They say the best things in life are free and to a large extent that is true. The things I truly value – my family and friends – are there no matter how much is in my bank account. I am grateful! However, we live in a world where you need money for many of the things you want to do. But it is also true that with a bit of thought and creativity you can get hold of a lot of great stuff and experiences really cheaply. Here are my ideas on how to get everything cheaper.
How to get everything cheaper
You can save a ton of money on your holiday accommodation if you are prepared to do a little work for it. For example, Trusted Housesitters* connects pet loving travellers with pet owners who want their beloved animals and houses looked after whilst they are away.
When I looked, there were ads asking for someone to look after a family cat in Twickenham, someone to travel to Fiji to look after a pair of dogs (with free use of a car) and reliable people to take care of dogs, cats and chickens in a fabulous barn conversion in Shrewsbury.
You still have to get yourselves there, but these are real home from home holiday experiences that could save a fortune on your accommodation, so you can get everything cheaper.
Another way to get your holiday accommodation free is to do a house swap. There are a plethora of organisations online that you can sign up with to do this. I have personally tried this 5 times with great success.
If you just want a holiday through an organisation, we have found the prices on Teletext* to be very competitive and travelled through them to Majorca a couple of years back. We have also found AirBnB* to be fantastic for cheap accommodation.
For more of my ideas to get cheap holidays read this post.
The best way to get everything cheaper when it comes to clothes is to have a rummage at the boot sale. I have found brand new designer gear for just a few pounds on a regular basis and love it when the boot sale season comes around.
Charity shops can be good too, although I have found that some have started charging a lot more than they used to. Incidentally, if you can’t be bothered to trudge round the charity shops for your vintage bargains, Oxfam now have an online shop*!
If you prefer to purchase your clothing new, my favourite discount fashion site is easily Everything 5 Pounds*. It does what it says on the tin – every item, even footwear, is just £5. I have found some great bargains on there.
Auction sites like eBay are still good for picking up second hand and new items at ridiculously low prices. Just don’t get carried away with the bidding. You can use Auction Sniper to set your top bid and then forget about it.
I have a post on frugal fashion here.
Cheaper make up
The first thing I would say about makeup is to use up what you have first! We often have a ton of stuff that gets purchased but never used. I have three daughters with a passion for the stuff and it drives me mad! One of the best sites my daughters visit regularly is Beauty Bay*, particularly their outlet section. You can pick up some massive bargains.
Annoyingly, my once perfect vision has gone downhill in the last 10 years, meaning frequent changes of spectacles as it changes. They cost a flipping fortune! The next time I need glasses, I swear I am going to get my optician in town to give me the prescription and buy them online more cheaply. They have had enough of my money to keep them in holidays!
One site that offers good value on glasses is SmartBuyGlasses*. If you like designer brands, you can pick up a pair of Raybans sunglasses on there for less than £100 or, if you aren’t fussy about a brand, many of their Smart Buy prescription specs cost less than £40.
We Brits love our pets. However, if you buy a pedigree puppy or kitten they can cost you the proverbial arm and leg. You can easily spend £1,000 plus on one pampered mutt or kitty. However, if you go to an animal rescue, you can re-home a pet in need for a donation of around £100. You get a new pet and the animal gets a loving home, which is a win-win in my book.
It is lovely to have membership of a fancy gym if you can afford it and will use it regularly (and if you do sign up for a gym chain, check to see if they are on any of the cash back sites first. See below for more details).
However, there are many cheaper ways to exercise. Many people buy brand new gym equipment that they swear they will use but never do. If you have the space for an exercise bike, cross trainer or running machine, it pays to buy second hand. I picked a cross trainer up for £40, used it for a few years and got bored with it, so sold it again for £30. Gumtree and Facebook are good for buying second hand gym equipment locally.
You can find pretty much any exercise class you like on You Tube. Here is a nice, gentle yoga class for beginners.
Walking and running are free, or at least once you have paid for a decent pair of trainers or walking boots. We walk a lot and like to use an app such as Map My Walk to track how far we have travelled.
My 60 year old sister started running using the Couch to 5K programme a couple of years ago, and is now running half marathons! She puts me to shame….
Hands up those of you with bicycles gathering dust in the shed (hides head in embarrassment). Pump up the tyres and go for a cycle! This is nice for all the family to do together on a sunny day.
There are also lots of bargains to be found on exercise mats and clothing. They have some reasonably priced, eco-friendly yoga mats on Amazon, such as this SKL one* , as well as a huge choice of sports gear.
Some of the supermarkets are good too. Tesco’s* have a decent range of items such as jump ropes, resistance bands, exercise mats, weights and gym balls at very good prices. It is also worth looking at the middle aisles in Aldi and Lidl for work out equipment.
Staying fit doesn’t need to cost a fortune and you don’t need a personal trainer!
Cheaper hair and beauty treatments
The best way to get cheap hair and beauty treatments is to find a student willing to practice on you. You can get everything cheaper, from hair colouring to massage to eyebrow waxing. I recommend checking out your local further education college.
At mine, you pay £7.50 for a cut and blow dry, a luxury manicure or pedicure for £10, a bikini wax for a fiver and a slim and firm body treatment for a tenner.
Some hairdressers also have evenings when their students are cutting hair and they frequently charge nothing at all. Be prepared to book up well in advance though.
Cheaper meals out
Again, the best way to get a first class restaurant experience at a massively reduced price is to find some student chefs to cook for you. At the same college that has the beauty and hairdressing courses, they run a restaurant, staffed by the students but supervised by the tutors. You can have a fine dining three course lunch with coffee for £15. Here is a sample of their menu, which I think looks splendid!
Another way to get everything cheaper when eating out is to sign up as a mystery shopper. Sometimes you even get the full cost of your meal refunded. There are loads of mystery shopping sites, but one that is aimed at diners is Mystery Dining by HGEM. They don’t need shoppers in my area at the moment but I keep checking! Francesca over at The Money Fox has a good article on mystery shopping.
I am a big fan of the discount stores such as Lidl and Aldi. They sell goods that are of excellent quality, but they really are much cheaper than the bigger supermarkets. I reckon I save around 30% on our grocery shop each week.
Yellow stickers are another obvious way to get everything cheaper when it comes to food. However, you have to get your timing right. Late in the day, especially on a Sunday or bank holiday, is the best time to shop. Make sure you are prepared to eat or cook and freeze your cheap goodies though. Wasting even yellow sticker food isn’t going to help you save money.
Approved Food* is another great place to shop for bargain food, especially branded items.
I like the ethos behind this company. The food is beyond or close to its best before date so you save money and help prevent food waste at the same time! I find it is an excellent place to stock up on store cupboard basics such as pasta, rice, sauces, biscuits and snacks, drinks, etc. They also have amazing one day deals. I recently saw full boxes of Cadbury’s Milk Tray for £1 each, reduced from £4.25. Brilliant if you have a present to buy.
Another fantastic idea for reducing food waste that means you can get everything cheaper from cafes, restaurants and retail outlets is Too Good to Go. It’s an app that links you up to places that are selling their food very cheaply at the end of the day. This works best if you live in a city, and is worth checking out.
Free coffee or tea
Even better than cheap – it is possible to pick up some freebies if you sign up for a few loyalty card or apps. Waitrose * still give free coffee and tea to loyalty card customers if you make a purchase, but there is no lower limit on this, so you could just buy a carrot or something. It’s quite nice to get the Sunday papers from them and read them with your free coffee though! You do need to take your own reusable mug – it’s worth keeping one in the car I find.
If you sign up for a Family card at Ikea you can get a free hot drink without a purchase (Monday to Friday).
When it comes to your utility bills, always shop around and don’t be afraid to phone up any of your providers and threaten to leave if you see a better deal. They suddenly become amazingly flexible on price when they think they may lose your custom.
I heard a lady on the radio recently who had spent 2 hours on the phone to all of her providers and saved £800! That is time well spent. However, if you do decide to switch, make sure you go through a cash back site (see below).
Housing is a huge cost to most of us. Unless you still live with your parents, your mortgage or rent could take up to 40% of your monthly income.
There are ways to reduce this. One is to become a property guardian through an social enterprise organisation called Dot Dot Dot. They make renting in London and other cities more affordable by matching empty buildings with guardians. The catch, if you can call it that, is that you have to volunteer for 16 hours a month at a charity of your choice. Dot Dot Dot states:
“On behalf of owners, we take good care of buildings that would otherwise be empty. We provide guardians with good quality housing which is much more cost effective than the private rental market. And we make a positive difference to communities by ensuring our guardians are great neighbours who volunteer for good causes while preventing the blight that empty buildings cause.”
Don’t forget the cash back
Whatever you are purchasing, don’t forget to see if the merchant you are buying from is on a cashback site. This is money for free! You get cash back on so many things, from switching your utilities or buying a holiday, to banking, buying clothes or shopping for home ware. I love Top Cashback* but also use Quidco* from time to time (these are my refer a friend links). I earned over £85 just for doing my Christmas shopping through them.
Swagbucks is also worth checking out. You earn Swagbucks points with your online purchases then redeem your points for free gift cards for retailers such as Amazon. Alternatively you can get cash back from PayPal. You can even earn Swagbucks points just for doing a an internet search!
I hope you like my tips on how to get everything cheaper. You can live well without busting the budget! Please add your money saving tips in the comments.
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