In my second £1k challenge for Shop Smart Save Money, I travelled to Matlock in Derbyshire to meet Debs, Neil and Amelia.
I’m really enjoying seeing how my suggestions for savings can work for families in real life. Of course the idea isn’t to completely fix the family’s finances, but just to find a handful of manageable changes which can bring in some extra cash. My target was £1,000 once more, but the challenge this week was a lot tougher as mum of two Debs is on top of a lot the things I’d suggest. Still, I was confident I could find some easy extras to save a grand. Here’s how it went.
Using loyalty points
Debs had her purse by the front door so I had a little look inside. Straight away I found Tesco vouchers which had expired, and Debs told me they often forget to use the points earned via Clubcard too. She hadn’t used any for over a year, and some had already gone out of date. Since Clubcard vouchers last for two years from issue there were a few more approaching expiration. It’s a waste of money to not use these. Debs said she was unlikely to boost the points, so rather than lose the £40 she had sitting in her account, I suggested just spending them in-store on her next shop.
Getting a new mobile phone
The whole family is on Vodafone, spending about £80 a month. Youngest daughter Amelia’s contract is about to end and she was planning to upgrade to a new iPhone 7 as part of the renewal. This wouldn’t have been cheap, working out at £9.99 upfront and £43 a month, and she’d have been tied in for 24 months. The total cost would have been £1,041 over those two years.
A better option, and this is what I do, is to buy the new phone upfront and then get a SIM only deal. Most of the time doing it this way will work out cheaper – though it’s worth checking upgrade options just in case there’s a special offer.
For Amelia, the best bet for the iPhone was direct with Apple. It’s just relaunched a 0% interest plan, so you can spread the cost of the handset out over 12 months. An alternative is to buy it on a 0% interest credit card which may give you more time to clear the cost, though you obviously need to make sure you do that before the 0% period ends.
Then for the data, calls and texts there were quite a few cheap options. I suggested one using the ID network (which works over the Three network) for £10 a month, though she probably could have gone for one a little cheaper if I’d had time to look at how many calls she actually makes and how much data she uses. This contract was only for 12 months, so she’d have more freedom to look at deals again in a year.
The total cost for the phone and SIM over two years would be just £789! A massive £252 saving. However, since the challenge is about annual savings, I halved that to £126 to add to my running total.
Selling an old mobile phone
With a brand spanking new iPhone, Amelia didn’t need her current iPhone 6. She could pass that on to another family member, but if she (or more likely Debs and Neil) wanted to cover some of the costs of the upgrade then it’s worth selling.
Personally, I use eBay when I sell old handsets as I’ve found I can get a little bit more cash. But the family weren’t keen on the hassle so instead I suggested a quicker route which was to use online comparison sites. When I had a look she’d get £80 for her phone, which was in very good condition.
Cutting down Sky costs
Debs and Neil spend £67 a month on Sky every month. A huge £804 a year – and that’s with a discount. They have all the channels, so entertainment, movies and sports. But I had a look at their Sky + box and most of the recordings were of programmes on free-to-air channels, with the odd drama from Fox or Sky Atlantic. They hardly watch the movies and Neil only really watched Manchester United matches on Sky Sports.
So instead I suggested they got rid of Sky TV completely and replace it with NOW TV. Sky actually owns NOW TV, which is an online streaming service like Netflix or iPlayer. You can watch channels live or on demand, but you can’t record them. However the savings are massive.
They admit they don’t need the Sky Cinema channels, but they do want to keep the normal TV ones. A year of these with a NOW TV Entertainment Pass (and a box to connect to their TV) would cost £57 for a year. In fact there are often so many deals I’d expect they’d be able to get it for less if they wanted.
I had a look at how often Man Utd were on Sky and found on average it’s 24 games a season. If Neil got a day pass to watch each of these games on NOW TV the total cost would be £191.76. Far cheaper than subscribing to Sky. Again, he could probably get these cheaper by looking for deals or taking out the odd week pass.
The only downside would be the Sky + box would stop working, so they couldn’t record the free channels. But for £125 they could pick up a BT YouView box. We’ve got one of these and it works great. Even with this purchase the saving from just one year without Sky is massive, and will be bigger in year two.
Trying a smaller energy company
Debs already fixes her energy, but with her 12-month deal about to end she planned to fix again. She said she’d stick with one of the big companies, possibly staying with NPower. That would save her £432. Great. But I couldn’t claim that one for the challenge as she as already going to do it.
However, I took a look on a comparison site to check out the other options, and in just a few minutes I found a small provider called Arvo could beat the price. It had decent reviews and no exit penalties, so Debs could switch away if she wasn’t happy with the service. And this was £108 cheaper than the Npower fix, plus she could claim £25 cashback.
Buying a new TV
Shop Smart Save Money and Be Clever With Your Cash aren’t just about saving money. A big part of both is getting the best value when you spend money so I asked if there was a big purchase the family were planning on making.
They came back with a new TV, showing me a Sony model they liked the look of in Curry’s at £799. Debs had already found a £50 off deal with Hughes Electrical. I couldn’t find it cheaper than that. But I did notice that this was a brand new model, literally out this month. The previous year’s model is still available, and having contacted Sony, the only significant difference is that it has a different stand. So it’s essentially the very same TV! And that was on sale at John Lewis for £499.
How did I do?
So I managed to beat the challenge once again. The total this week – if the family take all my suggested actions – is £1,183.
You can watch me on Shop Smart Save Money on Channel 5 every Wednesday in June at 8pm, and you can read about the other families I’m helping as part of the series.