Andy’s month in money #23

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 November 2023

In the pic: Taking part in #GiveorGift

Hardly touching my data allowance limits

This month I’ve used less than 3GB of data on my phone. Looking back over the last six months (you can do this on most phone network apps) is actually the lowest I’ve used since June. But even then, the highest month was just 5.6GB.

So how have I managed this? Well I do work at home, so I’m on Wi-Fi for much of the day. I download my music, TV and podcasts to my phone when connected too. I also make sure app and software updates can’t happen unless I’m on Wi-FI, and don’t allow autoplay of videos where I can. It also helps that I’m not someone who’ll just open up TikTok and watch endless videos.

But even then, I am still using my phone’s data. During November I’ve been down in London for nine days, almost a third of the month. Much of that involved teathering my laptop to my phone so I could work on the train, and of course all my browsing was done via the mobile data while I was away too.

I even ended up streaming the new Dr Who on iPlayer to kill an hour of time – but only because I knew I was in no danger of going over my monthly allowance. Even then it hardly made a difference to my usage.

So it’s well worth looking at your allowance to see just how much you use, and whether you can reduce what you get when your SIM deal ends. My recent usage history suggests I’d be fine with 6GB or less, though I’d like to err on the side of caution with maybe 8GB.

However, it’s harder and harder to actually get these smaller data packages. Many networks will now offer too little or way too much. EE goes from 1Gb to 5GB to 25GB to 125GB, while O2 goes 1Gb to 6GB to 25GB.

It means even if you are downsizing from massive unlimited plans, you’re still likely to be looking at 25GB.

Of course, if there’s a decent deal it doesn’t matter. Due to a bizarre and short lived deal stack I actually have way, way more data than I’ll ever need at 200GB! But since I’m not actually paying any more than the equivalent 8 to 12GB deals at the time.

Big data savings abroad

While we’re talking about data, it’s worth mentioning usage and costs on holiday. Going back a month, when I was away for two weeks in Chile, I was using my phone more than normal. Though there was Wi-Fi available in most hotels, I did more using the data plan.

In that time my usage was 2.1GB (I reset the data counter in my settings before we left so I could track it). Again, not a huge amount in the scheme of things. But as we know, using your phone abroad can be very expensive, especially now most big networks have removed free roaming in Europe. Of course, Chile isn’t in Europe, so costs could easily rack up.

The worst thing you can do is just freestyle as you’ll be charged potentially thousands of pounds over your break. My network O2 charges £7.20 per MB. Per megabyte. There are 1,000 of these in a GB. So that 2.1GB would have added up to… wait for it… £15,120.

Obviously not a good way to go. Better is to get a bundle add-on, though these still aren’t necessarily cheap. For Chile, the costs for 14 days would have been:

  • EE charges £7.84 a day for 150MB, so that’d be £103.60 (and I might have run out of data some days)
  • O2 charges £6 a day for 10GB data, so £84 on my trip
  • Three charges £5 a day for up to 12GB of data, which would add up to £70

Fortuntately, since I’m on both O2 and Virgin Media (for broadband), I do get roaming in certain countries around the world, including Chile – it was a big reason why I went for O2 over other networks (though the price still had to make sense).

So at worst I saved £70 to £100, at best potentially £15,000!

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Black Friday thoughts

Thanks to this being my job, I’m probably across Black Friday more than most. I share with you all the things you need to do to ensure you’re getting a decent price (which tbf are relevant all year round), and then I’ll spend a fair amount of time looking through dozens, if not hundreds, of webpages, emails and adverts to source any significant offers and discounts.

Once again, and as I suggested to you all, there were absolutely some fantastic extra discounts to be found via cashback sites, with bonuses that could be combined with increased cashback on top of sale prices and discounts really bringing down the price paid at some retailers.

However on the whole it felt like the weakest sales period in the 9 years I’ve been covering it. There were very few outstanding deals stacks (outside of the cashback ones mentioned above). Disapointingly there were fewer of the non-standad offers too, with things I got last year such as a railcard for £10 not repeated this time.

Personally I didn’t buy too much – just things I already had my eye on. But I did get extra discounts where I could. £20 back at John Lewis was very welcome, as was 20% cashback at eBay on top of 20% discounts and a £5 credit from Amex, and a similar offer at Body Shop.

Best of the bunch was a Boots electrical order with £10 bonus cashback, 25% cashback (worth £60), £41 of Advantage points and a 10% student discount on top of a price match to other retailers to a lowest ever price. We paid roughly £160 rather than the normal selling price of £390.

But I also didn’t use some of these great discounts, such as £20 back on £100 at Argos, simply because there wasn’t anything I needed to buy from those shops!

Harder to resist was a stack of cashback, voucher code and Amex credit that would have got me 26 bottles of wine from Laithwaites for about £100. An amazing saving but we’ve plenty of wine and other alcohol in the house already. I do have to remind myself when this offers appear that there’s no point buying something you don’t really need, even if it is an absolute bargain.

Watch out for eBay pricing

While looking at eBay during those Black Friday sales for a couple of CDs (yes I still buy these from time to time), I found a couple of retailers, including indie record store Rough Trade, selling brand new items for a higher price on eBay than their own site.

Their album of the year – Nation of Language’s Strange Disciple costs £11.99 via their site, but £14.99 on eBay. Blur’s Ballard of Darren CD was £14.99 direct, but £17.99 on eBay.

To be fair there was a £25 threshold for free delivery on the Rough Trade website and none on eBay, but it’d be easy to just assume you’d get the same price wherever you buy it.

They weren’t alone, and this practice isn’t just restricted to records or eBay. You’ll see the discrepancy across many items, and on other marketplace websites including Amazon.

And though not the case in this instance, it’s been known for some sellers to hike their prices on these platforms when there’s a coupon available. You might think you’re saving 20%, but really you’re paying what everyone was just a few days ago.

So just a reminder that it’s well worth comparing prices to both other shops and the price history to see if you’re overpaying.

Small feet? Check out the kid’s sizes

My wife has size 5 feet (the UK average is a size 6 – so it’s not that atypical), and this has a huge advantage when it comes to some shoes. That’s because there’s no VAT on kids shoes.

While adult shoes tend to start at 5, children’s ones can go up to size 6. And often these shoes are the exact same ones!

Becky managed to pick up some identical walking shoes at a massive 20% discount recently thanks to this hack. So if you have smaller feet, it’s well worth just looking to see if the style is available at the lower price.

Making Secret Santa count

Though November is a little early for Christmas gift giving, I took advantage of a UK Money Bloggers & Creators outing at Smart Money People’s Insurance Choice Awards (where I hosted a table) to get everyone involved in our GiveOrGift campaign.

The idea is to give those who feel Secret Santa is waste of money the opportunity to ask for a donation to charity to be given on their behalf instead. I can’t say who I picked out of the hat, but there’s now £5 given to the KidsOut charity in their name! Read more about how you can take part, and encourage colleagues and friends to join in to, in this guide.

Too much Christmas streaming

If you ask my wife one of most annoying money decisions is the refusal to pay for Netflix right now. We’ve not had access it to the sharing crackdown happened in the summer, but with so many offers and discounts available on other services, I don’t see the point in adding yet another service in. We will get it back at some point, but when we’re done with the other subscriptions.

And right now we have quite a few, which goes against my usual stance of just one at a time – but that’s because I got them at very low prices.

First up is Apple TV+ which we’ve had for free (AGAIN) since late October. We’ve actually watched the shows we had waiting on there, so I don’t mind doubling up on that. The same goes for Disney+, free via Club Lloyds (though more will no doubt be added soon).

Despite this, I made a call to use a 50% off Paramount+ for a year code (even though we’ve not watched it much when we’ve had it), six months of NOW Entertainment for 70% off, and two months of NOW Cinema for £1.

Technically I think we’d only get them each for a few months next year, which even at full price would have worked out cheaper, but I don’t mind paying a couple of quid more for the convenience and to get ahead of potential price changes (especially with Paramount where ads and different tiers are likely coming, which could end up costing more).

Still it’s a bit too much, especially as I’ll be getting Prime Video for one month (at £5.99 if I can’t get a free month) to catch the Premier League footy in December!!

But again, I’m not paying anything or much for these services. Can you say the same? My tip to you though is to really rationalise what you’re paying for, and look at what you’re actually watching or are likely to watch. Then get rid, albeit temporarily, of the ones you don’t need right now.

And the rest…

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

  • The cost of a pint at the O2 in London is shocking! Fortunately I got 10% off with my Amex
  • A hotel charged £10 for a iron – though they didn’t have any available so I had to make do without. Something worth thinking about when going for budget rooms

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