HOW TO BAG THE BEST DEAL – 07/07/2017

Being an honorary Scotsman that was born and raised over the Border (the Geordies get a free pass up here as cousins of the Scots), I thought I would share some tips that you probably never knew existed when it comes to getting the best deal on a variety of common purchases.

FAST FIT GARAGES

My car needs new brake pads and discs and I have a plethora of garages to choose from, although I have one chain in mind to do the work within the next week or so.

Did you know that garages in rich areas charge more than the same garage in poor areas, even those that are part of the same chain?  Everyone charges what they think they can get away with and I rang one branch in an affluent area and was quoted £195, whereas a branch in a poor area less than 3 miles away quoted £155.  That is a 26% difference and I haven’t even rang any other branches!

BUILDINGS AND CONTENTS INSURANCE

My buildings renewal quote recently came through in the post from a local branch of a national well known chain of insurance brokers and was priced at £129, which represented an increase of about £25 that coincided with their administration fee which they were not prepared to waive.

I simply went online and found the same policy with the same firm via a comparison website for £89 and saved £40.  That is a 44% difference and I saved £40 in half an hour (I wish I got paid that much!).

BROADBAND

This is an old favourite and I tend to do a quick comparison online, ring up and go straight to retentions where they have the power to give you steep discounts.

My broadband and line rental was due for renewal (I diarise all renewals 1 month in advance) and my provider wanted to charge me £10 pcm for broadband and £18.99 pcm line rental.  I was getting broadband for free prior to that so I was expecting to have to pay something, but the benchmark is about £20 pcm for broadband and line rental at the time of writing this so I used that as a target to hammer them down.

By being polite, saying that I wanted to stay with them and I was happy with the service but I simply couldn’t afford such a steep hike enabled me to secure a 75% discount and get the broadband down to £2.50 a month in less than half an hour on the phone.  £7.50 a month is £90 a year and that’s money I don’t have to work for and can put to better use.  The funny thing towards the end of the conversation was being asked what I was up to tonight, only to say ‘not a lot’ given that I had been out for the past 2 nights (and I began the chat by saying that I simply couldn’t afford such a steep price hike!).

MOBILE PHONE CONTRACTS

Again, this is a popular one to easily negotiate on and my provider wanted to put my package up from £16.50 a month to £18 last April.  The benchmark for unlimited landline calls, mobile calls, texts and 2GB of web is £10 at the time of writing this, so that was my target.

A quick word with Three and a call to retentions secured the target price of £10 a month, saving me 80% off the original price for precisely the same package.  That’s £8 a month and nearly £100 a year for the sake of spending some time shopping around and haggling.

AUTO VEHICLE INSURANCE RENEWALS

My scooter insurance renewal came through recently and I noted that not only had the premium increased from £223 to £233, but also their administration fee increased from £30 to £35 and they guarantee to match any competitor’s quotes.

I expected the insurance premium to slightly increase by virtue of the UK Government’s Insurance Premium Tax (“IPT”) increase, but it’s clear to me that the administration fee is there to be used as leverage to knock the premium down.

I could have accepted the slight increase for what it is and let the policy renew automatically, but that’s not my way of doing things and I challenge everything knowing that I’ll knock them down with my charm and style!

So, I simply rang up and said that their competitor was able to shave £13 off their quote with an identical policy and a similar excess (not true).  I was then asked to stay on hold while the phone operative spoke to their underwriters to see what they could do (again, not true).  A few minutes later and she was delighted to confirm that their underwriters were happy to price match my quote.

Bingo!  I shaved 6% off the quoted premium (£13) in less than 10 minutes, which works out at about £100 a hour if you were being paid that rate.

The secret here is to be reasonable, realistic, friendly and not be too greedy.

FOOD SHOPPING

This is a bit easier if you live on your own, but it’s worth noting that stores start marking 25% off food that they need to shift that day at 10am, 50% at 4pm and 75% at 7pm as a rule.

It’s worth popping in to M & S at 7pm to get a peasant’s banquet for washers for work lunches and stuff that you can pop in the freezer.

Lidl usually knock 30% off food that still has a good 2 days left on the date, with some cracking bargains on fish and meat to be had at any time of the day.

If you like your wine, look at the bottom shelf for better deals below eye level that are harder to find.

PRE-THEATRE MENUS

I live in Edinburgh and anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy eating out and I am prolific on Tripadvisor with my food reviews.  Edinburgh has more restaurants per head of population than anywhere else in the UK (about 1,850 for 450,000 people), thousands of cafes and takeaways and about 730 pubs so the competition is intense with good deals to be had.

A big thing up here is the lunch and pre-theatre menus, where you have the opportunity to eat top notch a la carte food in the finest restaurants for prices that are comparable to what you would pay in a pub.

BUY YOUR PHONE OUTRIGHT

You have to pay more cash upfront, but buying a phone outright and then getting a cheap SIM only deal usually works out cheaper than a 2 year contract, plus you can upgrade whenever you want.

SELL AT THE RIGHT TIME

New Apple iPhones are always announced in September, while Samsung usually unveils a new Galaxy every March.  So, if you want to get the most when selling your old phone, do it just before the new model is announced.

BUY TVs AT THE START OF THE YEAR

TV brands unveil their new ranges in January, so keep an eye out for discounts on last year’s models a couple of months after that as manufacturers and stores ship out the old TVs to make space for the new ones.

SHOP AROUND

See that nice new TV you have got your eye on?  Don’t just buy it from the first place you find it – fire up the PriceSpy app and it will show you how much it is available for on the Internet and whether it’s in stock.  You can even set up alerts for when particular products drop in price.  It’s handy if you are in no hurry to buy.

Whilst I don’t cover this in my book, these are just my tips to stretch your money so you can afford to enjoy eating out and putting the savings to better use.

If you have enjoyed reading this, feel free to take a look at my other website http://www.awriterinedinburgh.com which showcases my writing and services I offer.

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