17 December 2009 1:12 PM

Online shopping the cheap way on Boxing Day

A survey on shopping habits claims that more than 40% of Britons are planning to start their January sales shopping online on Christmas Day, rather than waiting for the mad rush on the High Street on Boxing Day. It doesn’t surprise me - although it’s interesting that more men think it’s “acceptable” to shop online on December 25th than women. Although I won’t be logging on with one hand whilst shovelling in the turkey with another, a spot of online sales shopping from home definitely appeals.

But just because something is on sale, don’t forget to look for other ways to cut the cost. Discount vouchers, price comparison sites and cash back deals can quickly boost savings, or give you free delivery. Here is a round up of the latest deals and best websites to cut costs.

Finding the cheapest price

If you want a specific, branded item, like a Micro scooter or a Go Go Pet hamster, it’s worth using a price-comparison site to track down the cheapest - although factor in extra costs like delivery. No one site is infallible, so use a few if you have time. Two of the best sites are Kelkoo and Pricerunner.

Cutting costs with a voucher

Once you know where you want to shop, look for a discount code. A good collation can be found at or just try running a search in Google. The forums on are another good source of codes, especially the harder to find ones. There are some popular codes below too, whilst Hot UK Deals lists particular discounts and deals that often run out fast.

Finally, use a cash back site

Now you know what you want to buy, log in to a cash back site like Quidco, Cashback Kings or Topcashback, to see if the shop you want to buy from is listed. These sites will pay money for buying the product “through” them, so amount to an extra saving for you.

Sample voucher codes:

22% off at Oasis
Check out code: 20vc09
£5 off orders over £35 at GAME
Check out code: VCCOUK35

20% off and free delivery at The Body Shop
Check out code: VCXMAS20
10% off at Karen Millen
Check out code: vc1029

Free delivery from Debenhams


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01 December 2009 10:18 AM

Christmas shopping deals and discounts

So shops are using Twitter to tell shoppers about their latest sales deals - and Debenhams Oxford Street even allowed customers Tweet to ask for a jumper in a bigger size at its last sale.

It’s all very well wandering around the High Street with one eye on the internet, but far easier to have a list of discount codes to hand for online and in-store shopping.

So here’s a list.

12% off Orders plus Free Delivery and Returns at Boden

Code: LN1Q


10% off all orders at Millets

£5 Off Orders Over £50 at


25% off all Home and Gift Orders at Laura Ashley

Check out code: AG19

20% off Winter Warmers at Figleaves


Half price Thorntons chocolates (in stores and online)

10% off online at organic food store Planet Organic

Code: JD72YQP

25% off Monsoon

Print this voucher:

20% off all orders at Savile Row Company

Code: VC09

Half-price photo books at Truprint


15% off flowers at M&S

Code: FLO15OFF

If you know there's a certain, branded item you definitely want to buy, use a "shopbot" like 123 Pricecheck, Google Shopping, or Kelkoo to find the cheapest price.

Another fun online shopping idea is, a new site offering the first 1000 registered users £10 worth of free bids. You can bid for things like iPhones, Tiffany jewellery and Jimmy Choos, with the lowest unique bid winning. With free bids available, it could provide a very cheap, very posh Christmas present..


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06 November 2009 9:58 AM

Shopping discounts for Christmas

A poll claims more than 40% of Britons are scared about funding Christmas this year. According to Moneysupermarket, 66% of shoppers haven’t saved enough to buy all the prezzies, tinsel and booze required so plan to splash out on credit cards, overdrafts, loans and December’s income. Alternatively we could all cut back.. But instead of a moral message, here are some discount codes so you can buy Christmas goodies for less money. And lock away the credit card.


15% off fashion and home orders at Debenhams

Check out code- PGEP

Expires 13th Nov 2009

10% off all orders at Bespoke Gifts


Expires 31st Dec 2009

£5 off orders over £25 at Body Shop

Code- vcode25

John Lewis Vouchers


13% off all orders at Red Letter Days

Check out code- BOUNTYVC

Expires 8th Nov 2009

£5 off orders over £25 at Borders

Code- afiveroff

Expires 20th Nov 2009

15% off at B&Q

Expires 16 November

£10 off wine and champagne orders over £50 at Tesco

Code- xxh7f6

Expires 30 November

For some discounted food while you’re shopping, here are some restaurant vouchers:

50% off food at Sheba Indian restaurant, Brick Lane

2 Burgers and Fries for 10 at Gourmet Burger Kitchen


Two courses for a tenner at Zizzi

Tapas and Wine for 10 at All-Bar-One

If you're shopping online don't forget to use a cashback site like Quidco, where you can receive a percentage of your outlay back.

At Quidco, for example, you can get

13% cashback from Hotel Chocolat purchases, and a free choccie gift for spending over £50

40% money back on winning Ebay bids

8% back from all Waterstones, except the Sony eReader which offers 3.5% cashback

15% cashback at The Body Shop - so you can combine with the above offer.


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27 October 2009 12:06 PM

Bargain hunting for Christmas and Halloween

I've tracked down some deals that look good for Halloween and Christmas - some run out soon, but shopping in advance could save money.

Smyths, the toy shop group, is jumping on the bandwagon of the cash-for-clunkers new car offers with a ‘toy scrappage scheme’. Take in any old toy - broken, unloved, unwanted or otherwise - to receive a discount coupon for Christmas goodies. Only worth the journey if you want to buy one of the toys included in the ofer, but many will be on kids’ wish lists, including Wii Fit (£20 off), Mickey Mouse Story Teller (£10 off), Baby Annabel (£10 off) and an air hockey/pool table £20 off). Runs until 30 October.

Avoid premium-priced Halloween pumpkins this year - Aldi is offering them for 99p.  In more Halloween-related news, Wilkinson is selling vampire teeth for trick or treating for... 3p.

And has a load of games for £10 Promotion at the moment - including Guitar Hero: On Tour for Nintendo DS, Race Driver GRID for PS3 & XBOX 360, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 and Bionic Commando PS3


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26 October 2009 12:44 PM

Good news for savers - a new market-leading deal

There was good news for savers today when NS&I announced its latest fixed-rate bond rates. If you're willing to lock cash away for a year, it will pay out a fixed interest rate of 3.95%. 

That’s market leading - a full 0.2% above the most generous rivals - but for high rollers there was even better news. The safety of the cash in this Government-backed account is guaranteed up to £1 million.

That will be appeal to savers wanting the ease of putting money safely in one place - since other accounts mainly limit compensation at £50,000, under the terms of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) compensation scheme.

There’s also a two-year rate of 4.25% gross if you’re willing to lock money away for longer - although uncertainty over the Bank of England’s base rate would make me wary of doing so.

Andrew Hagger of Moneynet reckons the new rates represent an "aggressive attempt to attract retail savings" that "will be a kick in the teeth" for competitors.

Rival, privately-run banks won't be pleased that the state-sponsored NS&I is offering these deals - but as a saver that isn't a concern.


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22 October 2009 10:50 AM

Paying bills during the post strike

Massive corporations are rarely associated with kindness or mercy - so even though it’s not your fault, don’t expect to get out of a late payment charge by blaming the post strike.

If you pay your credit card bill by post, be aware that the biggest providers - including the largest issuer, Barclaycard, plus American Express, Capital One and MBNA, which runs a number of charity credit cards - will impose their normal late payment charges, normally around £12, even if your cheque is lying in a striking postman’s sack somewhere.

But they have also agreed to consider the charges on a case-by-case basis, so although charges are automatic, you should contact your card company about a refund. Success will probably depend on whether you regularly pay late or are a first-time offender. If you are charged a late fee, check that you won’t be penalised on your credit rating.

Consider switching to telephone or internet banking, or paying via direct debit.

Utility bill companies are usually a little more lenient about late fees for services like broadband, TV licensing or phone fees, but again if you are concerned about payment arriving late, contact the firm. The same is true if you normally make a mortgage or loan payment via the post.


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15 October 2009 10:29 AM

The best web freebies - from books and make up to plants and TVs

I posted earlier this week about making money from the internet  so I thought it would be worth having a look now at what you can get for free online. There's tons out there, from white goods on the likes of Freecycle to swapping sites offering plants, make up and books. Because the best things in life are free... here’s a round up of the best freebie and swapping sites:

Free furniture and homewares

The big name is Freecycle, where you find your local area and browse through listings of items that your neighbours are happy to give away for free. Goodies range from sofas to computers. Other sites offering the same kind of service include 2recycle, Freegle, Gumtree and Don’t Dump That.

Free clothes

Not free but you won’t have to pay, gives you the chance to swap your unwanted clothes for something (nearly) new. Another similar clothes-swapping site is Big Wardrobe.

Free plants

Swap seeds with other green-fingered web surfers at Seedy People.

Swap make up

Swap those unwanted make up and beauty products on Make up Alley and set up a beauty wish list for items you want. There’s a reputation-rater for swaps where members are awarded tokens for successful swaps.


On Read it Swap it you can list your unwanted or already-read books, then search the list of more than 20,000 books that other members no longer want, and swap them for free.

Tickets for theatre, music, sports and more

At Swap my Ticket you swap (but can also buy or sell) tickets for events ranging from music and theatre to travel and sports. As ever, be careful of fraudsters.

Free samples

There are thousands of free samples, from coffee to nappies to shower gel, available online. Use a site like to sift through the web’s offering and find the best.

Have your own recommendations? Post below.


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12 October 2009 11:01 AM

Weird and lucrative money-making online

The weirdest money-making opportunity I’ve heard of this week is ‘Internet Eyes’, an online game where players look through the nation’s CCTV cameras and report on lawbreakers. The ‘players’ whose reports catch the most criminals each month win cash prizes, of up to £1,000.

Apparently, of the four million plus CCTV cameras in the UK, only one in a thousand gets watched - so the entrepreneurs behind the site are encouraging camera-owners to register on the site, allowing gamers to monitor their sites.

Anyone interested can visit

For more ideas, the internet hosts tons of ways to make some extra cash from home.

Recycle an old mobile

Use a site like Mazuma to work out the value of any old mobiles lying around the house. They’ll send a free envelope, you send off your mobile, they post you a cheque. I’ve made over £100 this year from Mazuma.

Money back from shopping

Don’t buy anything online without checking whether the retailer is listed on a cashback site. Sign up at a cashback site like Quidco, or Cashbackkings - they will pay you back a percentage of your total spend.

Log unwanted stuff on eBay

But make sure you list when it’s cheap - eBay regularly hosts ‘10p listings’ days that will boost the amount you can make.

Be paid for internet research

Sign up at a site like Any Question Answered (AQA), which will pay you to answer questions. The going rate is about 30p per question... but it all adds up.. Also visit, a US site where you can earn cash rewards from $5000 to $1,000,000 for solving big companies’ problems. For example one firm is currently looking for ideas to protect maize from insect damage - one for the science boffs.


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29 September 2009 11:54 AM

Top Isa deals to cash in on being 50-plus

As of October 6th, savers who have totted up a half-century of living are being rewarded by the Government with an extra tax-free savings allowance. From then the over-50s can invest £10,200 in a stocks and shares ISA or £5100 in a cash pot, while everyone else will have to wait until next tax year to benefit.

According to research by Moneyfacts, all the major providers apart from online bank Egg are set to offer over-50s savers the extra contributions.

Since all the indications from the Bank of England suggests rates are unlikely to rise above 0.5% any time soon, make sure you’re getting a decent rate. The longer you’re prepared to fix, the better the return - but, inflation fears might put you off. 
Still, if you’re over 50 and have cash spare, make sure you use the full Isa allowance as soon as possible after October 6th. As moneysupermarket's Kevin Mountford puts it, “With increased taxes likely to become a greater burden on personal finances, any tax free offers we get should be grabbed with both hands.”

Most providers will allow savers to invest the current limit of £3,600, then top up when the higher limit is introduced on 6 October, but check if you’re interested in doing so. As ever, all sorts of terms and conditions apply, including rate bonuses, so looking into this before investing. 

Here’s a round up of some of the best available short and longer-term deals.

Fixed/Longer-term deals (name/length/rate):

Saffron BS 3 Year Fixed Rate ISA 4.40%
Northern Rock 5 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA (Issue 123) 4.25%
Leeds BS 5 Year Fixed Rate ISA (Issue 15) 4.60%

Fixed/Medium-term deals:
Abbey/Bradford & Bingley 2 Year Fixed Rate Postal ISA 3.50%
Leeds BS 2 Year Fixed Rate ISA (Issue 21) 3.15%
Principality BS Over 50’s Fixed Rate ISA Issue 55 3.80%

Shorter-term deals:

Manchester BS - Premier Isa -  3.01% with a 35 day notice period. Minimum deposit £1,000, incl. 0.7% bonus for the first 12 months

Standard Life 2.65%, minimum deposit £1, instant access


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21 September 2009 12:38 PM

Saving money at university

The M25 is snarled up with cars packed to the rafters with bean bags and toasters. It’s back to uni time, and it can be expensive. Here are some money-saving student tips.


Your laptop/bike/iPod is bound to fall into danger at some point - be it at a drunken party or nicked from the library. Take precautions - laptop locks are cheap and useful, shove your bike in your hall if possible - but it’s a good idea to be insured too. Check our specialist brokers like Endsleigh, but shop around via a comparison site like MoneySupermarket. Also compare the cost of adding your valuables to your parents’ home insurance policy - it might be cheaper. But remember to compare the level of excess too.

Student discounts

Never go into a shop without asking if they offer student discount, anywhere from local boutiques to giant chains can offer money off. It might be worth splashing out a tenner on the NUS Extra card, which gives 5% off Amazon. and 10% off Odeon cinemas, Superdrug, JJB Sports and others.


Try uniAid’s budget calculator to work out how much you can afford to spend and save during the term.


If you live with friends in a house, consider having a weekly kitty for sharable foods like rice and pasta - buying bulk will save you money. Go shopping just before the supermarket closes, there are often discounts.


* Get a job. Just an idea... Check, where you can advertise your skills for free for individuals and businesses to buy. For example, if you’re a computer whizz you could offer lessons, if you’re strong you could do removals, if you love dogs you could take them on walkies. Flexible and financially rewarding.

Note that you’ll have to pay income tax if you earn more than £6,475 a year and National Insurance if you rake in more than £110 a week. If you earn less, fill in a P38(S) form from the post office, and give it to your employer to avoid unnecessary tax.


Walking or cycling is obviously the cheapest, but if you’re travelling further away, use a discount card, like the young person’s rail card and National Express coach card. If you have a car, or want a lift in one, check out where you can get in touch with members who want a lift and will contribute to petrol costs, and vice versa.


* Borrow textbooks from the library rather than buying new, or go for second hand editions.

* Make the most of freebies at Freshers’ Week, but choose your student bank account based on the overdraft level, not the free piggy bank. The only worthwhile freebie is NatWest/RBS’s five-year rail card  offer, which could save you tons.

* Use Spotify for free music, and sites like BBC iPlayer and 4oD for TV programmes without needing to buy a TV.

-- You can find out more money-saving advice for students in my new book, A Guide to Uni Life


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