My month in money #18:

What I’ve actually done this month to be clever with my cash.

There are a couple of thoughts behind this feature. Often there are small things I’m doing that don’t warrant a whole article so this can bring them together! Plus, it’s a great way to show that I “walk the walk” and really do follow my own advice!

So here are the key money matters from my own life in June 2023

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In the pic: Getting 2 ice creams and being paid 4p thanks to a triple deal stack

Protecting my phone

My phone is probably the most expensive thing I carry around with me on a daily basis. Scrap that. It is the most expensive item. Not only could any damage stop it working properly, but it would also reduce any future resale value. And if it was really bad, a replacement would be a costly expense.

Preventing this doesn’t mean gadget or phone insurance. If you’re someone who’s always breaking or losing a phone, then these might be worth looking at. And you might get it as part of a packaged bank account (if you need the other policies). But for me I’m taking alternatives precautions – ones that mean I’m less likely to damage or mislay it in the first place.

A quick aside – though technically I could look at using my home insurance if needed (not all policies will cover this, so check yours), any claim could impact the cost when it comes to renewal. So it’s not something I’m banking on.

I simply keep the best care of it as I can. When it comes to theft, it means not leaving it on display in public – I can’t believe how often I see phones sitting on the table in a pub while the owner goes to grab a drink. And trying to remember to hold it with both hands when walking down the street.

Of course accidents can happen, but these are largely preventable too. I’ll always buy a decent case and a decent screen cover. Yes I want the case to look good, but it also needs to be strong. So forget really slim and flimsy ones that won’t make any difference.

There are downsides. They hide some of the design features, and it can also add to the bulk of the handset itself. While it’s sometimes hard to get rid of all the bubbles when applying a screen protector. But I’d deal with these than have a a broken screen or lose £100 when selling it.

And for my current phone (an iPhone 14 Pro), for the first time, there was another way for the phone to break. The camera lenses really stick out on this handset. First I needed a case which was thick enough in parts to cover these, but I also wanted to cover the lense somehow. II looked at cases with a lens cap, but instead I opted for a stick on film.

And I’m so glad I did. A few months back my phone fell out of my pocket on to a hard floor. The case was fine, the screen cover was fine, but the lens protector cracked. It was still covering everything and didn’t affect the pictures, so I carried on as usual.

Last month it happened again, and this time there were scuffs around the protector and another crack. This time I was a little worried. So I removed it – and the phone and lenses were pristine underneath. And the pack I bought had a spare, so I was able to apply a new protector.

Without this cover I think there’s a good chance they could have been scratched or worse. The main point of having this phone is to be able to use the camera for videos and photos. Without the right case and extra protector, it’d have been useless for this purpose.

I can’t recommend enough that you check your current case and protectors to ensure they will do the job. And if you haven’t got them – go and get them now!

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A battle with Boots for a refund

I love playing tennis, and other other week I slightly hurt my ankle when playing. Nothing major, but enough that I thought it would be worth buying a new ankle support to use the next time I was on court.

Wanting to avoid Amazon, I headed to Boots and picked up one that was more expensive but looked like it’d give me more flexibility and support than the standard tube ones.

When I got home and unpacked it, it was a bit bulky so it’d have to go over rather than under a sock. But when I then tried to put my foot in a trainer it was clear that was never going to happen.

And here begins the (mini) saga. I’d kept the receipt (obvs) and headed back to Boots to get my refund. The first problem was that all manned tills had been replaced apart from the pharmacy, and they couldn’t process refunds.

I went to the main checkout area, and the one person looking after all the dozen or more self service tills said they couldn’t help. They requested someone to come and serve me. I waited three or four minutes before someone, on her way out, stopped to help. But they then said I couldn’t return a medical item.

I know my consumer rights. I know that something that isn’t fit for purpose is eligible for a refund. Still, she couldn’t help. So I had to ask to speak to the manager. Who took another 10 minutes to arrive.

The lad was possibly still in his teens, and faced with me talking (frustrated by the wait but still trying to remain polite) about the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 he just processed the refund.

There are a few things to unpack here. First, people have been warning about the rise of self service machines for a long time (especially the impact on jobs), but this was a different downside I’d not experienced before. This will happen more and more, so make sure you factor in additional time for anything that you’ll need to see a real person for.

Second, know your rights and don’t let people fob you off. Though stores don’t have to allow returns for things you don’t like, they do if it’s faulty or not as described.

Finally, though I’m still glad I didn’t use Amazon, if I had bought it online (from any retailer) I’d have had extra protections for 14 days, where I could have sent it back for whatever reason.

Hotel currency confusion

I’ve been booking accommodation for a holiday abroad later this year, and as ever I do a little shopping around to find the lowest price, while also keeping an eye out for extra savings like voucher codes and cashback.

One hotel was cheapest on Booking.com, so I clicked through to the checkout to reserve the room, when I spotted in smaller print below the price a note that also gave the price “in property currency”.

To be fair to the site, this is much better labelled than it was years ago, but I’d almost forgotten this could happen.

What it meant was the price shown in pounds was one that had been converted by the site to give me an idea of what I’d be paying. But I wouldn’t actually pay this.

Instead I’d be paying in the local currency and the conversion would be made by my bank card. If I’d used my Amex as intended that would have seen a fee added on top by the credit card provider. Fortunately, I spotted it and instead used my Barclaycard Rewards credit card, which is fee-free.

So keep an eye out for this, not just for hotels, but anything that could potentially be in a different currency.

Other things to watch out for include Expedia displaying prices including credit built up from other offers to give the impression of lower prices, and Hotels.com prices changing once I’d signed in.

Ulster switch completes the “triple crown”

I’d been unsure whether to bother with the Ulster Bank switch offer. From your experiences in the Facebook group it seemed like a a fair bit of admin for something that wasn’t guaranteed.

Finally in June I got around to doing it – as written in more detail here.

It took a while, but the £200 reached by account, meaning I’ve had £400 in total from them and RBS this year, alongside money from Natwest a few years ago.

Getting paid for 2 ice creams

Last month there was a VIP Me voucher worth £5 via the Hotel Chocolat app (as shared in my deals of the week). We popped into a store and grabbed a couple of ice creams. I remembered there was a student discount on top, so I figured we’d pay around a quid in total once this and the voucher were applied.

What I hadn’t realised was there also was a cafe discount for VIP Me members, and the three deals combined meant the total cost was -4p. That’s minus 4p. They actually owed me money!

They even gave me the coppers (thrown in the charity box at the till). I think that’s probably the first time I’ve actually had this happen!

Found fiver

Shortly after our bargain ice creams, we spotted a fiver on the street. There was no one around who could have just dropped it, so we picked it up and later gave it to a homeless person we saw.

This prompted me to ask on Instagram how much money would need to be for you to pick it up. Surprisingly most of you said you’d pick up a penny. I think I’d probably go for 10p at least. Though one comment rang true – “it depends on the location”. Yep, there are situations where I’d not even pick up a fiver!

Toll troubles

We visited the amazing Riley’s fish shack in Tynemouth last month, and a Googles Map error took us via the Tyne Tunnel which has a £2 toll.

The problem was our payment didn’t go through, even though it was showing as pending in my Chase app. You’re meant to pay by the end of the next day to avoid a fine, but as it was the weekend the call centre was closed.

When I called on Monday, they said this happens with some banks, and I wouldn’t be charged, but did still need to pay. They took payment and made sure I wouldn’t get fined.

So just be sure to check payments aren’t pending and have been processed for transactions like this – otherwise there could be hefty penalties.

And the rest…

I can’t remember everything but a few extras in brief…

  • My base-rate tracking Hanley BS savings account finally opened, 21 days after I applied. Sadly it’s no longer open to new customers
  • We used £1.50 of vouchers via our free Co-op membership and my Totum discount to get a pack of cookies for 26p!
  • A train was delayed by 14 minutes, meaning I missed out on a partial refund by 1 minute – the worst kind of delay

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One thought on “My month in money #18:

  1. Christine Howard July 6, 2023 at 1:34 pm

    In respect of the £6.00 for 6 months offer for selected magazines with Hearst Magazines – try Magazines direct who are doing the same offer but with a wider selection of magazines and if you do it through Topcashback, you get a a further 10.5% off.

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