My month in money #8: Festivals, posh supermarkets and own-brand meds

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 August 2022.

Can I be a money saver and shop at Waitrose?

On a recent live Q&A I mentioned I shopped mostly at Waitrose seeing as its just a few minutes walk away. This prompted a comment asking how can I be a money saver and shop there. They even, in jest, suggested doing so had “Champagne socialist vibes”.

Well you absolutely can be a money saver and shop at Waitrose, and I do. For a start, there are the weekly vouchers that can be used on anything (even if you’re not meant to). I regularly save £5 to £7 a week this way – though I know some people only get vouchers worth 50p or a quid.

In August the tills randomly gave out some vouchers for £8 off a £40 spend or £4 off a £40 spend. We got one of each, but I also spotted an £8 voucher left at the till so nabbed that (this is known as “wombling”, though my participation was accidental rather than deliberate).

I’ll also bulk buy two or three packs when something I regularly use is on offer (as long as the offer is good of course), check out the yellow sticker section and mix and match brands based on the price.

So overall, I manage to get pretty decent value for money. And though yes, some supermarkets might be cheaper even with these savings, the quality and welfare standards of things like meat and fish will be far, far lower.

But I think there’s something bigger to discuss here too. It’s the idea that to be a money saver you need to buy the cheapest possible things. That’s just not the case. You should be able to spend within your budget. That might mean you go to Asda, or it might mean you can go to Harrods.

I think what’s more important is that you still aim to get the best prices and best value for your decision. And it might be you can afford Harrods but choose Asda because you’re happy with that. Or it might be you go without elsewhere, to free up spare money for the odd top-end treat.

I’d say I’m in the middle when it comes to supermarkets. I’d love to buy from places like Borough Market, but that would be just too expensive. Equally I’ll buy some generic brands from Asda because they are the same wherever you get them. And for the bulk of fresh things (or stuff on offer), then Waitrose delivers best for my budget.

The same principles apply to other purchases, from phones to holidays. So as long as your bank balance allows and you’re hopefully also getting the best price, it’s absolutely fine to not go for the cheaper and more basic option.

A huge discount chocolate order

There are a few of problems with online discount supermarkets. First you won’t be able to do a whole shop, or even a consistent shop, as products come and go – if they’re even stocked in the first place. The second is there’s usually a sizable minimum order. You might also find that the items are the same price or less from the major supermarkets.

So I normally don’t bother. But I thought I’d take a look at the recently launched Motatos to see if it was any different. Sadly it was like the others. Most of the food is snacks and sweets, and a £40 spend is required for free delivery.

But when browsing I spotted a huge amount of Tony’s Chocolonely. We tend to buy a bar of two each month – it’s Fairtrade and tastes fantastic. But this choc is not cheap. Normally they sell at £3.50 a bar, though I’ll get them when they’re on offer, perhaps around £2.80. For a 180g bar, that’s actually pretty competitive.

But on Motatos… wow. They were going for either £1.22 or £1.65. Massive discounts. I was worried about the best before dates (though they’re fine to eat after this), but it wasn’t a problem. Some flavours had dates for November or December this year, other varieties were fine until April and May next year.

So we ordered a lot of the bars. 22 in total!! We also picked up a few other posh chocs as gifts for family members and some crisps to reach the £40 minimum. And then we added a 20% off code (WELCOME20 – if it still works) for our first order.

I can’t see myself shopping there again, but this was a great haul. It does require some strong willpower to make all the bars last until next Spring!

Manually boosting my energy direct debit

I’ve mentioned before that I’m sure Octopus have been undercharging me for energy all summer as I’m still on the rate I was paying earlier this year. The obvious knock on is that I could end up owing a fair bit from higher winter bills (and that’s not even accounting for the Oct 1 price cap hike).

So in August I manually updated by direct debit to a higher level, and I opted for £250. I was able to do this in my account, but your provider might require you to call up.

The reason I chose this was to max the cashback I’ll get from my Santander 123 Lite account. It pays 2% on energy but is capped at £5 cashback. So at £250 I’ll get the most I can.

Also, it’s worth a reminder that this rate is doubled in September and October, so I should get an extra £10 back.

Value for money and festival tickets

I was invited to speak at a festival at the end of the month, talking to young musicians about their money. I got a small fee, a couple of free tickets and some food vouchers, so it wasn’t overly expensive. But it so could have been.

It reminded me of some of my money saving hacks I used to deploy for festivals when they were a regular expense for me. The big one though was to look at the total cost in terms of price per band.

Yes a few hundred quid is a lot to shell out, and that’s before travel, food, drink and other extras. But compare it to what you might spend to see those same bands at a gig and it means a festival can be great value.

I used this to justify a last minute ticket to All Points East, a day festival in London. I used Twickets to pay £51 rather than the full price of £75, and saw 10 bands including Nick Cave & The Band Seeds, Kae Tempest, Michael Kiwanuka and Thom Yorke’s The Smile. That’s an average of £5.10 a band. Absolute bargain!

A cashback rule reminder

One of the golden rules of cashback is to make sure you’ve closed down all the browser tabs for the shop you’re going to buy from. And I diligently did this the other week when I spotted a £50 bonus on Quidco for opening a new American Express card.

You might be thinking, “come on Andy, how can you need another Amex card?”. Well, my spending right now is on the Platinum to generate a huge welcome bonus. Since this card has a bonkers annual fee of £575, my plan is to cancel the card once I’ve done that and get a pro-rata refund.

But ditching the card will mean I lose any points I’ve not used (and there are a lot), so it’s been on my list to get the free Amex Rewards card. My points will remain active via this card until I want to use them.

So a £50 bonus, on top of a £10 standard cashback rate, is as good as I’m going to get. It was only after applying that I spotted I had a whole other Chrome window open and minimised from weeks before, with a tab open on American Express.

This means Amex might not track Quidco as the last site I went to before applying, and it might mean I don’t get any of the money. Looking at my Quidco dashboard both are showing as tracked, so that’s promising. But until it’s confirmed I won’t know for sure. And the estimated payout is February next year!

Covid and generic meds

I finally succumbed properly to Covid-19, getting the dreaded 2 bars on the PCR test (I’d started to think I was doing them wrong). For four or five days I felt pretty rough and was in and out of bed. Not much work was done. And even after that I wasn’t at my best for another week or so.

To help, I raided different cupboards and bags for different supplies, including cold and flu tablets, paracetamol and ibuprofen. The key here was all were generic and own-brand. And the reason? They all do the same as the names like Nurofen and Lempsip.

Sometimes the tablets are exactly the same but with a different box. So don’t overpay for meds if there’s a cheaper option available. I’ve written in more detail about how this works, and how to compare products.

And the rest…

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

  • Rather than get a single train ticket from Kent to a zone three London station, it was cheaper to get a ticket to Victoria and then use the tube
  • An international driving licence now costs £5.50 and requires a photo
  • I picked up the wrong flavour Graze bars in the supermarket, meaning I couldn’t claim Shopmium cashback (always check the offer!)
  • I nabbed a free £5 bonus from Quidco with no minimum spend – follow my Instagram stories for these flash deals
  • As usual I picked up half-price theatre tokens via O2 Priority and a free Vue ticket and Chilli rental from the £1 Telegraph offer.

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4 thoughts on “My month in money #8: Festivals, posh supermarkets and own-brand meds

  1. Does going the cashback route for an Amex card preclude you from stacking any referral bonuses? Looking to get the Platinum in the next week or so for both me and my partner

    1. No, it shouldn’t do. You’ll need to check when you click through to apply that the welcome offer is still listed. It always has been for me. Or you could look at a refer-a-friend link (if you can get one), which is sometimes better. Also, if you are getting a card each (rather than a supplementary card for your partner), you can refer them for their card so you both get that extra bonus.

  2. Hi Andy,

    Reg the DD for energy to get the max cashback for Santander, do we need to take government rebate of £67 into consideration and increase further?


  3. I don’t think the fee for the Amex Platinum card is necessarily bonkers. You get fabulous comprehensive travel insurance (no medical questions asked), airport lounge access and quite a few other benefits. If these are useable, the card fee becomes good value for money.


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