, by donating your Nectar points to Oxfam’s relief effort.

500 points could provide safe water for 10 people in an emergency (click here)

1,500 points could buy two buckets to store safe, clean water (click here)

3,000 points could provide a hygiene kit with essentials such as soap, towels and washing powder (click here)

PS Check out Giving What We Can or Give Well to research which charities will use your donations most effectively

Thriftea Annual Finance Audit

Every year I try and spend one day doing an audit of my finances. Today was that day, so here are the best bits of the Thriftea Finance Audit. It’s worth remembering that as we’ve recently moved, I haven’t looked at the mortgage, home insurance and other big house-related financial decisions. This is mostly the small stuff.

Please also remember that I am definitely not qualified to give any sort of financial advice. These are just a few little tweaks that, in my personal experience, could save you some money.

Pension

If you have the option to manage your fund, actually manage it. Check where your funds are invested – try and do this once a year. Seek advice from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about to help you decide the level of risk and where to invest.

Bank Accounts

Look at each of your accounts in turn. Do you have any accounts with a monthly fee? If so, are you getting the full benefit of whatever that monthly fee covers? I have a Santander 123 Current Account with a £2 fee, but with the cashback and interest earned (usually around £5-6 per month), I’m making more than enough to cover the fee. If your monthly fee covers travel or phone insurance or roadside assistance, check the T&C and read some reviews; what’s the excess in the event of a claim? Will it give you the protection you need? Is it worth it?

Check your current interest rate; is it competitive? Do you have enough in there to make it worth switching? If so, head to Money Saving Expert for its bank account comparison.

Are you earning the best possible rate (and benefiting from the ISA allowance) for your savings? If not, move them!

Cashback

I use Quidco, so the tips I’m sharing are for Qudico, but I’m sure the same applies wherever you’re getting your cashback. Are your registered cards for in-store purchases up to date? Mine weren’t, meaning I was missing out on in-store cashback from retailers like Debenhams, JD Sport and The Works.

Whilst you’re there, check whether cashback hasn’t tracked for any major recent purchases and whether you have any receipts to upload to claim cashback.

Food Shopping

I signed up for a Tesco Delivery Saver annual pass. We get shopping delivered most weeks (which I maintain is far more economical than visiting the supermarket) and although I always go for the cheapest slots, that means £1 or £2 per week, most weeks, so that’s up to around £100 per year.

Tesco has an offer on at the moment with 12 month plans now for the price of 10. I got sent a half price voucher in my last Clubcard statement, which meant that I purchased a 12 month pass for £27. Best of all, I can choose any slot I want as it’s the anytime plan. If you’re worried you won’t make back the money spent, then Tesco offer a grocery eCoupon if you spent more on the plan than you did on delivery charges in the year. Asda, Sainsburys and Ocado all do similar plans.

I also signed up for Quidco’s Click Snap groceries; by sharing my online food shopping details, I now automatically receive cashback whenever I purchase any of the items they have on the site’s promotion. You don’t even need to go in through Quidco first. Simples!

Utilities

As we’ve just moved, I’ve just switched my utilities. By changing my gas and electricity supplier to a fixed tariff with dual fuel and direct debit discounts, as well as loyalty points, I’m set to save over £300 a year. I used the Cheap Energy Club to switch, but there are usually good deals on cashback and price comparison sites.

There are more deals than ever on media packages. We don’t have a TV package, but like most people we do have broadband. We currently also have a landline, but only because it doesn’t cost any extra on the deal we’re on. Make sure your package does what you need it to, haggle with suppliers and use cashback sites for extra moolah.

Do you have any credit from previous utility suppliers that you haven’t claimed? Amazingly, they’re not obliged to give it straight back to you. As I’ve just switched, I’m keeping a close eye to make sure my previous supplier gives my credit back!

The government programme for rolling out smart meters to all homes begins this year, but some suppliers are getting ahead. Check if you’re eligible to receive a free early install (just Google your supplier’s name and ‘free smart meter’) to get ahead in managing your energy bills. In the meantime, submit latest meter reads and check how accurate your billing is – do you need to adjust your payment?

Work

If you claim expenses from your employer, is your organisation scheme robust enough to ensure you always claim back everything you spend? If not, get a notebook and pen, an app, a receipt wallet, or whatever works for you and make sure you keep on top of those claims.

Check what you’re eligible to receive from your employer and that you’re making the most of these benefits. For example, my employer offers free eye tests. If you have a partner and you both have health insurance, is it more cost-effective to switch to having one policy through one employer with both of you on it?

Are you eligible for a uniform rebate?

Insurance

Check you’re getting a good deal on whatever insurance – home, life, car, pet etc – you currently have by running a few simple price comparisons. If you’re missing out, switch. If you think you have a good deal, call and threaten to leave and see if there’s room for improvement. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Mobile Phone

Have you made a note of the date your contract is due for renewal? Mine isn’t due yet, but we’ve just changed N’s. He’s gone from £37/month to £15 by switching to a sim-only contract and keeping his current handset. The deal is much better with more minutes, unlimited data and other perks like cheap calls to premium rate numbers. Use the same tips to negotiate as apply to joining the gym.

Loyalty Schemes

It’s amazing how many places will offer their members discounts or loyalty points. Before making any big purchase, check to see what you’re entitled to and make sure you have bookmarked the relevant web pages, or downloaded the apps. We bought a bike through N’s healthcare last year and got a £250 rebate.

Get Nectar points in lots of places you might not expect (like eBay, Currys and Just Eat) and install the toolbar for points every time you search.

Lots of banks are offering discounts to their customers including Santander, who offer up to 15% cashback at a select number of retailers, Lloyds, who offer free cinema tickets or magazine subscriptions, Barclays who offer Freedom Rewards at over 70 partners and Nationwide, who offer personalised Simply Rewards at a number of shops and restaurants. Make sure you’re opted in and know what you need to do to claim any offers.

Memberships and Subscriptions

Look at each membership or subscription you have, whether it be the gym, a magazine or Netflix, and check that a) you can afford it and b) you’re getting the full value from it. Suppliers won’t usually tell you if there’s a cheaper deal that has been introduced since you signed up, so go and check!

I usually pull out of the loyalty cards in my purse at this point and get rid of anything I no longer use. It’s useful to remind yourself what’s in there – a token for a free card at M&S in this case 🙂 I also hadn’t realised that Boots no longer send paper vouchers to Advantage Card holders; you need to download the app to get your offers – I’ve been missing out! Some loyalty cards aren’t worth it either because you don’t ever shop there or because the scheme isn’t generous enough for your points to ever amount to anything, so get rid of these cards and it will encourage you to use the ones you keep.

The same applies to your email inbox. Go through and unsubscribe to everything you no longer want that’s filling up your inbox and you’ll find yourself reading what’s left more carefully and not missing out.

 

Phew… now sit back, relax and know that you’re saving some hard-earned money!

‘Sliced bread needs to up its game’

Have you tried the Innocent online compliments generator? Why not make someone’s day today, for free, by sending them a compliment using this site?

Here are some of my favourites:

‘Everyone thinks you’re Ryan Gosling’s handsome brother’

‘You have the best dance moves. They’re both great’

‘You’re more lovable than a baby hippo in a onesie’

Happy Friday!

Now is the Best Time to Join the Gym

Have you been putting off joining the gym? February is the thriftiest time of year to join the gym, so no more excuses!

Join the gym

January is long gone and so too are the over zealous New Year’s exercise resolutions. By now you should know how much you would use the gym and can work out whether it’s worth joining. So if you use the gym or pool or attend classes as a non-member currently, work out what that’s costing you a month and then set this as your spending limit. For some people, the incentive of having a membership is enough to encourage more regular attendance, but just because you’re paying for it, doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly have more time to go, so beware of the ‘I’ll be paying for it, so I’ll have to go more often’ trap.

Once you decide to join a gym, try it out before joining. Most will give you a free pass if you ask nicely. Do they have the facilities you would like? Do the classes fit with your schedule? Is the gym crazy busy at the time you would want to go? Is there a long waiting list for the classes you’d like to attend? Is it practical and cost-effective to travel there? Many gyms also offer short-term memberships, particularly over the summer, so try that and see if you’re going to get the full value before signing a longer contract.

My top ten tips for negotiating the price of a gym membership:

1. Research any partnership schemes you may be eligible for, e.g. through your employer or through your health insurance provider and bear this in mind when working out price. Some gyms (usually the council-run gyms) have a special rate for students, people under 26 and those on low incomes – ask as these often aren’t advertised.

2. Sign up to the newsletters sent by your local gyms – they often send out special promotions by email.

3. Shop around – work out the price of other gyms in the area and have this information to hand. Council-run gyms are usually the cheapest, but not always, so check!

4. Never accept the first price you’re given – I know we British don’t like to haggle, but you’ll regret it if you don’t. After the initial conversation, say you’d like to go away and think about it and ask them to email you a copy of the contract*. Then work out the cost per day/week/month and a sensible target price.

5. Find out what friends and colleagues pay and use this to guide your negotiations. This will give you the confidence to quote the lowest price you’re willing to pay.

6. Check the gym’s policy on family/friends/partner memberships – can you get a discount?

7. Never pay a joining fee – sign up to the gym’s newsletter and you’ll usually find they run ‘no joining fee’ promotions often enough to tell you there’s room to negotiate this away.

8. *Read the contract. I cannot stress this enough! Many will have clauses allowing the gym to inflate the price over the term if you pay a monthly fee. Make sure there are no hidden costs.

9. Hold out on joining until near the end of the month – they will be under pressure to meet their membership targets and you’re most likely to score a bargain.

10. Join in February – most gyms have quotas and spaces to fill after the January peak.

Now make haste to that spin class!

Cut the cost of joining the gym

Thriftea Swap – A Coffee for an Apple

I drive a lot for work and it can be tempting when I’m flagging to grab a takeaway coffee from a service station. Most of the time I resist by either making a coffee to go (in my amazing Contigo mug) or dropping into Waitrose for a free coffee*, but I read the other day that an apple makes a great substitute for coffee because of the fructose, carbohydrates, protein and vitamin C, which all work to give you instant energy.

Apple Energy Boost

An apple costs around 30p and you typically pay £3 or more in a motorway service station for a small coffee, so with that kind of maths compelling me, I decided to give it a try for a couple of weeks.

I’ve been amazed at how effective an apple can be. I try to eat a lot of fruit anyway, but apples are definitely the secret to that little boost and what’s more, you get to feel smug about your healthy choice. My next task is to make some sort of container to prevent them from rolling around in the car.

Happy snacking!

 

* Waitrose has just announced that as from 9th Feb you’ll need to purchase something to qualify for free coffee. I haven’t seem the full terms yet to know how much you’ll need to spend, but chances are this will still be one of the most cost-effective options when you need a coffee on the go

Wardrobe Updates- Bringing Items Back to Life

The change of season seems like a good time to make some wardrobe updates as we transition from summer to winter clothes.

I’ve picked up a few things that I needed to get some underused clothes back into the mix. Making things last is a big part of my thrifty policy and if it all it takes if a few pounds here and there, it’s well worth it.

First up was a fix for these grey shoes, which I bought a couple of years ago from Next in the sale. They’re made of lovely, soft leather, but they scratch easily and were looking too scruffy to wear to work any more.

Woly Shoe Cream

I was struggling to find any polish to match and also wondered if they might be too far gone for shoe polish until Woly Shoe Cream was recommended to me. I chanced a pot of it for £4 inc P&P from eBay and, lo and behold, I now can wear the shoes again!

Rescue scratched shoes

Next up was this skirt. I love the colour and pattern, but it’s always been an awkward length on me and therefore never made the cut when picking an outfit. I’ve been meaning to shorten it for years, but I didn’t have any orange cotton for Captain Sew. £1.70 and ten minutes later… I now have a just-above-knee skirt I can wear at home and at work.

Shorten skirt

My attention then turned to this suit jacket, which was a bit musty from being worn fairly infrequently and was looking a bit sorry for itself. I’d heard good things about Dr Beckmann’s Dry-Clean Only Sheets, but I was slightly wary when I learned that the big supermarkets have stopped stocking them. Armed with lots of positive reviews, I ordered a pack (containing 3 sheets) on Amazon for £3.82 and decided to risk it for a biscuit. After all, the suit jacket wasn’t getting worn so seemed like a good testing ground before taking the risk on a more expensive dry-clean only item.

Dry Beckmann Dry Clean Only

I am pleased to report that the suit jacket survived its tumble dry-clean experience and is now looking and smelling much fresher and is back in use!

Finally, I’ve popped one of these dehumidifier eggs (available from Amazon) into my wardrobe to keep things dry over the damper months.

Dehumidifier Egg

Now when I look in my wardrobe, there’s nothing hanging around in a dark corner taking up space and not being worn and best of all, I feel like I have new clothes and all for just a few pounds!

Back to Black

I’m back on the Dylon again, this time to restore some faded black clothes to their former best, like this work dress:

Dylon black

Which was showing its age (it was given to me by my mother after a long office career!), but now is back to its blackened best:

Dylon Black

I also dyed a jacket, but there was still a bit of space in the washing machine, so I decided to brave dying this bright red jumper black:

Dye red jumper black

 

It was given to me and although I love the colour and the style, I just never seem to find the right occasion to wear it. I decided that dying it black might make it more versatile and I am really pleased with the results:

_JD_8661

 

I deliberately picked this over-exposed photo as it allows you to see that it still had a bit of a red undertone to it, but I think that just adds to it. Now I won’t feel so bad when the weather turns cold as I’ll have a ‘new’ jumper to wear!

How to Remove Bobbles from Clothing

Before you get rid of that jumper because it’s gone all bobbly, why not try this neat little trick?

Bobbly Jumper

Using a velcro roller, you can gently tease bobbles off of cotton and knitwear. I bought a pack of velcro rollers for 79p from Poundland and have transformed lots of old clothes.

Hold the fabric taut and slowly move the roller over the ‘bobble’, gently pulling upwards, you’ll be surprised how much can come off:

P1040633

 

Et voila – sleeve is like new!

 

 

P1040634