My month in money #2 (March 2022)

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 March 2022.

You can also listen to me talk about my month on my Cash Chats podcast

Pausing my tennis membership

One on the importance of checking terms and conditions here.

The highlight of my week is when I play tennis. It’s pretty much the only time I’m able to switch off (not completely of course, but my focus is just on the game). I normally play twice a week, and to do this all year round I’m a member of my local David Lloyd club which has indoor courts.

This is not cheap – I pay £100 a month. Though it comes with access to the gym and other facilities, I don’t use them, and sadly there’s no discount for just a tennis membership. It’s far too expensive. Still, in the broader scheme of things, and what it provides for my physical and mental health, I begrudgingly pay it.

Then right at the end of February I sprained my calf while playing, and the prognosis at A&E was that I’d be unable to play for three to six months. I was understandably gutted.

Obviously I didn’t want to keep paying my membership in that time – but the minimum term was 12 months and I still had three or four months to go. So I couldn’t cancel it without paying a penalty,

However, checking the contract showed that I had other options. I could pause it but pay 25% of the fee. If I’m out for six months that’d save me £450. Nice.

But since I had a medical reason for not using the club, and as long as I could prove this, I’d be able to pause it without any charge! The letter from the hospital booking me into physio was enough, and it means I’ll pay nothing until I’m fit again.

Getting a free return

Last year I discovered the comfiest trainers I’ve ever worn – the Nike Air Tailwind 79. Sadly, this style has been discontinued, so I decided to pick up one of the few remaining new pairs on eBay (combined with a discount code naturally) and keep for later.

But when they arrived the pair was already badly scuffed. They’d obviously already been sent to another customer and returned. So I clicked on my eBay account to request a refund.

This was approved pretty fast, but the returns label required me to pay for postage. Now, this could have been a mistake by the seller, or they might have just been hoping I wouldn’t question it. But I did. eBay’s rules say that if something arrives damaged the seller has to pay the return cost. So I got back in touch, and this time a prepaid returns label was issued, with the refund back in my account a week later.

Using Amex via PayPal

I’m prioritising my spending on Amex right now while I work towards a welcome bonus. Though it’s less common for big retailers to not take American Express, it can happen with smaller shops, as was the case with a gift I wanted to buy for my parent’s wedding anniversary.

However, they did take PayPal, and this meant I could also use my Amex and put spend towards that bonus. However, a quick warning here, if you do this for something costing more than £100 you will lose the legal protection that comes under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act – so it’s not always worth it.

Problems with “SCA” and Amex

But not everything has gone to plan with my American Express spending. Though Premier Inn takes American Express, my payments were rejected at the end of the month.

I questioned it with Amex, who said it was down to Premier Inn not asking for confirmation from American Express. But Premier Inn said it was because Amex is using different rules for this and I should use a different card (eventually I did with my Chase debit card).

Then today I had the same problem using my Amex via PayPal when buying cheap Theatre Tokens via O2.

This is all down to the new SCA (“Strong Customer Authentication”) rules that came into force in mid-March where you need to approve payments online (often via a code sent in a text message or in your app). I’m looking into this more and will report back.

Mixed savings with NOW

I activated a cheap NOW Entertainment pass in the middle of the month to watch Peacemaker, AP Bio and Resident Alien – and the next day NOW emailed me to say they’d added six more months for free! Great.

The downside is that to avoid adverts, watch in HD and watch on more than one screen a subscription to NOW Boost is required at £5 a month. I managed to get a 7-day trial, so I tried the cancellation trick, which worked, offering me three months at £2 a month. I imagine this will repeat after three months (if I still want to keep it by then).

However this was only on cancelling Boost – the offer didn’t appear when trying to cancel my Entertainment pass. That means it’s likely you’ll have to pay the full £5 each time you activate a new pass, adding to the cost for occasional users.

Scratchcard savings

I’m not always able to take advantage of the deals I share each week (and sometimes I don’t need to either) but I did buy two £1 scratchcards to gain entry for me and my wife to a nearby National Trust property, saving £34. And not only that, one of the cards won £1! Make sure you sign up for my newsletter and Instagram so you don’t miss these offers.

Maxing out my Lifetime ISA

I’m not convinced a Lifetime ISA is worth it for most people when it comes to retirement. You’re far better off paying as much as you can into your workplace pension to ensure you get the maximum matched contribution from your employer as you can, as well as getting the 20% tax relief. And if you’re a higher rate taxpayer, paying into a pension will generate 40% tax relief.

However, I’m self employed, so there’s no matching contribution from my boss (which is me). I’m also a basic rate taxpayer, so there’s no extra 40% to claim. So this is where the LISA might just be better – to an extent.

I’ll get a 25% bonus when I pay money in, and when I access the cash at 60, I won’t pay any tax then either. If I put the same cash into a SIPP (Self Invested Personal Pension), I’d get the same top-up, but only the first 25% I take out would be tax-free.

So on that basis I used March to fill up the full £4,000 allowance for this financial year.

Cashing out Chase cashback

When I can’t use Amex I am using my Chase debit card, earning 1%, and this month I transferred out the money I’d earned since opening it in September – a decent £121. I really should have done this sooner as it’s not earning any interest sat there – and now it can earn 1.5% in Chase itself (though I’m looking for a more ethical option).

Our podcast

Listen to Cash Chats, our award-winning podcast, presented by Editor-in-chief Andy Webb.

Episodes every Tuesday.

My energy bill prediction

My fix ended on 28 February, so my March bill saw a significant jump – and this was before the 1 April increase! Then halfway through March, I received the official prediction from my supplier of what I’d spend over the next year.

Whereas I’d been paying £120 a month for the last year, bills from April onwards (based on my expected use) will be £225. And any hope that I’d be offered a decent fix was quickly extinguished. Taking their deal would mean monthly payments of £367.

And I took my meter readings on 31 March to ensure that I won’t be charged at the higher rates for energy already used. If you’ve not done this yet, it’s still worth doing.

And the rest…

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

Our podcast

Listen to Cash Chats, our award-winning podcast, presented by Editor-in-chief Andy Webb.

Episodes every Tuesday.

3 thoughts on “My month in money #2 (March 2022)

  1. Hi Andy

    I’ve subscribed to your email and been looking at your website for a few months now and have made several savings as a result; I received my Quidco cashback the other day :-).

    Thanks for the work you do!

    1. So glad I can help!

  2. If you’re looking for a more ethical alternative to Chase, then Triodos may be suitable, they have sign up incentives too


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