My final £1k challenge of this run of Shop Smart Save Money covers savings, holidays and cashback credit cards.
I freely admit I’m a bit of a money saving geek, so I have a decent arsenal of tricks and tips which I doubt many actually use day-in, day-out like me. Even so, when this week’s family professed to be pretty good with their cash I was worried I might not be able to beat the £1k challenge.
But when I headed to Peterborough to meet Frankie and Scott, my first saving was already waiting for me at the front door (OK, a bit of TV trickery meant we had to put a pretend box out as we couldn’t show the branding!). Here’s how I did, and a little more about how you can take up some of the same savings.
Monthly recipe boxes
The family get a Gousto food box delivered to their door every month. These come with all the ingredients you need to make a series of meals. Convenient? Yes. Cheap? No.
I asked the Shop Smart Save Money team to crunch some numbers for me to work out just how much more expensive it was to get meals this way rather than pop to the supermarket.
If you go on the prices for those exact ingredients, do gram for gram the savings worked out as a huge £28.33 a box!
So it’s certainly cheaper to buy it all yourself. And since Frankie works at a Tesco, the convenience argument doesn’t really work!
I’ve written in more detail about whether recipe boxes are worth the money. You can also see a breakdown of the calculations we used for the programme.
Reward credit card
Frankie is a smart shopper – she’s got more loyalty cards than I’ve ever seen and has two wallets to hold them all. But while delving through her purse I spotted an M&S credit card.These aren’t bad. You earn 0.2% back for every £1 you spend, but with a spend of £300 or £400 a month, means I think Frankie only earns £10 a year, more or less. She could do better.I recommended an American Express Platinum Cashback credit card which gives 5% for the first three months (up to a maximum of £125) and then 1% after. I reckon that’d make them around £150 over the first year.
As Frankie pointed out, there is a £25 fee, but you can usually get this back if you apply via a cashback site.
Of course, with any credit card spending you need to clear the whole balance off of every month to avoid getting charged interest, which would make the cashback pointless.
Frankie and Scott have got £4,000 in savings, but it’s earning nothing at all! Instead I suggested they open up a Nationwide FlexDirect current account each. I’ve got one of these and it offers 5% on £2,500 for the first year. The best interest you can get on cash savings right now.
When they go away, Frankie and Scott don’t do anything themselves when booking. They simply head to the local Thomas Cook and ask them to book something that meets their requirements and fits their budget.
So I asked them for a holiday brief. They wanted seven nights bed and breakfast for three in Turkey during the summer holidays. The hotel needed to be at least three stars and have a swimming pool. I had a look on the Thomas Cook website and found one that fitted the bill for £2,236.
The seemed quite happy with that, but I wanted to see if I could do better than a travel agent. I managed to get exactly the same holiday for just £1,906, simply by booking each stage individually. And I mean exactly the same holiday. It was exactly the same flights, exactly the same hotel (though with a bigger suite rather than three-bed family room) and some transfers. Then there was even 10% cashback on the hotel on top.
That’s not to say you can’t get package holiday bargains, and they can come with added consumer protection, but it pays to check the cost of the component parts. I’ll write more about this in a few weeks.
Save £330 + £66 extra from hotel cashback
Frankie and Scott tend to get their cash where they get their holiday. And this costs them.
They normally spend around £1,000 so I looked up the price on the day of filming for Turkish Lira. You’d get 5,633 lira for this from Thomas Cook. But by comparing prices online I worked out the cheapest rate near them was with either Sainsbury’s or Asda.
They’d get 5,873 lira for £1,000, and that extra 240 lira was worth £41, which as Frankie said, that’s a whole meal out in Turkey.
Free student railcard
Finally, I was asked to recommend a student bank account for their daughter who’s heading off to university in the autumn.
One of the best is with Santander as you get a four-year 18-25 Railcard. Though a one-year card costs £30, you can get a three-year one for £70, so £100 seems like a fair value.
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 £1,217.