It was a simple formula that led to my reputation as a money-saving connoisseur. I was at university, and the equation went like this: lots of time, plus little cash, multiplied by a desire to have a good time equalled the discovery of hundreds of ways to save money online.
When I went out for dinner with friends, the location was whichever restaurant was offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal on meals. Moving into a student house, my laptop was diverted from researching Shakespeare’s early comedies to logging on to price-comparison sites to source the cheapest utilities and broadband. That meant two things: I negotiated an £85 discount by finding a bundle deal from one supplier, and found myself with a lower-than-average grade for that week’s essay. Love’s Labour‘s Lost seemed less important than the mantra Must Lower Cost.
I signed up to mystery-shopping sites and started being paid for going to the gym, eating out and even a couple of nights’ out clubbing.
When summer came, and it was time to book a holiday, my boyfriend and I spent whole days hunting through the internet for rock-bottom flight and hotel prices. We will remember a last-minute trip to the US this year just as much for our discovery of Hotwire – a website that offloads cheap room rates as the hotels are anonymous until the customer has paid – as for the sight-seeing Team Kgsr.
We managed to wangle four-star hotel deals for $100 a night, saving hundreds on our accommodation bill.
Before flying off, travel insurance was a must. As usual, I sourced the cheapest rates using a price-comparison site and then logged into online cashback cooperative Quidco (see Shopping) to save extra money. I’ve received £400 back from my purchases through this site over the past three years.
In the US, all that money-saving only meant one thing: more cash for shopping – from discount stores, of course. But now I’m back home, a graduate and about to start work in one of the worst economic climates for years, my prudent websites are all the more useful. Here are my tips for 50 money-saving websites to help us all stay afloat in the coming months:
A cashback website that has saved me hundreds of pounds. When you buy something from one of 1,200 online shops (including Play.com), you receive a percentage of the price back. Normally a site such as Google receives a referral fee – through this “online cooperative“, the cash is paid into your bank account. For example, there’s 5% back from shopping at M&S. Other cashback sites – each covers some different retailers – include pigsback.com and greasy-palm.co.uk
Online pharmacy that promises to beat any other UK chemist’s price on prescriptions.
Scours the net to find the cheapest price for a huge range of items, from electronics to handbags. For a big purchase, compare several sites. Others include
Instead of buying new cosmetics, sign up here as a volunteer to trial new beauty ranges. The products have all been declared safe.
Lists Amazon items that are half-price or less.
A specialist price-comparison service for books.
Save money on eBay bids: type in your desired item and the site searches eBay for listings with common typos, so you uncover items with low bids.
furnituredeal.co.uk Online furniture retailer that cuts out the storeroom salesmen and offers low prices on a wide range.
One of the several online mystery shopping companies that pay cash when members sign up to test their clients. Retail Eyes’ companies include Virgin Active gyms – you receive free membership and a small payment when you join the gym and compile reports on your experiences.
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Finds the cheapest online photo developer for the exact quantity and size of prints for your needs. It also compares the cost of photo gifts such as mugs, calendars and greeting cards.
Eating in and out
Lists current offers at hundreds of restaurants, including buy-one-get-one-free deals. Includes nationwide chains and, in the forums, area-specific dining-out bargains.
5pm.co.uk Restaurant-reservation site with discounted deals available if you book to eat on the same day, after 5pm.
Compare the price of any single item or the price of your whole (online) supermarket trolley here. It will calculate the total cost at Sainsbury‘s, Tesco, Asda and Ocado (Waitrose) and you send the order to the supermarket you choose.
Lists promotions on groceries at major supermarkets including Waitrose, Tesco and Asda. Search via shop, brand, promotion or category.
Compiles details of up-to-date wine offers at major supermarkets and off-licence chains. Search via grape, shop, country, price or colour.
Travel and days out
Sign up for free and enter your journey, then find someone else to share it with. The nationwide car-sharing scheme now also includes cycling and walking groups and routes.
Search via town or postcode to find the cheapest petrol near you.
Compares the prices of 40 car-rental suppliers in the UK and abroad to find you the cheapest.
Has around 300 discount vouchers for days out in the UK and Ireland, including theme parks and attractions, such as Cadbury‘s World (£10 off a family ticket) and the London Dungeons (free child entry).
This site has discount coupons for thousands of stores, including Comet, Asda and Next. Some are online offers, others can be used in-store.
Features discount deals and concessions especially for over-60s.
Search via your university (or home) town for student offers.
Insurance and utilities
One part of this massive site finds you the cheapest motor, home, travel and life insurance deals; another focuses on utilities; another shows credit card and mortgage offers.
An Ofcom-accredited specialist in phone, broadband and digital TV offers and bundles. Compare prices and buy digital deals from this impartial site.
Finds cheap mobile deals, including pay-as-you-go options and best-value contracts. Search by phone, features or inclusive minutes/text bundles.
Confused.com, CompareTheMarket.com, uSwitch.com
The cheapest quotes for home, life, car and van insurance.
A government-backed site providing tips on how to cut fuel bills.