Software and Websites Frugal People Should Know

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It’s good to be frugal, and being frugal is easier when you have the right tools at your disposal. There are a few bits of software, websites, and general tech tools that frugal people should know about if they want to take their money-saving efforts as far as possible for the least amount of effort.


spotifySpotify is a music streaming service. There are various account plans available, but prices start at free. There is a huge catalogue of music available, which includes most big hits past and present as well as a range of more obscure, specialist, niche artists. Unless you have a paid account, adverts will be played every few minutes which is how the service is funded, but they are not intrusive. A few competitors such as Deezer can also offer a good experience, but Spotify is definitely the market leader. This essentially translates into free music. Spotify and most competitors also offer mobile apps for portability but these can be tough on your data plan and generally have restrictions. For example, the Spotify app allows unlimited free streaming, but only in shuffle mode. In other words, you can choose an artist or album but not which specific track to play or the order they play in.

Google Shopping Search

Google Shopping Search, also sometimes known by the catchy name of Froogle, is sort of like a price comparison for physical products. When shopping online, you can type in the name of the product you are looking for and Froogle will search a number of sites, including the likes of eBay, for the best prices. It’s not perfect and it shouldn’t be taken as gospel that the things it finds are the very, very best deals going, but it is still well worth checking if you are shopping around for a bargain on a specific product.


The mySupermarket website is sort of like Google Shopping Search but for actual, physical shops. It is quite comprehensive, covering a fairly complete range of high street retailers and a huge variety of everyday items. You might not think your weekly shop really needs a price comparison site, but the website makes it easy enough that it can be well worth putting in your shopping list and seeing which store comes out as offering the best deal. It mostly focuses on the kind of things you would put in your trolley week after week, but does also cover a respectable range of other products such as electronics, books, and entertainment.

“Micro Job” and Survey Websites: Are They Really Worth it?

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The internet is full of websites that claim to offer you a chance to make money through your computer and from the comfort of your home. Many, especially the ones that pop up in adverts offering absurd paycheques, are outright scams. Some, however, are legitimate. Two of the main types of websites that really pay are micro job providers and survey sites.

While many of these sites do indeed pay you reliably and as promised, a question that is overlooked surprisingly often is that of whether they pay enough to be worthwhile.

What Are These Kinds of Websites?

Survey websites and micro-job or “crowdsourcing” websites are quite different, but they represent probably the two most prominent examples of genuine and relatively accessible ways to make money online from home. This is something that many people have, understandably, found attractive.

Survey websites are pretty much what you might think: websites where you get paid to take surveys. Those surveys are used to gather opinions for companies and other organisations carrying out market research. As market research is important to these companies, they are often willing to offer small payments as an incentive to complete the surveys.

Micro job websites give specific tasks to people to complete in a practice known as “crowdsourcing.” These tasks are usually small but difficult to automate, such as data entry or testing websites, so companies find that the most effective way to get them done is to hand them over to a “crowd” of workers on the internet. Payments are usually very small – often just pennies – but the tasks are small as well so the theory is that you can complete as many tasks as you want in order to build up your earnings. Some have hailed this concept as a way for businesses to get large tasks done quickly while making easy, flexible paid work available for ordinary people. Others have been more critical of the idea, particularly the low pay and the focus on getting things done quickly.

Are They Worth It?

This is the big question, and ultimately one that any individual who is considering these websites must decide for themselves. However, there are a few things that you really should think about before deciding whether to sign up for these kinds of sites.

The main consideration is the pay. Because payments are small but jobs are small too, it is hard to judge how good or bad the earnings are and many people who use these sites regularly do not really know what their effective “wage” is. The truth is, with most micro job and survey websites you are unlikely to make even the equivalent of minimum wage. This is legal because you are being paid per job and not for your time. However, legal or not, the idea of working for less than what would normally be the legal minimum is not one that will appeal to many people.

Many sites also do not really have enough work to go around the large numbers of workers who have signed up. This puts an automatic cap on your earnings, even if you find one that does pay well for the time a task takes, and requires you to spend extra time watching for new jobs to appear as they tend to be snapped up quickly.

The main positives are the flexibility and accessibility. You can work when you want, from home, using only an internet connection. For some, such as busy parents or those who are between conventional jobs, this may seem attractive enough to make it worthwhile, but it is important to weigh this against the pay in order to make an informed decision.

Your Guide to Using Daily Deal Websites

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DealsDaily deal websites are a group of sites that offer deals, coupons and discounts from various other businesses. The deals in question could be for physical products, services, days out, or even holidays. New deals, as the name may suggest, tend to be added every day but they all either have limited availability or are only valid for a certain time. By far the two most prominent of these sites are Groupon and Wowcher, though there are a number of other websites around that fall into this category too.

These sites can be great money-savers, but it is also possible to make mistakes with them. If you want to get the most out of these sites and ensure you get good value out of them, there are a few things to bear in mind.

Always Check the Newsletter

If you want to get the most out of these sites, then the first step will be to make sure you don’t miss deals you might benefit from. The easiest way to do this is simply to sign up for their newsletter (this will usually be the first thing they ask you to do when you visit their site), and make sure you take the time to look through it every time it pops into your inbox.

Check Postage

This is always good practice when shopping online, but especially with daily deal websites. Postage is generally different for every deal offered and is generally hidden in small print away from the main price. Often, a bargain deal comes with free postage. At other times, small items come with a seemingly excessive postage charge of several pounds, and this can represent a significant portion of the overall price and easily be enough to turn a good deal into a bad one.

Shop Around

When the item being offered is a physical product, it can pay to look around the web a bit. While all the items being sold on these sites are discounted, prices are only reduced relative to the price usually charged by the specific business that is making the offer, and this may not be cheap. It is not uncommon to find the exact same product cheaper elsewhere – notably on eBay or Amazon – and at the very least finding it on a site like Amazon may also give you a chance to see customer reviews.

Don’t Buy Unnecessary Things

These kind of websites rely partly on impulse buying, and while the newsletter might be a good way to ensure you don’t miss deals it can also serve to encourage unnecessary purchases. The idea is that you see something that looks nice or fun, the price seems good, and it has quite a big discount applied, so you buy it quick before the item runs out and worry later about whether you should have done so. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself sometimes, but for the most part you should actively avoid this kind of buying behaviour. Think carefully and try to be sure that an item is something that you would have bought anyway, something that will be genuinely useful, or just generally something you won’t regret buying later.

How Your Mobile Could Save you Money

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smartphonesIt’s not that long ago that mobile phones made texts, received calls, played basic games and browsed the internet at the speed of a heavily-laden snail. Then the first smartphones hit the market and everything changed. Now, many of us have phones that are really complete miniature, portable computers. However, a lot of people don’t realise quite how many ways there are to save money with their phones.

Turn it Into a Sat Nav

If you’re in need of a sat nav, you could just use your phone. Perhaps you’ve tried the in-built navigation app and found it pretty rubbish, but that’s not your only option. There are several excellent free and paid-for sat nav apps available in app stores. This includes apps from some of the major sat nav brands such as TomTom which, though they cost money, are much cheaper than buying an actual sat nav from that brand. With the right app, there is little or nothing your smart phone can’t do that a sat nav can. You will need to buy some sort of holder or cradle for your phone and ideally an in-car charger (sat nav functionality can be a big drain on the battery), but this will only set you back a few pounds.


Most people have been in this situation at one point or another: you’re in a shop looking at something you want and the price seems good. You think you could still probably get it cheaper online, but you’re not completely sure and you’re worried about missing out. Instead of just heading to the checkouts and hoping for the best, you should take out your phone and indulge in an increasingly popular practice called “showrooming.” This is as simple as using your phone’s internet browser to check prices online and see if you really are getting a good deal. If you don’t do this because you’re simply shy about whipping out your phone in a shop in case staff guess what you are up to (naturally, shops aren’t keen on this practice), then just leave for a wander around some other shops and come back if you do decide to buy.

Special Offers

It’s not uncommon for companies to offer incentives such as vouchers or discounts in order to get people to download their latest app. Assuming the app is free, or worth less than the incentive on offer, then this is definitely something to keep an eye out for. Unless the app is a genuinely useful one (often it is just an easy shopping utility for the company offering the incentive), there is no reason to keep it cluttering up your phone when you’re done. But when it would probably take a couple of minutes to install it and claim your reward, neither is there any reason not to get that free item or a voucher for 10% off your next purchase.

Days Out in Summer for Less

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Summer is officially here, and the sun is finally starting to catch on to that fact and coming out to play. Many of us will no doubt want to take advantage of the warm weather for days out or outdoor activities, especially if we have kids who are enjoying time off school. The cost of days out, however, can be quite hefty if you have a whole family paying entry fees.

However, there are a few tactics you can use to enjoy days out for much less than the standard ticket price. Some methods you might want to consider include:

National Trust: Go Scottish

Many of the country’s best parks, gardens and historic homes are in the ownership of the National Trust. However, membership of the National Trust can be expensive, and ticket prices for individual properties can get even more costly if you want to go to a few places.

A cheaper way to gain membership is to join the National Trust for Scotland. Members of Scotland’s national trust don’t need to live there and aren’t confined to Scottish properties. You get full access to National Trust properties throughout the UK, but is noticeably cheaper than standard National Trust membership. Family membership cost £104 with the National Trust but can be as little as £69.40 for its Scottish counterpart (including a first year discount if you set up a direct debit).

Clubcard Points

The Tesco Clubcard is one of the most popular and well-known loyalty cards in the UK, and it also happens to be one of the most flexible. Clubcard points can be spent and redeemed in exchange for a wide range of different things, and this includes entry to a wide range of attractions throughout the UK.

The best bit, however, is the “exchange rate.” Clubcard points convert very favourably into money off vouchers in this category, and quite often the value is 4:1. In other words, for very £2.50s worth of Clubcard points you convert into vouchers (in terms of their standard value as money off of shopping), you will get £10 towards entry to many of the attractions on offer.

The Beach

Beaches are the very archetype of summer days out, and they remain one of the most popular options. In July, August and, if you’re lucky, even September a lot of British beaches do a very passable impression of a sunny holiday destination. Sunbathing, swimming and – for younger family members – building sandcastles and exploring rock pools are all excellent summer activities, made all the better by the fact that beaches are entirely free.

Of course, in practice this isn’t going to translate into a completely free day out. If you don’t happen to have the seaside on your doorstep you will have the cost of getting there. Taking a picnic can keep food costs down, but it’s almost inevitable you’ll end up buying an ice cream or two. Even so, unless you have a very long way to travel on public transport, beaches still represent a much cheaper summer day out than most pay-to-enter attractions.

Getting the Best Bargains on eBay

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ebay logoOnline shopping has transformed the way we buy things, but eBay in particular is a marketplace unlike any other. Businesses and individuals with second hand items are found side-by-side. “Buy it Now” items from countless independent sellers alongside the auctions which form eBay’s flagship feature.

The auction and selling site can be a great place to find bargains, but it is also easy to get stung or carried away with an auction and end up paying over the odds. Tactics you can use to help make sure you get good bargains include:

Don’t Rely on eBay Alone

Very often, the cheapest prices can be found on eBay – but this is definitely not something you can assume. Look on other sites like Amazon to see if there are better prices out there, rather than relying on eBay alone to look for bargains.

Sort Your Results

Always sort your search results instead of leaving them on eBay’s default “Best Match” ordering. Which order you choose, however, depends on what you are looking for:

  • Cheap Auctions: Sort by “Time: Ending Soonest” to bring auctions that will finish soon to the top of the list. Look for items that are going to finish in minutes or hours and are still at low prices, and then items that you might want to add to your “Watch List” for later.
  • Buy-it-Now Bargains: Simply sort by “Price+P&P: Lowest First.” Don’t confuse this with “Price: Lowest First” which excludes postage charges and therefore doesn’t reflect the amount you will actually pay. With some items such as gadgets, however, you may find yourself sorting through pages of 99p accessories before getting to the item you want.
  • Second Hand Items: This is a little more complex. Most second hand bargains are listed as auctions, so sort your results accordingly. Buy-it-Now listings can and should also be checked as you would at any other time. However, if you have had a good look through the items and want to wait and see if you get a better deal another time, in future you should sort Buy-it-Now listings by “Time: Newly Listed.” This will bring listings that have been placed since you last looked to the top, and help you find bargain Buy-it-Now prices that might not last for long before being snapped up.

Bid Tactically

Don’t just bid at any old time – think carefully about when and how to bid. If you think the item may go for the starting price or not much more, it may be worth placing a bid as soon as you are sure that you want to. Other people are less likely to bid if they see that a bid has already been placed than if they see that nobody has bid yet, and this can put off competition. If you think other bids are inevitable, wait until the last day. This will help you see whether the price stays low enough to be of interest, and give other bidders less time to outbid you.

If you are outbid shortly before the auction ends and want to bid back, leave it until the most last-minute moment you can stomach. This significantly reduces the chance that the other bidder will simply, instantly outbid you again. However, don’t get carried away and pay more than you intend, or more than you would pay if you simply bought the item elsewhere.

Getting Things for Free

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freeThey say that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, by which they really mean that everything has a catch. However, there are times when you might find you are paying for something when you could get it for free. It may be that there really is no significant catch, or it might simply be that the catch is outweighed by the money you save.

Anti-virus Software

If your computer doesn’t have anti-virus software, or it has software that is years out of date because you don’t want to renew the subscription, then you should get some ASAP. The internet is a far safer place with some security software tucked away on your hard drive.

The problem for many people is that anti-virus packages usually aren’t cheap as software goes, and you have to pay for them every single year. If you want a license that allows you to use it on multiple machines, this can be even more expensive. Fortunately, there are several completely free packages out there.

Before you balk at trusting your computer’s safety (and by extension your passwords and bank details) to a free package, several free security suites regularly equal or outperform the big names in tests and expert reviews. There is really no safety compromise involved in choosing a free package. The catch is that these companies all have paid products, and they will send you advertisements and offers to try and get you to upgrade. Ignore them; free protection should be more than adequate for home users.


Freecycle, and similar initiatives such as Freegle, are local communities designed to allow people to simply give things away. The idea is to reduce waste and recycle items that would either be thrown away or languish unused in a cupboard, rehoming them with people who want or need them. People who have such items can advertise them to the group, and those who want the item can get in contact.

You can see all sorts of things on Freecycle, from furniture to freshly-laid eggs. You can also post requests, so if you are going to buy something that you think somebody might be willing to give away you can try posting a wanted ad before spending your money. However, there are some rules of etiquette to follow. It is usually considered rude and irritating to other users if you post too many “wanted” ads, so try not to get carried away. It is also a good idea not to post ridiculous requests. This may seem obvious, but there are people who will seriously post “wanted” adverts for items like cars or high-value electronics.

Is it Worth Buying Premium Bonds

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Premium BondsPremium bonds have been around for several decades, and are one of the most well-known ways to invest in government-issued securities. Last year, the limit for investment in premium bonds was quadrupled from £10,000 to £40,000. But what exactly do premium bonds entail, and are they really a good place to put some of your savings?

About Premium Bonds

Premium bonds are a very safe place to put some savings. You can sell the bonds and reclaim your money at any time, and the risk to your funds while they are being held is low. However, unlike bank accounts or investments, there is no interest paid on your money. Instead, a random draw assigns monthly prizes to bond holders. Each individual bond is entered into the draw, so the more money you place into premium bonds the greater your chances of winning. Around 21 million individuals in the UK – which equates to roughly one in three of the population – currently hold 100 or more bonds. The top prize is a tempting £1 million, but of course the vast majority of prizes are much more modest.

Premium Bonds vs Savings Accounts

People purchase premium bonds in the hope of making money on their savings. It is therefore worth comparing the amount you can expect to receive with the most popular way to save; bank accounts.

The returns you can expect to receive from premium bonds average out at 1.35%. This is not a particularly attractive rate. It is no better than many easy access savings accounts, and these offer more flexibility and more instant access to your funds should you find that you need them. If you are willing to tie up your money for a certain term, you could receive significantly better returns from simply sticking with your bank.

Of course, the allure of premium bonds is that you might be lucky and win much more; perhaps even the million pound jackpot. However, this is pure gambling and the odds are not all that special. Equally, you might be unlucky and win nothing at all. It is, quite literally, just down to luck of the draw.

Are Premium Bonds Worthwhile?

This sounds like a very bleak picture of premium bonds, and indeed many people overestimate their value as a saving strategy. However, this does not mean they don’t have their uses.

Interest rates are so low that it can be tempting to invest some of your savings in premium bonds for the added excitement. Your invested capital is subject to extremely low risk, and you only stand to miss out on interest. When that interest doesn’t amount to much, it can be tempting to forego it on the offchance of a big win.

Premium bonds can also be useful for wealthier investors with a diverse portfolio who are not necessarily relying on every penny they can get from their investments. Premium bonds provide a very safe place to keep up to £40,000, and there is still that chance that they might win a prize.

Three Steps to Reduce Food Waste

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The average household wastes a surprising amount of food every year, and this leaves its impact on a family budget. If less food were wasted, less would have to be bought and the money spent on food would fall. The average household loses £470 a year on wasted food, according to Love Food Hate Waste, and for families with children that annual figure rises to £700.

There are several things you can do to reduce the amount of food that you waste and save that money for something else. These include:

Don’t be a Slave to Expiration Dates

It is estimated that over half of the food thrown away in the UK by households could still have been eaten. This is largely down to people adhering strictly to the dates printed on food. These dates are an important guideline, but that’s what they are a guideline. If in doubt, throw food away but use your common sense first. Dates should have a few days “safety net” built in, and many foods will make it obvious when they have really gone off. For example, milk will smell bad long before it becomes harmful.

It is also good to know the difference between “Use By” and “Best Before” dates. “Use By” is used for foods that become harmful when they go off. “Best Before” means the food may decline in quality but should be okay to eat unless there are issues such as mould.

Take Stock Regularly

Most food ends up expiring and getting thrown away because it has been forgotten about for a while. A great way to reduce waste is to regularly look through your fridge and cupboards and make sure you keep aware of the situation surrounding any perishable or opened foods you have. This could be as simple as asking yourself the question “do I have anything that needs to be used up” before deciding what to have for each meal.

If you need help keeping track there are several tactics you can use. For instance, you could assign a particular shelf in your fridge or cupboard exclusively to things that have been opened and need to be used, or which you have noticed have short dates. Alternatively, keep gods organised by how long they will last. It might take some time to get them in order in the first place, but after that it will be relatively simple to keep things that way.

Don’t Buy Excessively

Another way to cut food waste is to avoid buying too much of anything that will spoil in one go. People tend to be naturally drawn to larger value packs or multibuy discount offers because these usually represent the best value. However, if the extra is just going to get wasted, you are losing money instead of saving it.

If the savings from buying in bulk still look tempting, you might want to try splitting large packs of perishable goods with a friend. If you each pay half of the price and take half of the food, you will both get a better price than you would from a smaller pack and it will be easier to avoid waste.

Pointless Purchases: Things to Avoid Buying

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Bottled WaterSometimes, the best way to cut your spending is to identify things you can stop buying altogether. There are some things that are simply not necessary, or at least that there’s no point spending very much money on. Here are a few purchases that should be avoided, because you’re not really getting anything for your money.

Bottled Water

There is no evidence at all that mineral water is any healthier than tap water, so by buying bottled water you are paying money for something you have, quite literally, on tap at home. In fact, some studies have suggested there is a slightly higher risk to drinking bottled water because of looser safety regulations.

There are two situations in which you might have very good reasons to buy bottled water; when you need a drink while out and about or when you want a bottle that you can refill. Other than that, you (and your purse) will be better off with the tap variety. If you live in a hard water area and don’t like the taste, consider a water filter as a cheaper alternative to buying bottles.

Expensive Video Cables

Currently, HDMI leads are the dominant form of video cable and they come in a ridiculous array of prices. They are not unheard of in the pound shop, or they can easily cost £50-60. In fact, even major high street retailer Currys is currently selling a “Hyper Speed” HDMI cable for £149.99.

However, the biggest practical difference between this and a £1 cable is the fact that the “Hyper Speed” cable costs an extra £148.99. In the days when everything was analogue, your choice of cable may have made a very small difference to picture quality but digital signals are not subject to the same interference. As long as the signal reaches your TV set, the picture will be identical no matter how much you spend on a cable and phrases like “Hyper Speed” are virtually meaningless. Save your money and buy the cheapest cable you can find.

Disposable Batteries

Batteries are a necessity, but they can always be quite irritating. We need them to power so many of the things we own, but no matter how many we buy there never seem to be enough. They can also be expensive, and trying to economise with cheaper products soon turns out to be a false economy as they run out in no time.

Rechargeable batteries work out far cheaper than disposable ones. They also have the added advantage that, if you stock up fairly well, you will always have batteries to hand or, at worst, a quick charge away. High-capacity rechargeable batteries provide a life on each charge that rivals all but the most expensive of disposables. Their capacity is measured in mAh (milliamp hours), so the higher the number the better the batteries. However, if buying online always choose trusted brands. The web is full of weak, no-name batteries claiming absurdly high capacities, often higher than any real battery on the market.