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Unfold Close  ABOUT THIS SECTION
Unfold Close  IDEAS ON ACTIVITIES TO EARN EXTRA MONEY

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Unfold Close   BANK ACCOUNT SAVING DEALS

Children can earn up to 4% in the top savings accounts - yet many have cash in accounts paying dismal amounts. That doesn't just deprive them of interest, but the chance to learn the valuable lesson that your money can work for you.

This is a full guide to the top-paying children's savings accounts, how tax for kids works, grabbing freebies and how to use their tax-free allowance for your gain.

Tips on teaching kids to save

The simple money lesson for younger children is obvious - put your cash in the bank and it'll grow. Yet as they get older there's another valuable lesson to be learned. A bank's job is to make money from you - our job is to try to keep our cash.

This may sound like a tough message to teach kids, but it's crucially important. The banks would like us to say "put your money in the bank", not "it's which bank you put your cash in that counts". So here's some top tips for helping kids learn and understand about saving.

Do children pay tax on savings?

There's a common myth that children don't pay tax - that's simply not true. In fact, they're taxed in exactly the same way as adults.

Yet most children don’t have jobs or earnt income. And for the 2016/17 tax year, if they've no income they can earn up to £17,000 from savings without paying tax on it (that's the£11,000 personal allowance + £5,000 starting savings allowance + the new £1,000 personal savings allowance (PSA)).

Even if they do have income, and even if it means they're a taxpayer on it, the personal savings allowance which launched on 6 April 2016 means if they're basic rate taxpayers, they can earn £1,000 of savings interest tax-free.

Plus the other PSA benefit is all savings interest is now paid tax-free, so the old system where special forms needed to be signed for children to receive interest gross (tax-free) has gone.

Yet there is one fly in the ointment...

If money is given by a parent or step-parent and the interest is over £100/year the whole thing is taxed like it's the parent's cash.


Money given to a child by each parent or step-parent (not grandparents, aunts, uncles etc) which generates more than £100/year in interest in normal (non-Junior ISA) savings will be paid at the parent's tax rate. 

The £100 allowance is on a 'per parent' basis, rather than a 'per child' basis. The aim's to stop parents using their kids' tax-free allowance for an extra allowance.

Once the child earns more than this, the whole lot is taxed at the parent's tax rate. Yet even then if the parent is within their personal savings allowance and the child's savings don't take them over, then it'd still be tax free.

Yet if the child goes over the £100 limit and the parent is over the PSA then their savings would be taxable, in which case saving it in a Junior ISA would be a tax benefit, as then it's tax free.

Can a grandparent open an account for a grandchild living abroad, in the child's name?

Best Buys Children's regular savings

Regular savings accounts require you to put a minimum amount of money away each month. In return, they often pay much more interest - and at present, the top pick's interest smashes all other best buys.

If you miss a month or need to withdraw cash you'll often lose the rate, so only consider this if you're sure you'll be able to pay cash in during the time period. For a more detailed explanation of how the interest works and pros and cons, read the full adults' Regular Savings guide.

Saffron BS

Earn 4% interest and make unlimited withdrawals

SAFFRON BS CHILDREN'S REGULAR SAVER

If you can agree with your child to put £5 or more aside most months, the Children's Regular Saver from Saffron BS pays 4% AER, and allows withdrawals from the account. You're also able to operate the account by post.

Need-to-knows
  • You can save any amount between £5 and £100 each month.
  • You don't have to pay in every month - there's no penalty if you miss a pay-in.
  • Children under seven must have an adult to operate the account for them.
  • At the end of the 12 months, the account will turn into a Maturity Easy Access account, paying just 0.5% interest.
  • Saffron BS has the full £75,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

Rate: 4% AER fixed for 12 months | Min deposit: £5/mth | Max deposit: £100/mth |Access: Post/Branch | Missed payments allowed: Yes | Withdrawals allowed: Yes | Min age to open it: 0 | Max age: 15

Halifax

Earn 4% if your kid can save regularly

HALIFAX KIDS' REGULAR SAVER

The Halifax Kids' Regular Saver also pays 4% AER, fixed for a year but this account doesn't allow withdrawals. If your child's going to need the cash, then it's best to look for a different account.

Need-to-knows
  • You can open the account online or in a Halifax branch (it can't be opened in Bank of Scotland branches). Access once the account is open is in branch only.
  • The maximum deposit in a year is £1,200, so look elsewhere if you need to save more.
  • You don't have to pay in every month - there's no penalty if you miss a month.
  • The cash is transferred to a Halifax Young Saver account (see below) after a year.
  • Halifax shares its £75,000 UK savings safety guarantee with the rest of the HBoS group including Bank of Scotland, AA, Saga & BM Savings.

Rate: 4% AER fixed for 12mths | Min deposit: £10/mth | Max deposit: £100/mth | Access:Halifax branches only | Missed payments allowed: Yes | Withdrawals allowed: No | Min age to open it: 0 | Max age: 15

Nationwide

Older children can earn 3.5% but have to get a linked current account

NATIONWIDE FLEXONE REGULAR SAVER

Older children aged 11 to 17 years old can open Nationwide's FlexOne Regular Saveraccount, which pays a 3.5% AER rate. This account's good if you can save regularly, want a decent rate, but also want the ability to operate the account online. To get this account, they'll also need the FlexOne current account as well.

Need-to-knows
  • You can add from £1-£100 each month.
  • You don't have to pay in every month - there's no penalty if you miss a pay-in.
  • You can withdraw as often as you like, and also replace the cash the same month, provided the total pay-in minus the withdrawals is £100 or less.
  • Interest on the savings account is paid annually on 31 December.
  • Nationwide has the full £75,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

Rate: 3.5% AER variable | Min deposit: £1/mth | Max deposit: £100/mth | Access: Online or branch | Missed payments allowed: Yes | Withdrawals allowed: Yes, unlimited | Min age to open it: 11 | Max age: 17

Barclays

Also 3.5% interest BUT you can't make withdrawals

BARCLAYS CHILDREN'S REGULAR SAVER

The Children's Regular Saver from Barclays pays less than the Halifax and Saffron accounts above, but is a good option if you don't have a Halifax branch near you and want to bank with a big brand.

Need-to-knows
  • You can save any amount between £5 and £100 each month.
  • You don't have to pay in every month - there's no penalty if you miss a pay-in.
  • The rate drops to 1.51% for a month if you make a withdrawal, so try to keep these to a minimum.
  • The rate is fixed for 12 months - after this the account will be converted into an Instant Saver account, which probably won't pay as good a rate.
  • An adult must open the account for children aged under 16.
  • If you've a Barclays current account, you can access the account online or by phone on behalf of your child.
  • Barclays has the full £75,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

Rate: 3.5% AER fixed for 12 months | Min deposit: £5/mth | Max deposit: £100/mth |Access: Branch only | Missed payments allowed: Yes | Withdrawals allowed: Yes, but rate drops | Min age to open it: 0 | Max age: 18

Best BuysChildren's easy access savings

If you don't fancy the regular savers, or have filled them, next best is a choice between...

  • The top easy access children's savings accounts, where rates can change both with the Bank of England's base rate and as providers change their competitive stance, or...
  • The top fixed savings, which give a guaranteed rate for a set period, but you can't take your money out during that time. These can be great for certainty on your return, but are only suitable if you're happy to lock cash away for the entire term.

We've plumped for the top easy access deals next as rates are slightly better, but go with whichever suits you best. It's also worth checking local building societies, which can sometimes have deals paying decent rates.

HSBC

Pays 3% on up to £3,000 and allows unlimited withdrawals

HSBC MYSAVINGS

The HSBC MySavings account pays a decent 3% AER, and is ideal if you'll need access to the money as you can make unlimited withdrawals. But you only get the top rate on the first £3,000 in the account, so if your child's a big saver, then look at the accounts below.

Need-to-knows
  • If your child's 7-17 they can open the account - under 16s need a parent/guardian with them.
  • While the child is under 11, the adult trustee's permission is needed to withdraw £50 or more.
  • Once the child reaches 11, they get a MyAccount, which comes with a Visa debit card.
  • If you save more than £3,000, then any amount above this gets just 0.5% interest.
  • If you're under 11, you need to apply and operate the account in branch or by phone. Once you reach 11, as part of the MyAccount, you will be able to operate it online.
  • You get a free moneybox (some get a sticker book too) when you open the account.
  • HSBC shares its £75,000 UK savings safety guarantee with First Direct.

Rate: 3% AER variable | Min deposit: £10 | Max deposit: Unlimited | Access: Online, phone or branch | Withdrawals allowed: Yes, unlimited | Min age to open it: 7 | Max age:17

Nationwide

Pays 2.5% on up to £50,000 but limits withdrawals

NATIONWIDE SMART LIMITED ACCESS

If your child has lots of savings, Nationwide's Smart Limited Access account pays 2.5% AER on up to £50,000.

Its major drawback is that it only allows you to make one penalty-free withdrawal/year. Make any more and the rate drops, so if your child's likely to need frequent access, the other accounts in this guide may be better picks.

Need-to-knows
  • You're only able to make one penalty-free withdrawal per year. Make two or more and the rate drops to 0.75%.
  • You can operate the account online, but you'll need to go to a branch to open it (unless you're an existing Nationwide customer).
  • Kids aged seven or older can open the account in their sole name. However, if your child's aged under 16, then a parent or guardian can open the account on their behalf.
  • Nationwide has the full £75,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

Rate: 2.5% AER variable | Min deposit: £1 | Max deposit: £50,000 | Access: Online or branch | Withdrawals allowed: Yes, one penalty-free | Min age to open it: 0 | Max age: 18

Santander

Pays 3% on £300 to £2,000 and those aged 11+ get a debit card

SANTANDER* 123 MINI CURRENT ACCOUNT

If you child is between 11 and 18 years old, they can open a Santander* 123 Mini Current Account. Like its grown-up current account counterpart (see Santander 123 in Best Bank Accounts for the adult version), it pays interest, giving 3% AER if you have £300 to £2,000 in it. It's a good way to teach your kids about managing money as they'll operate the account and can get either a cash or debit card to go with it.

Need-to-knows
  • As it's a current account, you can make unlimited withdrawals from it.
  • You can open the account online, by phone or in a branch.
  • You only get the 3% interest if you've £300-£2,000 in the account. If you've £200-£299 it's 2%, and for £100-£199 it's 1%. Rates apply to the entire balance.
  • You child must open and operate the account themselves - it can't be held in trust.
  • Santander has the full £75,000 UK savings safety guarantee.

Rate: 3% AER variable if you've £300 to £2,000; 2% under £300; 1% under £200; nothing below £100 or above £2,000 | Min deposit: £1 | Max deposit: Unlimited | Access: Online, via the Santander app, phone or branch | Withdrawals allowed: Yes, unlimited | Min age to open it: 11 | Max age: 18

Halifax

Earn 2.25% & allows unlimited withdrawals

HALIFAX/BANK OF SCOTLAND YOUNG SAVER

If you're looking for an easy access account with no monthly limits on the amount you pay in, the Halifax or Bank of Scotland Young Saver account pays 2.25% AER without any bonuses, and allows unlimited withdrawals.

Need-to-knows
  • You need to go into a Halifax or Bank of Scotland branch to open & operate the account.
  • You can make as many withdrawals as you like, there's no penalty.
  • Once the child reaches seven, they can have a cashcard to make their own withdrawals.
  • You can save more than £20,000 but only get 0.5% interest on any amount above that.
  • Interest's paid annually on the account's anniversary.
  • Halifax shares its £75,000 UK savings safety guarantee with the rest of the HBOS group including Bank of Scotland, AA, Saga & BM Savings.

Rate: 2.25% AER variable | Min deposit: £1 | Max deposit: £20,000 | Access: Branch only | Withdrawals allowed:Yes, unlimited | Min age to open it: 0 | Max age: 15

Best BuysExisting customer deals

The accounts below come with a big "but..." attached - a parent or guardian must also hold one of the same bank's current accounts. Fortunately, Lloyds has a decent, interest-paying current account on offer, but do check it's the right deal for you if you're switching. See Best Bank Accounts for more.

Lloyds Bank

Get 2.25% on your child's account if you bank with Lloyds

LLOYDS BANK YOUNG SAVERS

Lloyds Bank current account customers can open the branch-access Young Saversaccount on behalf of a child, paying a decent rate of 2.25%.

If you're looking to switch to Lloyds, the Club Lloyds account is a top option, as it pays up to 4% interest on balances up to £5,000. If you're not looking to switch, then try theLloyds Classic Account - it's free to get and it doesn't have to be used as your main account.

Need-to-knows
  • You need to open the account on your child's behalf, and must remain in control of it until they reach 16.
  • Once your child's 16 years old, the account will convert to a Lloyds Easy Saver. The rate will likely be dire, so check it & then ditch and switch if so.
  • If you have the Club Lloyds account, you need to pay in £1,500/mth (£5 fee if you don't) and pay out two direct debits.
  • Lloyds Bank shares its £75,000 UK savings safety guarantee with Cheltenham & Gloucester.

Rate: 2.25% AER variable | Min deposit: £1 | Max deposit: £20,000 | Access: Branch |Withdrawals allowed:Yes, unlimited | Min age to open it: 0 | Max age: 16

» Read more

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Two questions before you start

1. Do you have any debts?

If you do, it's far better to pay off debts before starting to save. The interest on your debts is much higher than the interest earned on savings. So pay off your debts with your savings and you're much better off.

In some circumstances, this can apply to your mortgage as well as credit card debts too. For more info on this, please read the full Repay Debts or Save? guide first.

2. Do you want to save or invest?

It's important to understand the difference between saving and investing as a start point.

Saving - You put money away in complete safety, and get it all back plus interest.

Investing - You risk losing some interest and/or some cash for the chance it'll grow quicker.

There is no right answer here - it all depends on your circumstances. Over the long term, investing usually outperforms savings. Unfortunately, as investing comes with a risk, this isn't guaranteed. Get it wrong, or even just get the timing wrong, and you could end up with less than you started with.

Of course, investing is not just the stock market. Property, wines, antiques, and starting a business can all be seen as types of investment. They all involve you putting money away in the hope your assets will appreciate, but with the risk you may lose cash.

If you can't afford or don't want to take any risk with your cash, then saving is for you and thus read on. If you want to invest, see ourShare dealing and Stocks and Shares ISA guides.

The Savings Fountain

Different types of savings have different rules on how much you can put in and when. To max your interest, you need to pour money where it'll pay best.

Think of it like a champagne fountain - put your cash into the best-paying savings vehicle possible, then when that's full and overflowing, fill up the next best, and so on.

1.- Help to Buy ISAs

This is only the first stage of the savings fountain for first-time buyers; if you're not a first-time buyer skip straight to step 2.

The Help to Buy ISA was launched in December 2015; for anyone 16+ who's never owned a home and may want to, this is usually a no-brainer - not because of the interest, but because if you use it towards a mortgage deposit the state adds 25% on top, up to a max £3,000.

The technical definition of a first-time buyer is someone who has not "had an interest" in a residential property in the past, whether it's bought or inherited

For a full breakdown of all the best Help to Buy ISAs, read the Help to Buy ISAs guide.

2.- Bank accounts

Bizarrely, some bank accounts' in-credit rates currently smash easy access savings accounts and ISAs - especially now all interest is paid to you tax free. It's a loss leader to build banking customers - yet if you're prepared to switch account, rates are strong. Don't just focus on rate, aim to cover as much as possible at decent rates.

If you're not eligible for a Help to Buy ISA, max the best bank accounts before you move onto any of the other options. If you're eligible for the Help to Buy ISA, fill that first, then move onto bank accounts before the other options below.

For a full breakdown of all the best bank accounts, read the Best Bank Accounts guide.

3.- Regular savings

Once you've filled your current account(s), start to trickle your money into regular savings. A regular savings account can pay high interest but it's only on a small amount of money.

While these accounts can pay slightly more than bank accounts, as you need to put cash in each month, you'd want to dripfeed it across from your bank account/top savings account anyway - hence why it's third.

For a full breakdown of all the best regular saving accounts, read the Full Regular Savings guide.

4.- Fixed-rate cash ISAs

Once you've maxed your regular savings account, move any money you don't need access to into an ISA.

A cash ISA is just a savings account where the interest isn't taxed (so you keep all of it). Anyone over the age of 16 in the UK can put up to £15,240 in an ISA each tax year (April 6 - April 5) and once in, it stays tax-free year after year.

Better still, with fixed-rate cash ISAs, unlike normal savings, you can get access to the cash within the term - though you'll lose some interest in penalties. Yet even if you withdraw early, these can still be winners.

For a full breakdown of the best fixed-rate cash ISAs, read the Fixed-Rate cash ISA guide.

5.- Easy-access cash ISAs

If you know you'll need access to your cash then you'll need to go for an easy access ISA. Here there's no withdrawal restrictions, you can get your cash when you want it.

Don't forget if you've got old ISAs built up over the years you can transfer them into a better paying ISA. But NEVER just withdraw the cash and pay it in. Full help inISA Transfers.

For a full breakdown of the best easy access cash ISAs, read the Easy Access cash ISA guide.

6.- Fixed-rate savings

If you've still got money left, next consider whether you're prepared to lock it away without access - if so, you can fix with a locked in rate that's usually higher.

Do bear in mind if rates rise over the term you can't switch, so think carefully before fixing for longer than a couple of years. .

For a full breakdown of the best fixed-rate savings accounts, read theFixed-Rate Savings guide.

7.- Easy-access savings

With whatever you've got left, anything you need access to stick it in an easy access savings account. Rates are lowest compared to everything else in the fountain, but you can deposit and withdraw cash at your leisure.

All the easy access savings deals have a variable rate, so you need to monitor them to ensure the rate doesn't drop (switch away if it does).

For a full breakdown of the best easy access saving accounts, read theEasy Access Savings guide.

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10 quick savings tips

Before you rush off to pour cash in the fountain, here are a few key tips...

1. You don't pay tax on savings interest IF you're a basic-rate taxpayer and earn under £1,000 interest

From 6 April 2016 the new personal savings allowance means every basic-rate taxpayer can now earn £1,000 interest without paying tax on it, equivalent to the interest on almost £75,000 in the top easy-access savings account. Higher-rate taxpayers can earn £500 interest before paying tax, but additional-rate taxpayers don't get an allowance.

This means that savings interest will be tax-free for 95% of taxpayers. Plus, interest earned on ISA cash doesn't count towards this allowance - so say you earn £500 interest on ISA cash and you're a basic-rate taxpayer, you'll still have your full £1,000 personal savings allowance to cover other interest.

Earn more in savings interest than your allowance and you'll pay tax at your normal rate on the amout that exceeds it (so 20% for basic-rate and 40% for higher-rate). For full details, see the Personal Savings Allowance guide.

2. Cash ISAs may still be worth it for some

Even though there's no tax gain, and the new personal savings allowance means unless you earn a substantial amount in interest you won't pay tax on it anyway, ISAs often pay higher rates than equivalent savings, cash ISA fixes have more access, and if you become a taxpayer again, the cash is protected then.

Plus, if you do have a lot in savings, and you do become a taxpayer again, your ISA interest won't count towards your personal savings allowance so you'll keep more of your interest from other accounts. Read Martin's Is the Cash ISA dead? for why it's still a decent option.

3. Put savings in name of lower-rate taxpayer

If one of you pays tax at a higher rate, providing you trust each other, put non-ISA savings in the name of the lower taxpayer and you'll take home more, as the lower taxpayer gets a higher personal savings allowance. For those who aren't married/civil partners, there is a tiny risk if one of you died within seven years of this that there'd be inheritance tax on it.

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The new ISA on the block appears to be a no-brainer, offering heaps of government cash in reward for saving. But is it really as good as it looks?

From April, a new type of tax-free savings account is launching, offering savers the chance to get their hands on as much as £32,000 absolutely free from the government. The lifetime ISA was announced last year in George Osborne’s final Budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and is designed to help the under-40s beef up their savings towards a deposit on their first home or for their retirement. Not everyone’s a fan though. So what do you need to know about the lifetime ISA? And will it be worth opening one?

How does the Lifetime ISA work?

Savers can put up to £4,000 a year into a lifetime ISA, whether that’s all in one go or in regular payments. The government will then top those savings up by 25%, initially on an annual basis, and then on a monthly basis from April 2018. So, save £4,000 of your own cash and the government will drop in a further £1,000. They will pay that bonus until you reach the age of 50. So open one when you are 18, save the maximum every year, and you’ll pocket a cool £32,000 from the Government, on top of the interest you earn on your balance each year.

What can I use it for?

The lifetime ISA has two main benefits. If you get your hands on the cash before the age of 60, you need to put it towards a deposit for your first property to keep the bonus.

But you can’t have ever owned a property, or even a share of a property, in the past.

After the age of 60, you can take the money out to support your lifestyle in retirement, and can spend it on whatever you like.

You say LISA, I say IFISA

Beef up your savings with government cash

The lifetime ISA is yet another addition to the MANY different types of ISA already available, all of which do slightly different things. First, there’s the standard ISA. You have an annual allowance of £15,240 (rising to a whopping £20,000 from April) and can put that money into cash, stocks and shares, or a bit of both. Alternatively, you can put some of that allowance into an innovative finance ISA . This is a new way to benefit from tax-free returns on peer-to-peer investments. While these officially launched last year, only a handful of providers have been given approval to offer them so far, with almost none of the big names among that group as yet.

Then there is the help to buy ISA , which is designed to help people save towards their first deposit. Like the lifetime ISA, it also offers a 25% bonus from the government on your savings, though the bonus is capped at £3,000. If you have children to save for, don’t forget the junior ISA either, which allows you to save up to £4,080 each year free of tax. The child can then get their hands on the money on

The lifetime ISA vs the help to buy ISA

(Photo: Getty)

There are a few key differences between the lifetime ISA and the help to buy ISA that are worth noting. With the lifetime ISA, the money needs to go towards a property costing less than £450,000. In contract, with the help to buy ISA you can only put the cash towards a property costing up to £250,000, unless it is in London in which cash the maximum jumps to £450,000. If you want to put the savings you’ve built up in your lifetime ISA towards buying a property, you need to have had the ISA open for at least 12 months.

There are no such restrictions with the help to buy ISA, so if you’re planning on buying before April 2018, that’s the one to go for. However, with a help to buy ISA, you can only save in cash. With savings rates in the doldrums, putting your money into stocks and shares is a more attractive - though risky - option, which you can do with a lifetime ISA.

The lifetime ISA vs pensions

Elderly woman saving for retirement

(Photo: Getty)

One selling point of the lifetime ISA is the flexibility. If you are planning to use it for your retirement, but your circumstances change and you desperately need that money, you can get your hands on it, albeit with a 25% penalty on the amount withdrawn. You can’t do that with a pension - the money you save in your pension is locked away, out of reach, until you hit 55. When the time comes to access your pension, you can get 25% of it tax-free. You’ll have to pay income tax on the rest.

However, with a lifetime ISA, you can get your entire savings pot without the taxman taking a penny. But if your priority is building the biggest possible pension pot then a traditional pension is still your best bet. Not only do you benefit from a government top up at your income tax rate (so 20% for basic rate taxpayers), but thanks to auto enrolment your employer is now duty bound to contribute too. With compound interest, the longer you save with these additional contributions, the bigger your pension pot will be.

Employers don’t have to make these contributions to a lifetime ISA.Wh will offer one… and who won’t?

A host of savings and investment giants, like Halifax , Santander and Hargreaves Lansdown have confirmed they will be offering lifetime ISAs when they formally launch in April. However, Nationwide , the UK’s biggest building society, has opted against offering one, while Standard Life has declared it won’t be offering one from April, though it intends to launch one in the future.

Source: Mirror, UK

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Unfold Close   MONEY SAVING ON BUYING A HOUSE

Getting the right mortgage or remortgage deal can save you £100s each month. But it can be a nightmare knowing how to get it spot on.

To help you navigate through the mortgage maze, here's our guide outlining step-by-step how you can find the best possible mortgage deal for you.

STOP PRESS, 4 AUG The Bank of England (BoE) today cut base rate from 0.5% to a new historic low of 0.25%. Fixed-rate holders won’t see a change but BoE base rate trackers should fall. If you're on your lender's standard variable rate or a tracker rate discounted to this, you're at their whim. Seeking a new mortgage? A lower base rate could mean cheaper deals but the BoE thinks there's little room for big rate drops. See our full lender by lender update.

Step 1: Know what type of mortgage you want

Now you're ready to get a mortgage, you need to go about it the right way. There are several things you need to do before you're ready to check out deals:

  • Have you decided whether you want a repayment or interest-only mortgage?

    If you pick interest-only, you NEED a separate plan to pay off your debt, as your payments only cover the cost of the interest. A repayment mortgage, while it costs more each month, pays off the original debt too.

    Unless you have a compelling reason, repayment is the way forward. It's also the one you're most likely to get as some lenders just won't offer interest-only deals. Those that do will want evidence of a credible repayment plan and might limit the amount you can borrow.

  • Decide if you're going for a fixed or variable rate mortgage?

    The most important thing to remember is with a fixed rate, you have the surety of knowing EXACTLY what your mortgage repayments will be for that time.

    In years past, variable rates were often significantly cheaper but right now the pendulum has swung more towards fixed deals, which are at their cheapest ever. But always pick the right deal for you - our What type of mortgage should I get? guide has more information on how to choose.

  • Make sure you've got enough cash for any associated fees

    It's not just about the rate when picking a mortgage - a whole raft of fees could come as part of the package - stamp duty, solicitors' fees, valuation/survey costs, mortgage fees and more. Our How much will buying a home cost? guide will give you the full information on what you'll need to pay and when.

  • Put as much towards your deposit/equity as you can...especially if you're close to an LTV-rate boundary

    This may seem contrary to the point above, but mortgage rates drop in steps, known as loan-to-value (LTV) bands. So if you've a 9.75% deposit/equity, it's worth trying to get that up to 10% as you'll get a pick of lower interest rates.

If you've done all this, you're ready to follow the steps below to find the best mortgage for you. Remember that even if you've got an agreement in principle with a lender, you don't have to stick with it - especially if it is no longer offering the best deal.

Step 2: Get a rough idea of what you can get

Whether you're going for a fixed or variable mortgage, you need to start looking at what rates you can get. This will depend on the size of your deposit and the value of the property.

But, in starting your search for the best deal, the first thing you need to know is:

"NEVER just go to your bank for a cheap deal."

Your existing bank will only give you its tiny range of deals, not the array of alternatives, meaning it's highly unlikely you'll stumble across the best one for you.

Only check what it's offering as a starting point. Then use our Mortgage Best Buys tool to check the whole market.

 

Comparing mortgages can be confusing. There are over 6,000 mortgage products, so you need to know how to search through our comparison site to find the best deals for you. Click on the button below for a full how-to for mastering MSE's Mortgage Best Buys.

Need to know how to find the best deals for you?

Step 3: Talk to a mortgage broker

Once you've benchmarked a good rate from using our Mortgage Best Buys, see if a broker can beat it.

They scour the market to find you a good mortgage deal. By using one, you swiftly cover a huge slew of lenders, and get added clout with them to ease your acceptance as well as an extra layer of protection if things go wrong.

Brokers will also be able to advise you on Help to Buy mortgages and other Government mortgage schemes(NewBuy, shared ownership and more) if you're eligible - tell your broker upfront if that's what you're looking for.

Brokers are also worth their weight in gold, because they know key details about lenders' criteria. So they would know if the lender you're thinking of doesn't lend on properties above shops, or in council blocks - so they'd be able to recommend a different lender who does.

But, the key is to find a broker you're comfortable with. The estate agents you meet when house hunting will often recommend brokers. They may even work from the same office. But you are NOT tied to using these, even if you buy via that estate agent.

Ask friends who've moved for recommendations - many local brokers are fantastic. The aim's to find you the best broker for the lowest possible price.

But not all brokers are the same. Some are limited in what they can offer you, so there are three crucial questions to ask.

Can you get me a mortgage from any UK lender, right now?

This finds out if your broker can source you ANY UK mortgage. Not all can so it's important to know which you're dealing with:

  • "NO." Some brokers are tied to one lender or operate off a small panel of lenders, so they search fewer deals. This makes it simpler and cheaper for them to operate.

  • "We check all products available to brokers." The key point to note here is the last phrase - available to brokers. This used to be called 'whole-of-market'.

    Many of these brokers will exclude lenders and products which are only offered directly to the public, mainly as they won't receive a commission. On top, they may not be able to submit an application on your behalf.

  • "We check all lenders." Some brokers do check lenders' direct-only deals too. However, they are more likely to charge a fee. In reality, it's unlikely a broker could guarantee you access to EVERY mortgage, as exclusive deals can be arranged between lenders and brokers (and clubs that brokers can join).

    Just be clear on what your broker is offering. Weigh up the need to check every deal, your willingness to do some legwork yourself, and if you're happy paying a broker fee.

Once you've found a broker you're happy with, you need to ask them the next questions to find out if they're the best broker for you.

Do you charge a fee?

This tells you how the broker makes their money from your mortgage deal. Brokers have two possible sources of income:

  • Commission

    Almost all lenders pay brokers what’s called a ‘procuration fee’ of roughly 0.35% of the transaction (£350 per £100,000). This is a commission based on your loan size – and doesn’t affect the cost of your mortgage.

    They are obliged to tell you the exact amount they'll be paid before you apply. You can find this info on the Key Facts illustration, which they must provide before you apply.

  • Fees

    Brokers may also charge you a fee directly. This might be on top of the commission, or instead of it (ie, they charge a fee and refund you the commission).

    If they offer you the choice between fee or commission, then they can call themselves 'independent'. If they don't, they can't - which is a bit confusing.

    No reputable broker should charge more than around 1% of the mortgage value, even for customers with a poor credit rating. If yours charges more, walk away.

    Fees can be charged at any point in the process, providing you're told about them at the outset. Yet avoid using any broker who charges you big fees before completion. If the purchase falls through, you'll probably still have to pay.

Quick question

Is it worth paying a fee?

Are you qualified?

You need to find out whether a broker is qualified to advise you. Make sure you're getting advice from a qualified adviser (the most recognised qualification is called CeMAP). Your broker should assess your needs and eligibility before recommending the most suitable product for you. This route also offers the most protection for you as a consumer.

If the advice turns out to be wrong, the Financial Ombudsman will be able to investigate any wrongdoing. If you chose a product from an information-only service, you'd have no comeback if you made the wrong choice.


Best Buys: Finding the top UK mortgage brokers

Now you know what you're looking for, as we can't review every mortgage broker in the UK, we've concentrated on some of the big ones that have nationwide scope, plus ways to find smaller brokers. Similarly, if you have any doubts about a broker, find a different one - there's nothing wrong with talking to several before you settle on one.

London & Country Mortgages*

FEES-FREE, SEARCHES ALL BUT DIRECT DEALS

London & Country

Specialist phone broker London & Country* never charges a fee, and will check the the vast majority of deals available to brokers, but won't check direct only deals, so you'll need to check the remaining ones yourself.

  • How do I speak to it? Phone only.
  • What lenders will it check? All standard deals available through brokers, but misses some biggies.
  • Cost: FREE.

Full MSE review of London & Country

Which? Mortgage Advisers*

PAY £499 AND IT'LL SEARCH EVERY UK LENDER

Which? Mortgage Advisers

Consumer organisation Which? has set up the Which? Mortgage Advisers* service, which offers a phone-based broker service for £499. It guarantees to check all lenders' deals, even if they're not normally available through brokers - so this includes perennially cheaper providers such as First Direct, HSBC and Tesco.

  • How do I speak to it? Phone only.
  • What lenders will it check? Every UK lender.
  • Cost: £499 (£299 paid on application if you apply through Which? Mortgage Advisers, then £200 on completion).

Full MSE review of Which? Mortgage Advisers

Find a good local mortgage broker

FACE-TO-FACE ADVICE

Local broker

If you prefer face-to-face advice , try to find a local broker that offers it fees-free; there should be quite a few. Websites like Unbiased.co.uk* or VouchedFor* both list brokers. You could ask a friend or even use the phone book - but it's crucial you know what you're getting.

  • How do I speak to it? Face-to-face, usually!
  • What lenders will it check? It depends on the one you find.
  • Cost: Varies massively, always check.

Full MSE guide to picking a local broker

Quick questions

I've had credit problems in the past - do I need to go to a specialist broker?

Am I allowed to speak to more than one broker?

I've heard some brokers do cashback - how do I get this?

Find the best buy mortgages

If you're ready to get a mortgage, tell our Mortgage Best Buys tool what you want, and it'll speedily find the top deals for you.

Step 4: (Double) check lenders that brokers miss

If you used our Mortgage Best Buys to benchmark a rate before you went to a broker, and it couldn't beat your rate, then you've probably already done this.

And if your broker says it tells you about all deals on the market (not just the ones they can transact for you), this part should already have been done. It may be worth double-checking, but it's likely you've already found the best deal for you.

If you used a standard broker, it may still miss some deals as sadly, some lenders have retreated from the broker market to cut costs. Some simply don't allow brokers to access any of their deals; others reserve some deals for direct sales only.

For belt and braces, compare a broker's best result to the three types of mortgages it may not have included (if you haven't already done it using our Mortgage Best Buys):

  • Lenders that don't operate through brokers

    Yorkshire Bank and First Direct don't offer their deals through brokers. Plus, HSBC only offer their deals through two broker networks (Countrywide and London & Country), so if you're not with a broker who's with those networks, you'll need to check HSBC's deals yourself.

    And Yorkshire Building Society and Co-op/Britannia don't also don't pay brokers a fee on their main brands (though do deal with them through their broker brands, Accord and Platform). Brokers who say they search the whole market should include them in a comparison but, they don't have to offer to transact for you.

  • Lenders that don't offer all their deals through brokers

    You'll really need to do some legwork for these. A few lenders, including Nationwide and Halifax, now put some deals through brokers and offer some only direct. Just to show there's nothing like keeping things simple!

    Tesco Bank is another that offers most of its deals through brokers - with the exception of its 95% mortgage deals that are only available direct.

    A recent trend is that the direct deals can be much more competitive (but not always). Usefully, MSE's Mortgage Best Buys tool finds the best deals for you, and tells you if they're available through brokers or only direct.

  • Exclusive deals from other brokers

    In the final category are the deals which are available exclusively through certain broker networks, as they sometimes negotiate their own deals with lenders. Unfortunately, we can't cover all of these in our Best Buys tool, but they're not a significant proportion of the market. For full belt and braces, you could try a few different brokers.

To properly compare deals, find the best deal that a broker can offer you, and the best deal you can find using our Mortgage Best Buys, then use our Compare Two Mortgages or Compare Fixed-Rate Mortgages calculators to see what each will cost you.

Don't use the APR to compare - mortgage APR confusion

The best comparison is to use the rate you'll pay for the incentive period in the comparison - and compare over the length of time you think you'll have the mortgage. DON'T compare one mortgage's APR with another.

All lenders have to tell you their APR - the effective averaged annual interest rate if you held your mortgage for the entire term (normally 25 years). This is rather annoying, as it's a rate in most cases you'll never have to pay, so it's meaningless.

If you had a fixed rate at 3.49% for two years, and then the rate it reverted to afterwards was 4.74%, the APR would be around 4.3%.

So why do we say it's mostly meaningless?

  • You never pay 4.3%. It's an averaged rate over the entire term
  • You're likely to remortgage long before the term ends
  • The rate it reverts to (the standard variable rate) is likely to move anyway

What you really need to focus on is the initial discount/fixed rate, the fees and the rate it goes to once your deal has ended.

Step 5: Check your mortgage paperwork

You could start a library out of the amount of paperwork you get sent when you take out a mortgage or remortgage. The main documents you need to be aware of are:

Key Facts Illustration

The Key Facts Illustration does what it says on the tin. It gives you the Key Facts about the mortgage product, not all of them, but all the main ones. You should be given one of these before you make an application and you should check through carefully.

Key Facts illustration checklist

Why do you need to check and keep the illustration?

The mortgage offer

Once you've successfully applied for a mortgage, you'll be sent a mortgage offer by the lender. This gives ALL the facts about the mortgage and the conditions on the loan that you are agreeing to.

It's a bit more reading, but it's massively important you read through it and check every detail is 100% accurate. If your name is not spelt correctly or the loan figure is wrong, this could stop the mortgage at the very last minute, resulting in delays, additional expense, jeopardising the purchase and even more scarily, losing the mortgage offer completely.

You also need to be sure there's nothing unexpected in it, particularly if it contradicts your Key Facts illustration. Pay particular close attention to fees, early repayment charges and the conditions you need to meet to complete (as it's your solicitor's job to check you've met these before the money can be drawn down).

Your broker should also check the mortgage offer, but don’t rely on that. If you were to disagree on a point later down the line, it could be very difficult to win the argument if you’ve signed the document accepting the conditions.

Scan it, file it, keep it!

Step 6: Watch out for the hard sell

Some lenders and brokers try to make more money elsewhere in the mortgage process. So be prepared for the hard sell on these products.

Mortgage payment protection insurance (MPPI)

Sometimes called accident, sickness and unemployment insurance (ASU), MPPI is supposed to cover your payments if you have an accident, become ill, or you're made redundant.

You can get limited help from the Government in these circumstances but, at best, it will only cover your interest. So it's sensible to consider, before you take out a mortgage, how you would manage to meet your repayments if these events happened.

MPPI isn't a bad policy but it can be quite pricey and has been mis-sold in the past to people who couldn't actually claim on it. This can happen because the insurer doesn't carry out any checks when you first apply, only when you go to make a claim.

Be extra careful if you are self-employed, have any reason to suspect you might be made redundant or have any existing medical conditions.

If you do decide to take out an MPPI policy, check carefully:

  • That it will pay out if you claim
  • When it will pay (you may have to wait several weeks before the policy kicks in)
  • How much it'll pay and for how long (it usually only covers your repayments for 12 months)

Ensure you understand all the terms and conditions before signing on the dotted line.

Buying MPPI from your mortgage broker. Be careful when buying from your mortgage broker here. It may not be able to get you the best-priced policy. It's common for a broker to offer whole of market mortgage advice, but then be tied to a single, or small panel of insurers.

There's no harm in getting a quote from your broker for MPPI, but make sure that you compare with other policies to see if it's a good deal.

Read more in our Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance guide.

Bundled buildings / contents insurance

All lenders will insist you take out buildings insurance. But be very suspicious of deals which insist you buy your buildings insurance through your lender. While the amount quoted may seem reasonable in the first year, you're then trapped into accepting whatever premium increases they foist on you in subsequent years, for as long as the mortgage lasts.

Some lenders charge around £30 if you decline to take their insurance. If you go elsewhere for your home cover, some seriously cheap deals are possible. By using cashback sites, some people have even been PAID to take out insurance. See our Home Insurance guide.

Life cover from your mortgage seller

Would you ask the man who sold you a computer to be your fashion stylist? No, so don't assume just because someone sold you one financial product, they'll automatically get you a good deal on extra bits such as life cover or other insurance.

Buying your first home is probably the first time you've thought about life insurance, but don't rush in and grab the first one offered to you. In some cases you can save 50% on the life cover sold by your lender or broker.

For a full guide on how to find the cheapest cover, see the Life Insurance guide.

Want to complain about your mortgage provider?

If your mortgage provider's given you wrong information, or its service has been atrocious, you don't have to suffer in silence. It's always worth trying to call your lender first to see if it can sort the problem, but if not...

» Read more

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There has been a HUGE increase in the number of homeowners remortgaging to cheaper new deals, chopping the cost of their homeloan. Here’s how you can follow their lead

Five stacks of one pound coins

Thousands of homeowners up and down the country are locking into super-cheap home loans by remortgaging, new figures have revealed.

According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders , around 34,700 borrowers remortgaged in November, up 13% from the year before. The value of those new mortgages was up by 14% on the same month in 2015, totalling £5.8 billion. It’s a smart move, with mortgages continuing to sit at historically low levels. However, if you’re thinking of doing the same, you might want to get a move on, with Ishaan Malhi, founder of broker Trussle , warning the “clock is ticking” for homeowners looking for a cheap deal.

The pain of the SVR

Man Paying the Bills looking worried

Once you move onto your lender's SVR, your repayments could rocket (Photo: Getty)

When you take out a mortgage, generally you will initially benefit from a promotional rate. So for example you might fix your rate for two or three years, or track the Bank of England’s base rate plus a certain percentage for a year or two. However, once you come to the end of that period, you’ll move onto the lender’s Standard Variable Rate. This tends to be much less attractive, and is also subject to being increased at any time, irrespective of what happens to base rate.

For example, right now you could fix your rate with Santander for two years at 1.23% if you have a hefty 40% deposit. However, once that fixed period ends, you’ll move onto its SVR which is a punishing 4.49%. On a £150,000 mortgage, over a 25-year term, that would see your mortgage repayments jump from £581 a month to £833 a month.

Cut that out by remortgaging

By remortgaging, you could save thousands each year (Photo: Getty)

However, if you remortgage to a new deal once you come to the end of your initial promotional deal, you won’t face such a massive payment shock. In fact, you might actually save money on your monthly repayments! According to a study by TSB , the average homeowner could save almost £100 a month on their repayments by remortgaging. That saving quickly snowballs into some seriously significant sums if you keep on top of when your fixed or tracker rate is ending, and switch to another cheap deal.

Ian Ramsden, director of mortgages at TSB, said that remortgaging could make a huge difference to family finances. He added: “It could mean being able to afford a family holiday, carry out much needed home renovations, or simply help ease the pressures on household finances each month.”

What about swap rates?

Ticking Clock

The clock is ticking to take advantage of the cheapest remortgage deals (Photo: Getty)

By historical standards, mortgage rates today sit at incredibly cheap levels, making remortgaging even more attractive. However, before Christmas, a number of lenders pulled their cheapest fixed rate deals, replacing them with higher priced loans. That’s because swap rates - the rates at which banks lend to each other - began to rise. According to Mark Harris, chief executive of broker SPF Private Clients , swap rates have “stabilised” of late, with some lenders reducing their rates again. However, he warned that Theresa May’s confirmation of the Government’s Brexit plan could result in swap rate “volatility”.

Mark Dyason, director of broker Edinburgh Mortgage Advice , suggested that it was now “very clear” that the very cheapest deals were now a thing of the past. He added: “Rates are still incredibly competitive, yes, but if people want to secure the best of what's left, they need to act and soon. While we are seeing more remortgaging, there could be a lot more and homeowner apathy could catch many out further down the line.”

Source: Mirror, UK

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Unfold Close   MONEY SAVING ON SMARTPHONES

iPhones aren’t MoneySaving, but if you’re going to get one anyway then check out our host of tricks to cut the cost of getting your hands on a new handset or

contract.  iPhones

We’ve focused on Apple's flagship smartphones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, and the larger iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus. The iPhone 7 is rumoured to launch this September and we’ll have the latest tips when it arrives. If you’re looking for Samsung mobile tips, check out our Cheap Samsung guide.

Outright prices direct from Apple are £539 for the iPhone 6s, and £619 for the iPhone 6s Plus 16GB models. But which phone is best? And how do you choose the right contract?

Our iPhone need-to-knows should help you decide, as well as giving you some tips on selling your old phone and getting the most out of your current tariff.

iPhone top picks

We've picked out our top pick tariffs for the latest iPhone models, for a minimum 3GB data use and unlimited calls and texts. Please note that tariffs can change quickly so it's always worth checking what's out there before locking yourself in to a contract. Of course, if you want a different type of package then you’ll need to use a comparison site such as MobilePhoneChecker*.

Not sure what iPhone to go for? Take a look at find the right phone for you for help and full specifications.

   Unld mins and texts, 3GB data: £25 upfront then £31.50/mth

      MOBILES.CO.UK*

             This two-year contract from O2 is one of the market's cheapest tariff at this usage level. You can get a new 16GB iPhone 6s for £25 upfront followed by £31.5$31.50 a month for 24 months, making it £781 for two years (monthly cost may increase each year in line with inflation).

              The deal is for O2 newbies via Mobiles.co.uk* and comes with unlimited minutes and texts, and 3GB of 4G data. If you use up your data and need more, you'll need to buy a bolt-on starting at £3 for 100MB.

Find the right phone for you

Ask yourself what you really want from your phone, and what features are important to you. iPhones are popular and well-reviewed, but they aren't cheap - so getting one is a decision you should weigh up carefully.

Older iPhones often drop in price following the launch of a new model, so consider whether you really want the latest handset. Below, we've compared the features for each model.

Apple iPhone 6s

Apple iPhone 6s Plus

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Watch out for annual inflationary price rises

Under Ofcom's rules, providers are permitted to increase the monthly cost of mobile contracts by as much as the rate of inflation each year, as long as they are upfront about this and warn you before you sign up. All the major networks (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) now do this.

Adjustments are made in line with figures published in February each year based on the Retail Prices Index (a measure of inflation).

This year the RPI grew by 1.3% and most of the major networks put up customers' monthly payments by the full 1.3% - EE in March, O2 in April, and Vodafone in May. Any bill you received after those dates will have reflected the increase. Only Three opted to freeze pricing in May.

Match your tariff to your usage

According to BillMonitor, 76% of people are on the wrong contract. Use too few minutes, data or texts and you'll overpay for the contract each month. Yet go over your allowance and the extra charges are costly.

Analyse how many minutes, texts and how much data you're likely to use to get the right tariff. If you're new to smartphones, expect to use much more data than before. Here's a rough guide, based on figures from BillMonitor, to help you determine which type of user you are:

  • Low user. Uses about 250 mins, 250 texts and 250MB of data per month
  • Medium user. Uses about 500 mins, 500 texts and 1GB of data per month
  • High user. Uses about 1,000 mins, 1,000 texts and 3GB of data per month

For info on how to calculate your exact usage, read the Cheap Mobiles guide.

Some deals are only available to 'new customers'

The deals you see here and on most comparison sites are geared towards new customers of the relevant network. If you're already with that network, even if your existing contract is up, and you try to get the deal then technically you'll be 'upgrading' rather than taking out a new contract, and you may have to pay more as a result.

Of course, you can still get the deal if you take out a separate new contract. But if you do, frustratingly you won't be able to directly transfer your existing number across to your new phone.

There is one possible way round this, though it's a bit of work. What you can do is get the deal on a separate new contract, and also get yourself a free pay-as-you-go Sim from a different network.

Port your existing number across to the free pay-as-you-go Sim, then port it again to the new contract once it's been set up. To port your number over you'll need to request a port authorisation code from your provider.

Buy a handset upfront and save

Unless you're a heavy user, a standalone handset with a Sim-only deal can often be the cheapest option. There are many one-month rolling contract Sim-only deals available, so you're not tied in, you only pay for what you use - see the top Sim-only deals for the best options.

Already have a Sim-only deal from an old phone?

Unless you buy a handset for that network, to put it in a new handset you'll need to "unlock" it from its pre-set network provider. For some phones this can be free, or it could cost up to £30 - for more info, see Mobile Unlocking.

You can get cheap handsets from retailers such as Argos or Play.com. Use the MegaShopBot to quickly compare prices.

Don't overestimate how much storage you need

All iPhone models come in different storage sizes, with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus available in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models. Generally, you'll pay about £80 to go up a size (if you're buying directly from Apple).

As a rule of thumb 16GB can hold around 3,500 songs or 20 hours of video, which is enough for some, though apps these days can take up quite a lot of space.

Unlike other smartphones, iPhones don't have memory card slots so you can't expand the storage if you decide you want more. However, be careful not to overestimate how much storage you'll need and go for a more expensive model 'just to be safe'.

We asked one of our techies, MSE Shrey for his top tips on saving storage space on your phone and paying less overall.

  1. Free online storage. Apple gives iPhone users 5GB of storage space in iCloud for free. It isn't much, but there are lots of other providers that also offer free storage space and many have mobile apps. If you need more, email providers such as Gmail offer free storage space. You could sign up to several with mutiple email addresses and assign categories of content to each.

  2. Stream instead of downloading. Music and video streaming services like Spotify (which is now free on mobile) and Netflix are all the rage and get rid of the need to download and store content on your phone. Streaming uses the same bandwidth as downloading, so do it when connected to wi-fi or it's costly. If you're streaming via 3G/4G, make sure you get the right tariff with a big enough data allowance.

  3. Auto-upload to 'the Cloud'. Apps from some online storage providers, such as Dropbox, have settings to automatically upload your photos and videos, after which you can delete them from your phone without losing them. For music,iTunes Match (£21.99/yr) will store all your tracks on Apple's servers for you to access online.

  4. Turn off automatic downloads. Content that automatically downloads to your device can take up more storage space than you realise. New purchases from the iTunes Store will sync to all of your iDevices with the same iCloud account, if they're set to do this. Turn off automatic downloads in Settings >> iTunes & App Store. Also, if you don't need to access older emails (especially if they have big attachments) while you're offline, you can reduce how many previous days' worth to store on your iPhone.

  5. Clean up your apps. If you go to Settings >> General >> Usage in your iPhone, it'll show a breakdown of how much space your apps take up. Go through and get rid of those you no longer use and delete content you don't want anymore (eg, watched videos). You can download them again free if you paid for them - although you can't get back personal data once it's gone.

Think about whether you need 4G

4G, also known as LTE or Long Term Evolution, is a lightning-quick internet connection for mobile devices. Networks claim that it's up to 5x faster than 3G, but Ofcom estimations say it's only twice as fast as 3G.

Check with your chosen provider whether you can actually get 4G where you live before signing up, and bear in mind that Ofcom says 4G and 3G performance differs between networks, with some outperforming others.

To get 4G, as well as being in an area that can receive a 4G signal, you’ll also need a 4G tariff and a 4G-compatible handset. The iPhone 5s, 5c, 6, 6 Plus, 6s and 6s Plus are all 4G-compatible.

Make sure you've the right size Sim

Daring to be different, Apple went against the grain with its iPhones, designing them to take a smaller Sim card.

Differences in Sim card sizesFor the iPhone 4 and 4s (and its iPads), Apple adopted the smaller-than-standard-size "micro-Sim". With the launch of the iPhone 5 came the arrival of a yet smaller Sim card - the "nano-Sim". This is also used in the iPhone 5c, 5s, 6, 6 Plus, 6s and 6s Plus. Because it's a lot smaller, if you have an iPhone 4 or 4s you won’t be able to simply swap Sim cards.

If you're upgrading from another handset to a newer iPhone, you could ask your network provider to exchange Sim cards, or try one of their shops, which should have nano-Sims available.

Try haggling for a better deal

Haggling on monthly mobile phone contracts can slash the price you pay. If you have a contract deal and you're nearing the end of your fixed term, the network will be frantic to keep you, so it's the best time to haggle. Long-term customers have a better chance at success here.

Our poll found the best mobile providers to haggle with are Virgin and Vodafone. See our guide on How To Negotiate to help you get a better deal. Bear in mind though it's harder to haggle on a contract for a new phone, especially one in as much demand as new iPhones are.

Get a cheap Sim-only deal

Already got an iPhone? If you're out of contract, you could stand to make serious savings by switching to a Sim-only tariff.

The main benefit of switching is that you won't pay an extra monthly cost for a handset - so your tariff price and overall costs will drop significantly.

Alternatively, if you're looking to buy a new iPhone and have the cash for the handset from Giffgaff (from £499 for the iPhone 6s* or £659 for the iPhone 6s Plus*) it's worth considering.

Find our up-to-date Sim-only top picks in the Cheap Mobiles guide.

Don't overestimate how much data you need

Apps on a smart phone

Smartphones are fast becoming the norm. If you use your phone to constantly search the web, you need to watch the amount of data you use. As more data-hungry apps are released, it's fair to question whether you'll chomp through your data allowance quickly each month and wind up paying a wedge for more.

For checking emails, looking at Facebook and watching the odd YouTube video, 1GB should be more than enough.

To give you a rough idea, MSE's Eesha says: "I have 1GB a month. I tend to use close to this limit but never go over. I generally just use Whatsapp, Facebook, emails, and check deals apps like Groupon, Wowcher, Quidco and the Paypal app."

Downloading videos, TV shows or other web-heavy apps may take you over your limit and cause you to incur heavy charges.

If you're worried about data use, try using the free Onavo app mentioned below.

Sneaky app gets you more from your data allowance

Onavo Android app

Heavy downloaders could end up paying out BIG if they exceed their download allowance. Some providers charge as much as 20p/MB if you go over your inclusive data limit.

Try the free app Onavo, which says it compresses data when web-browsing and using other apps such as Facebook and Twitter. This means the same amount of surfing will only use a fraction of your data allowance, avoiding any hefty fees.

More info about Onavo

Sell your old phone to fund your new one

Selling your old mobile could help you recoup some of the cost of your new one. There are two ways you can do this:

Flog your mobile for more

There's huge demand for secondhand iPhones, so it's very much a seller's market. Perhaps unsurprisingly, eBay* should be your first port of call if you're willing to put in a bit of (virtual) legwork. At the time of writing, an unlocked 16GB iPhone 5s in decent nick could fetch around £180, and an 64GB iPhone 6 about £350.

Flog your mobile in a hurry

If you want a guaranteed amount of cash to put towards your next handset (or something else entirely), mobile recycling sites are an easy option.

To save you the hassle of going door-to-door, our MobileValuer tool compares how much each of the big players will offer for your old phone, whether it's working or broken. Usually you'll get a bit less than what you'd get if you listed the phone on eBay. For example, at the time of writing, the most you'd get for recycling a 64GB iPhone 6 is £260.

Don't forget insurance saving

Accidents can and do happen. Because mobiles are worth so much more to us these days (and they cost a lot more), if you lose 'em, break 'em or have 'em nicked, it can be costly to replace them.

Onavo Android app

Insurers play on this fear with hefty prices and unnecessary cover. Yet you can get cheap insurance for your iPhone from £70/year.

Read the full Mobile Insurance guide for full info and best buys.

If your phone's stolen...

Report it to the police and let your network know as soon as possible.This is important to prevent unauthorised use of your service, and may also be critical for insurance claims.

Check coverage in your area

The quality of the signal you'll receive will depend on where you are. Across all the networks, big cities and towns should all have a decent 3G signal - and some may have 4G - while those in rural areas can struggle.

All the networks have coverage checkers on their sites, but these tend to be optimistic. Ofcom's research into 4G constitutes the most up-to-date objective info we have on coverage - view its Mobile coverage checker to see what signal strength will be like in your area.

Consider a secondhand or refurbished handset

Don't forget to check out secondhand models on eBay*. As an example, at the time of writing you can get a used 16GB iPhone 6s in good condition for around £400 on eBay, compared with a new one from Apple which costs £539. Make sure it's unlocked (see Mobile Unlocking for full info) though, so you can take advantage of super-cheap Sim-only tariffs.

It's also possible to get refurbished handsets on eBay or through some resellers online. These work just as new phones and come in new condition, plus they typically come with a manufacturer's warranty. Bear in mind that used handsets on eBay usually don't come with warranties.

Watch out for auto-insurance

Some retailers automatically add insurance to a mobile phone contract when you sign up online, regardless of whether you want it or not.

This has stung quite a few MSE users, so be sure to read all the small print, thoroughly, before clicking the 'buy' button.

These insurance policies are normally more expensive than standard insurance, and if there's no 'opt out' option - you must remember to cancel it as soon as you get your phone.

If you cancel over the phone, ask the company to email you with confirmation of the cancellation, so you have it in writing too. Read the full Mobile Insurance guide for how to get the cheapest standalone mobile cover.

Protect your iPhone and its data

Losing your data, photos and contacts is a nightmare. Yet there are a number of easy ways to protect your mobile and data, many of which are free.

Sim card padlock

Regardless of how expensive your phone is, the info you've got stored on it can also be mega-valuable, and it's a nightmare (and probably a lost cause) to retrieve contacts, photos, apps, games, messages back after losing a handset.

To beat this, free services can back up this crucial info before you lose it.

Back up to the web

Back up your computer

Via your network provider

Old school pen and paper route

Make use of free Wi-fi

Rather than using up your monthly download allowance, when you're out and about, find a free Wi-fi hotspot to use instead.

McDonald's, Starbucks and Wetherspoon pubs all offer free wi-fi access, plus check My Hotspots, Free Hotspot, and Hotspot Locations for more. There are thousands of free, legal wireless hotspots around the UK. See free Wi-fi for more info.

Get extra cashback on top

It's often possible to grab extra cashback on top when you sign up for a mobile phone contract. To get it, you need to sign up via a specialist cashback website rather than directly with the network provider. Cashback websites use affiliate links to generate revenue, so if they get paid when you sign up, you'll get paid.

Unfortunately this cash is never guaranteed, as sometimes cashback sites don't track deals in progress, so it's generally best to pick the right tariff first and view any cashback as an added extra. To find out more about how these sites can pay you, and how you can make the most of them, read the full Cashback Sites guide.

Retailer redemption cashback. Don't confuse cashback sites with cashback you can get directly through a retailer, through redemption. This kind of cashback isn't straightforward, and can often require you to send several copies of your monthly bills on certain days.

How to complain about your mobile provider

The mobile industry doesn't have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include limited network coverage, slow data speeds, unexpected charges and more. It's always worth complaining to your provider first, but if you have no success, then…

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Unfold Close   MONEY SAVING ON TRANSPORT

The train ticketing system is a farcePurple train. To keep your spending away from the buffers, you need to learn how to play the system with hidden tricks.

This guide has 20 sneaky ways to save on fares, including how to split tickets (you can use our free tool), beat booking fees, find hidden promotions and much more.

Book 12+ weeks early for the cheapest tickets

book 12 weeks early

Booking early is normally best - and the key is normally to start looking at least 12 weeks before.

Contractually Network Rail must have the timetable set 12 weeks in advance. So train operators commonly release cheap advance tickets shortly after. It's not always dead on 12 weeks though, often more like 10 or 11.

Some train companies are now starting to release advance tickets even earlier – with the caveat that times could change slightly. For example, Virgin East Coast releases advance tickets 24 weeks ahead for routes from stations north of York into London.

Get a free alert when tickets go on sale

If you know when and where you want to go, there's a sneaky way to be first in the cheap tickets queue. If you sign up and fill in your journey details withTheTrainline's* ticket alert system, you will get an email when cheap advance tickets for that specific journey come on sale (commonly the cheapest fares).

To help, National Rail has a future travel chart, showing the furthest away date in the future you can buy advance tickets for each train firm.

Split your tickets, not your journey

Used train ticketsThis is the big trick everyone should know. Instead of buying tickets for the whole journey, bizarrely, buying tickets for its constituent parts separately can slash the price – even though you're travelling on exactly the same train.

It's perfectly allowed within the National Rail Conditions of Carriage. The only rule is that the train must call at the stations you buy tickets for.

Save £219 on a London-Durham return

To show how this works, we unearthed this cracking example. For a London to Durham return, the cheapest ticket was an anytime return at £301. Yet the train stopped at York, so instead we found four singles:

Split Ticketing

The total cost for those tickets was just £82, a saving of £219. Just to clear it up…

It's the same train at the same time - the only difference is you've four tickets covering the journey rather than one

Full step-by-step guide to finding split tickets

Watch out if you need to change trains

In the rare event that you book specific tickets, your split ticket stop coincides with the station where you change trains, and your first train runs late, then your second ticket might not be valid for the next leg of the journey.

For example, if you travel from Aford to Cshire via Btown and split your tickets at Btown, but you need to change trains at Btown, then if the Aford to Btown train is late, your ticket may not be valid for the later Btown to Cshire train.

Finally, off-peak and super off-peak tickets require you to travel at specific times of day. If you split your tickets at a station where you change, and the delay takes you outside the off-peak time, you may have to pay again to travel during this time.

Free TicketySplit tool to find split tickets

While split ticketing gives massive savings on scores of routes, the problem's always been finding when it works. Now our split ticket tool uncovers hidden ticket combinations to cut the cost.

Just go to our new TicketySplit tool, tell it your journey, and it'll tell you where to split and the saving. This unique tool splits advance tickets as well as on-the-day tickets - often where the supersonic savings are.

Please feed back
Please add your feedback and successes to the TicketySplit forum discussion. If you spot any glitches, please email splitticket@moneysavingexpert.com, letting us know which mobile phone you're using.

Anything to watch out for?
As with all split ticketing, the train MUST call at all the stations you buy tickets to and from. Beware split-ticketing at stations where you change trains: if your service is delayed and you've a time-specific ticket, you may need to pay extra. See a full warning.

Quick questions

How do I buy split tickets?

Can you save by splitting a ticket more than once?

Can you split return tickets?

What if I'm delayed on the journey?

How does the tool make money?

Book early, late

Most people know buying train tickets before you travel is nearly always cheaper, but many don't realise you can often buy them right down to the wire. The golden rule is:

Always check if tickets are still available the night before - you may even be able to get some on the day

If tickets haven't sold out, one rail firm still let you buy advance tickets on the day. Many more let you buy the day before - so never assume it's too late. (Always make sure you'll have enough time to get your tickets beforehand as with some third party sites it can take up to two hours before your ticket's ready for collection.)

Here we've listed the cut-off points for advance tickets with each train provider. We update this table regularly but policies can sometimes change, so always check.

LAST TIME TO GRAB CHEAP TICKETS (IF AVAILABLE) TRAIN COMPANIES
On the day CrossCountry (up to 15 minutes before subject to availability),
11.59pm the day before Abellio Greater Anglia, Virgin East Coast, Grand Central, London Midland, South West Trains, Virgin Trains
6pm the day before Arriva Trains Wales, Chiltern Railways (at ticket offices; 9pm via website or app), East Midlands Trains, First TransPennine Express, Great Western Railway, First Hull Trains, Northern, ScotRail, Southeastern, Southern Rail.
Other Heathrow Express (1) Stansted Express (online only at least three days in advance), NI Railways Enterprise (5pm the day before travel; 72 hours for cross-border service), C2C (must be at least seven days in advance).
Advance tickets not available Gatwick Express (2), Merseyrail, Thameslink
Table correct as of 17 June 2016. (1) There are 14, 30 & 90 advance ticket options but Express Savers can be bought right up to boarding. (2) You can save 10% buying online

Spend over £90/year? Consider a railcard

RailcardsRailcards can cut a third off the bill. You can buy them on the Railcard site and most are usually £30 per year or £70 for three (works out at £23.30/year). So spend more than £90 a year, even on just one trip, and it's cheaper.

All railcards, except the Network railcard, also give you up to a third off off-peak rail and tube travel in London on Oyster pay-as-you-go, or on Day Travelcards. Just go to an underground ticket office with your railcard and ask them to register it to your Oyster card or buy a travelcard.

Check our Railcard Deals page for discounts.

Don't assume every journey's eligible for a railcard discount, although time restrictions never apply on weekends and bank holidays. Always check first, especially if travelling at peak times as these vary by operator.

UK railcards
TRAVEL DISCOUNT WHO'S ELIGIBLE RESTRICTIONS ON USE PRICE
1-YR 3-YR
A third off adult fares Under-26s or full-time students of any age Can be used any time, but travelling before 10am on weekdays the min fare after discount is £12. £30 £70
A third off adult fares; 60% off child fares

Up to four adults (aged 16+); up to four children (aged five-15)

Can't use it during the weekday morning peak period when travelling between stations in theSouth East and London. Must travel with a child to get the adult discount.

£30 £70
A third off adult fares for two named persons Over-16s

Can't use it before 9.30am on weekdays. Both named persons on the card must travel together.

£30 N/A
A third off adult fares Over-60s1 Can't use it in weekday morning peak hours when travelling between stations in the South East and London. £30 £70
A third off for you and an adult companion

You may qualify if you receive disability-related benefits and/or have certain disabilities. Your companion doesn’t need to be a carer.

None - you can use it across the entire National Rail network any time, any day. £20 £54
A third off adult fares and 60% off for children insouthern England Up to four adults (aged 16+); up to four kids (aged 5-15) Can't normally be used before 10am on weekdays, though some operators allow you to use it a little earlier. £13 min spend for adults from Mon to Fri. £302 N/A
1. Some local councils give discounts on the £30 cost of this card, so it's worth checking with yours first. Use Gov.uk's local council finder. 2. If you've a season ticket for London or south-east England, you qualify for a Gold Card, which gives similar discounts to the Network Railcard.

Got a season ticket for London or the South East? Get a free Gold Card

If you buy an annual season ticket for a route which starts and/or ends in the Network Railcard area (effectively London and the South East), or if you buy an annual Travelcard from Transport for London, you'll also get a Gold Card.

This gives a similar discount as a Network Railcard but also gives you a third off off-peak travel in London with an Oyster card - so you don't need to buy one separately. When you buy a qualifying season ticket, the pass given to you should also say "Gold Card" at the bottom. Those buying an annual Travelcard on their Oyster card will be given a separate Gold Card at the ticket office.

Just as with a normal railcard, you'll need to take your Gold Card with you to get the discount when travelling on eligible routes. To get the discounts on tube and London rail journeys, ask a London Underground ticket office to check a Gold Card discount has been loaded onto your Oyster card.

In Jan 2015, the benefits you get with the Gold Card changed - for one, you are now able to use it in across a wider area. For more info, see the National Rail website.

Regular traveller? Grab a season ticket

Regular rail users and commuters should always consider annual season tickets. National Rail's season ticket calculator is a nifty little tool to help you work out the cost.

The same journeys often have multiple season ticket options. Check them all, as it can make a real difference. A standard 12-month Bristol Temple Meads to London season ticket is £11,120. Yet if you restrict your travel to the Warminster and Salisbury route, it's £7,812.

Getting a season ticket on a heavy commuter route? Check if there are any split ticket options. It can be possible to save with two season tickets covering different journey legs.

Don't forget, if you've an annual season ticket inside the Network Railcard area, you get under-utilised extra perks through the Gold Card scheme.

To see how you might be able to save on the cost of your season ticket, read ourCheaper Train Season Tickets guide.

Singles can beat returns

Searching for train ticketsReturns should be better value but often aren’t. Lots of top deals are only available on one-way fares. It's very common that cheaper fares are available for two single tickets but not the return, so always check.

The web makes finding them easy as you'll often be shown both single and return fares.

Save £266 on a London to Manchester return

As an example, a search for a seat on a London to Manchester train, coming back the next day, brought up a standard anytime return ticket costing a whopping £332. A quick check instantly found that for the same journey, an outbound advance single ticket was £36, while coming back, a Manchester-London advance single cost £26 - a total of £62 for the journey.

Use the top UK train booking sites

There are seven main ways to search out cheap train tickets online. Bizarrely, different sites sometimes list different tickets, so for a belt 'n' braces check on a big fare, try a few.

The main UK-wide booking sites
BOOKING FEE CREDIT CARD FEE DEBIT CARD FEE DELIVERY FEE ADVANTAGES
FIRST CLASS SPECIAL DELIVERY
Virgin East Coast No No No Free1 £6.45
Virgin East Coast sells all train companies' tickets. *Postage is free if a station has no ticket collection machine.
Takethetrain.co.uk No No No £1 £6
Devoted train nerds on our forum rate this site, which clearly highlights the cheapest fares when you search.
RedSpottedHanky £1 per booking. No No N/A £10
Tesco points stashers can double their vouchers' value on RedSpottedHanky tickets.
Read more.
TheTrainline* Between 25p to £1.50 depending on ticket price. £1 per booking on mobile app. 2% of transaction or £1.50 on mobile app No £1 (for 2nd class post) £7.50
If you’re flexible, bash in your destination on its Best Fare Finder and it’ll hunt for the cheapest days and travel times.
Raileasy*

£2.50

4.5% (or 2.5% if charge is more than £5) No £1.501 £7.50
Sometimes highlights hard-to-spot deals, eg, when first class is cheaper than standard.
Train operators' own sites N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Check the relevant train firm's own site, as they often give discounts.
National Rail N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
It doesn't sell tickets, but it lists fares and has great depth of search. It links to train operators, most of which are fee-free.
1 You'll only be charged for postage if your departure station has ticket collection facilities and you choose to have your tickets posted.

Double Tesco vouchers' value on rail fares

Spend Tesco Clubcard vouchers on goods in its Tesco Clubcard Partners* list and their value’s up to quadrupled, so a £10 voucher becomes up to £40.

Use Tesco Clubcard for rail faresOne of the deals featured is with train ticket shopRedSpottedHanky. Swap a £10 voucher and it’s worth £20. It includes cheap advance fares and you can use your railcard. Sadly, there's a £1 booking fee.

In our check, prices were similar to elsewhere, so this is still a decent saving. To book, go to Tesco Partners*. The minimum order is £5 (for a £10 rail voucher) and vouchers are valid for six months.

Before doubling on RedSpottedHanky, check Tesco's Clubcard Partner list, as you may be able to quadruple vouchers' value elsewhere. See our Top 10 Tesco Partner Rewards.

Only pay peak for the bit that is

Train peak times are usually before 10am and between 4pm and 7pm. Yet if a long train journey's during peak time, even if a portion of it's outside peak time and you return outside peak time, you still pay peak ticket price for the whole return journey.

By following split ticketing based on time as well as distance, you can ensure you're only paying peak prices for the portion of the journey that's actually in the peak hours.

How much you can save... £76 off a Ldn to Manc peak train return

As an example, on testing a London to Manchester return journey leaving at 8.40am and returning at 6.35pm we found a standard return fare for £130. By splitting the ticket, at Milton Keynes on the way out and Stoke-on-Trent on the return journey, it knocks off £76 to the total fare.

This is because from Milton Keynes to Manchester on the way up, and Stoke-on-Trent to London on the way back, you're only paying for an off-peak fare, slashing the overall cost of the journey.

Grab £1 Megatrain fares

A bit like a pound shop for train tickets, Megatrain flogs hundreds of singles from £1 for routes across England, plus a 50p booking fee.

Wondering why there's a Megabus logo at the top of the Megatrain site? Its booking system's the same as Megabus coach tickets, probably because it hopes £1 train tickets will draw people in. Pick travelling by train in the dropdown, and it won't show bus fares.

Fares from a quid include Southampton to London and Bath to London.

Click to see ful map of Megatrain routesDon't worry, it's not a cheap 'n' cheerful train. The site is run by Stagecoach, which runs South West Trains and East Midlands Trains.

You're on the same service as everyone else, so for London to Bath Spa it's South West Trains.

What routes are included?

Megatrain goes to 19 destinations, via different routes.

There's no map or destinations list on Megatrain's site, but it's kindly allowed us to update an old map with all the latest routes and reproduce it here (see right)

Or check our list of all Megatrain routes

When can you get them?

While normal cheap advance tickets are released 10-12 weeks in advance, Megatrain only releases tickets 45 days before – handy for those booking later.

These are 'spare capacity' tickets, so there are more for less-popular times. Once the £1 tickets have gone, there are still uber-cheap fares, eg, £3, £5, £7. Popular routes sell like hot cakes, so make a note in your diary to grab the date you want.

Another crafty trick is to combine Megatrain fares with split ticketing. If Megatrain covers part of your journey, grab a Megatrain ticket for one leg of your journey and a cheap advance for the rest.

Grab ultra-cheap train deals

There are more promotional train fares available than people realise. For the ultra-cheap deals, you have to know where to look and be flexible.

We've a regularly updated list of super-cheap train promos, vouchers and codes. See Cheap Train & Coach Deals for full information.

Also check National Rail's local promotions index. Offers change all the time and include everything from Kids for a Quid with Southeastern to eight-week first class upgrades for mums-to-be with Greater Anglia.

Get cashback on all train tickets

Cashback credit cards pay you back each time you spend on the card. They are a great way to shave down the cost of transport, especially as some now offer boosted cashback, but ALWAYS...

Set up a direct debit to repay the card in full each month, so you never pay interest, which would outstrip any gain.

The reason card companies offer cashback or reward schemes is simple. They want to encourage you to spend on the card and pay them interest. The interest cost of all cashback cards dwarfs the cashback you'll earn. For full details on what to consider before applying, see Top Cashback Cards.

Here's one of the top ones:

Amex Logo

5% cashback for the first 3 months on National Rail & TfL

AMEX PLATINUM EVERYDAY*

The American Express* Platinum Cashback Everyday card is the top fee-free card, especially if you've big spending to do in the next few months, as it has a great introductory rate, then tiered ongoing cashback. The 5% cashback covers all purchases, including spending on public transport.

  • To get the maximum intro cashback, you need to spend £2,000 within three months.
  • After the intro offer's over, you'll automatically be put onto the tiered spending rates: £0 to £3,500 gets 0.5% cashback (the initial £2k spend counts towards this). From £3,501 to £7,500, you get 1%. All spending above £7,501 gets the full 1.25% cashback.
  • You need to spend at least £3,000 to get any cashback at all.
  • The introductory 5% rate is not available to existing Amex Card members.
  • Set up a direct debit to pay in full every month when you get the card, otherwise any cashback you earn will be quickly eaten up by the 22.9% representative APR.

ELIGIBILITY CALCULATOR
(MSE's free tool)
APPLY*
(at lender site)

Protect your credit score and check chances of getting card

  • Cashback: 3mths 5% (max £100) | Tiered up to 1.25% after
  • Paid out: On card anniversary
  • Max cashback/year: N/A
  • Annual fee: None | Min spend: £3,000 per year | Card issuer: Amex
  • Rate: 22.9% representative APR (See Official APR Example)
  • Min income: £20,000

Each time you apply for one of these cards, you'll be credit-checked by the lenders. Multiple applications in a short period can affect your future ability to get credit. Read full details in the Credit Rating guide.

The easy way to pay off in full

It's easy to do this via a direct debit, which allows the card company to take a variable monthly amount to correspond with what you owe it. Sadly some providers deliberately omit the 'pay off in full' option from direct debit forms, as it makes them less money. If it's missing from your form, just write in "pay off in full" yourself. They should honour it, but call up after a week or so and check it's worked.

There are a few credit cards around which pay a boosted rate of cashback for train tickets. Check out the top overall picks in the Top Cashback Cards guide - as they may be suitable if you spend big in other areas.

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Buying a car is no trivial matter. If you don't plan to buy a house, a car may very well be the most expensive purchase you'll ever make -- one that you'll spend several years paying off. And unless your bank account is somewhere in the neighborhood of Warren Buffett's or maybe Scrooge McDuck's, you don't want to spend more money than you really need to.

But car buying can also be an intimidating experience. How do you know you're getting a good deal? How can you be sure you aren't making some crucial mistake that will lead to spending thousands of dollars more than you have to in order to get the car of your dreams? There's no magic formula for getting the best deal on a car, but on the next few pages we'll give you some common sense tips for improving your chances of getting a terrific car without driving yourself (literally) to bankruptcy.

1.- Shop at the Right Time of Year

It's a truism that the best time to buy a new car is in the early fall, just before the new models come out. Dealers need to clear out space on their lots for new inventory and are willing to sell the old cars at rock-bottom prices just to get rid of them. This isn't as true as it used to be, simply because computerized inventory control practices have helped dealers to minimize overstock, but it's still a good practice. You should think about buying a car in September or October. That's because enough new models come out over the summer to make that a good buying period. If the particular car you want is about to begin a new model year, that's the time to make your move.

However, some dealers claim that the best time of all to buy a new car is mid-to-late December, when dealers are offering special bargains to push up their end-of-year sales figures and attract the crowds of shoppers on their way to the mall. Keep your eye on the local automobile dealer ads right before Christmas -- and right after the holiday as well.

2.- Buy a Good Car That Isn't Selling Well

It's no secret that the last few years haven't been good ones for the automobile industry -- or for the economy in general. People still need to buy cars, of course, but there are some good cars out there with flagging sales. It's to your advantage to find out which ones they are because dealers might be willing to give you a better price to move their inventory on those particular models. Be sure to do your research: Look at reviews of cars, look at sales figures for the cars that get good reviews -- and see if some well-regarded car that fits your needs isn't selling well. Then give serious thought to buying one. The dealer may be very glad to see you and give you a price that will make your visit worthwhile.

3.- Buy a Car Online

You wouldn't necessarily want to buy a car online the way you'd buy a book from Amazon.com -- sometimes it's better to check out the car in person before you buy it and only then have it shipped to your doorstep. But there are several Web sites, including Consumer Guide Automotive, CarsDirect, Cars.com and AutoTrader, that let you read automobile reviews, see what actual owners have to say about these models, and then search the local dealers near your ZIP code to see what kind of price the best cars are being offered for. You can do all of this from the comfort of your very own computer chair. And if you really do want to buy your car directly from the Web site, some will give you that option, too. With a greatly reduced overhead cost, these sites can offer some impressive bargains.

4.- Be an Informed Buyer

Needless to say, all of the tips in this article involve researching the cars you want to buy -- to see how they match up to the competition, to see how well they're selling and to see who's offering the best price. But the importance of knowing a lot about the car you want to buy can't be overstated. Before you walk into a dealer, you should have a pretty good idea of what you're looking for and what specific car is most likely to deliver it.

In particular, it's always useful to learn how much the dealer is actually paying for the car. It's unlikely that you'll be able to buy it for less than the dealer's cost and you don't necessarily want to insult the dealer by insisting that they sell the car to you at a loss. But you'll also want to know if you're paying too much. If the dealer sees that you know when a car is overpriced, you're in a better position to bargain for a better deal.

5.- Treat the Salesperson with Respect

Sure, we all have an image of automobile salespeople as fast-talking con artists who will say anything in order to enhance his or her commission. There may even be a few salespeople out there who really do fit that description. But the truth is most are just trying to make a living. And if you'll make their life easier by being polite and uninsulting, they'll usually return the compliment by helping you find a deal that will be profitable for both you and them. Remember our last tip, though: Do your research ahead of time. If the salesperson realizes that you have the knowledge that a good car buyer should have, then they'll treat you with respect too.

And if they don't -- well, just remember they're probably not the only dealer in town.

For more information about buying a new car and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.

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Unfold Close   MONEY SAVING ON UTILITY BILLS

Soaring line rental costs and out-of-contract pricing has 'really hammered' consumers

An estimated 15 million households are overpaying for their broadband by around £100 a year by languishing on expired contracts, a survey suggests.

Out-of-contract prices have increased by 38 per cent for copper and 19 per cent for fibre broadband while in-contract prices have changed barely at all since 2011 – just £1.12 for copper broadband and 54p for fibre.

This means those who have not moved to new contracts are collectively overpaying by £1.5bn a year, uSwitch.com said.

Consumers on expired deals are paying an average of £105 a year more than those who are on a current contract, while fibre broadband customers who are out of contract are overpaying by an average of £79, the comparison site calculated.

The site said it estimated that around 15.5 million households had not switched in the last three years due to a combination of simply forgetting, underestimating out-of-contract charges, confusion or a fear of broadband downtime, and were therefore paying the unnecessarily high prices.

Meanwhile, line rental, which must now be advertised as part of the overall price of a new broadband contract, has increased by 37 per cent in five years, meaning it is £58 a year more than in 2011. Both Sky and BT recently announced broadband price increases.  USwitch broadband spokesman Ewan Taylor-Gibson said: "A combination of soaring line rental costs and out-of-contract pricing has really hammered broadband users over the past five years. The good news is you don't have to put up with it.

"Check your bill and make absolutely sure you're still in contract, because anyone who isn't is likely paying through the nose."Most broadband contracts are 12 or 18 months long, so if you've not moved in the past year, you might well find you're out of contract and paying, on average, 38 per cent more than everyone else."

Source: The Independant, UK

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Too many stick with their broadband provider through thick and thin, overpaying by £100s a year. If that's you, it's likely you can do the double whammy of boosting your package while massively slicing your bills.

Check your broadband and line rental cost now – people on standard deals typically pay BT £468/yr, TalkTalk £302/yr, Sky £329/yr and Virgin £444/yr. The deals below can bring it down to £198 over a year plus you get a £90 voucher.

What is broadband?

These days broadband is the standard way of connecting to the internet. Originally people used to dial up over their phone connection. Broadband uses a broader range of frequencies and allows more information to be carried than old dial-up connections.

There are two main types of broadband:

  • Home broadband: This is hard-wired into your house. It's either carried through your phone line (known as ADSL) or by cable. This is what this guide focuses on.
  • Mobile broadband: This isn't generally as fast or reliable, but as it's via the mobile networks, it's far more flexible. If you're looking for that, see our Mobile Broadband guide, which includes how to find free hotspots.

With home broadband, it's important to understand that while the information is carried via your phone line, you can still use the phone while you're online – and the broadband connection is always on.

ADSL is an abbreviation of asymmetric digital subscriber line – which just means broadband through a phone line. A splitter, or filter lets you use the line for broadband and telephone calls at the same time. Superfast broadband is supplied over optical fibres, as used for cable TV.

Internet broadband speed is measured in megabits per second (Mb) – that's the speed at which data is transferred over the line.

Switching broadband can save £100s

Many people have a broadband provider they're comfortable with and stick with it for ease. But this becomes a licence for providers to print money, as older packages are more expensive and tend to allow lower downloads at slower speeds.

Assuming you already have home broadband (if not, read on to choose), it's crucial to work out what you're paying and the service you're getting. However...

Never just look at your broadband cost. Always look at your phone line rental too. Often, the services are interlinked, so cheap broadband can mean a costly phone service.

Here are some typical costs the big networks are charging for long-standing deals. By contrast, using the best deals in this guide, you can often get broadband and home phone for around £17 a month.

Typical standard broadband and line rental costs

PROVIDER

STANDARD MONTHLY BROADBAND COST

STANDARD MONTHLY LINE RENTAL COST

COST PER YEAR FOR BOTH

BT

£20

£18.99

£468

Sky

£10

£17.40

£329

TalkTalk

£7.50

£17.70

£302

Virgin (fibre)

£19

£17.99

£444

Switching broadband used to be a little tricky, but new rules introduced by Ofcom in June 2015 have simplified the process for many. See the Ofcom implementing easier telecoms switching MSE news story for more details – we explain how it works in the questions below.

Quick questions

Can I ever leave my contract early without penalty?

How long does it take to switch provider?

What do I actually need to do to switch?

What if I have problems setting up my new broadband?

How do I find out what customer service is like?

What if the broadband isn't in my area?

Six things you need to know to slash broadband costs

If you only read six things about broadband before you switch, read these.

Faster advertised speed doesn't mean faster broadband

Remember advertised speeds are just that – "advertised". A provider only needs a paltry 10% of customers to get a certain speed before it can list it.

While providers may tell you their service is "up to" 17Mb, many won't get near that speed. The actual speed you get depends on a number of factors:

  • How close your home is to the phone exchange.
  • The condition of the lines and wiring.
  • The number of people using the same broadband service in your area (the contention ratio).
  • Providers slowing speeds during busy hours or if you're a really heavy downloader (traffic shaping).
  • The number of people/devices trying to get online in your house.
  • What you're currently doing and programs running in the background, such as your browser streaming a movie clip.

Many things help to boost your speed for free without switching. Try using a shorter cable from socket to router, cheap household signal boosters and plugging in instead of using Wi-Fi for big downloads. There's a full checklist of tips and tricks in Broadband Speed Boosting.

Check your broadband speed – you have rights, if it's slow

Our 60-second guide on Broadband Speeds goes through the four steps to find out if your broadband's speed is fully up to scratch, and what you can do if it's not. Briefly...

  1. The 'Actual Speed Test'. Take a free speed test online to find what speed you're actually getting – Broadbandchoice's Speed Tester* and Ookla's Speedtest.net are good options. Try at different times of the day to get a range.
  2. The 'Line Speed Test'. The regulator Ofcom has a Telecoms Coverage Checker, which shows the maximum speeds capable down the line (not necessarily in your home) at any given postcode.
  3. The 'Covet Thy Neighbour's Broadband Test'. uSwitch's StreetStats* will show the actual speeds those in the area are getting in their home, broken down by provider.
  4. The 'Minimum Guaranteed Speed Test'. Most providers have joined a code of practice committing to providing a tailored speed estimate before sign-up. If you're getting "significantly below" this, you may be able to exit your contract penalty-free.

You should always call up and try to resolve things with your provider directly. If this doesn't work, go through its official complaints procedure – the free complaints handling tool Resolver can help you with your complaint.

Aim for unlimited data or it'll cost you

Our data use has rocketed. Catch-up TV and movie streaming hoover it up, and since some packages have download limits, this can be costly. If you just use the net for light browsing, emails and the odd YouTube video, you'll probably be fine with a limited 10GB package.

Yet web watchers, beware. Watching an episode of Game of Thrones in HD's roughly 1GB, equivalent to looking at thousands of web pages. If you've got a 10GB limit, it isn't long before it’s all used up and you're paying extra charges. With BT you pay £1.50/GB when you go over the limit.

So check your bill now for penalty charges. If your download limit isn't enough, switch to the super-cheap versions below. These days the vast majority of the cheapest deals are unlimited anyway.

To track how much data you're downloading, get a free bandwidth monitor – tryRokarioNetmeter and TbbMeter.

Do you need fibre-optic?

Superfast broadband allows much faster speed with greater consistency. While phone line speeds rarely match the 'up to' figures firms boast of, fibre gets closer.

More of us are using more data online and because of this we need more speed. For simple web browsing and email, common 16Mb connections will do the job. But if you use it for lots of movie downloads, streaming videos, online gaming, or if everyone at home wants to connect at once, you will need superfast.

Fibre broadband is still being rolled out across the UK. As a general rule, most big cities and towns have access to superfast broadband from a few different providers. Other areas (especially rural districts) may not have access to fibre broadband at all.

To see if you can get superfast, see superfast best buys below. Alternatively, enter your postcode on Broadbandchoices* and click the fibre broadband tab (if there's no tab, it means you can't get it).

Should you get a broadband and line rental bundle?

Never just look at your broadband cost in isolation. Always factor in your phone line rental as well – even if you get them separately. Many cheap broadband deals require you to take costly line rental, but only advertise the sexy broadband price in the headline. The deal to pick depends on which category you fall into:

  • Only got landline for broadband? Unless you've got Virgin cable, you need a landline for broadband at home. Our poll of 25,000+ people showed 73% of under 65's don't have a landline or rarely use it.

Millions feel forced to keep it just for broadband. If so, cut the cost and just go for a cheap bundle. Alternatively, you don't need line rental for Virgin superfast – see Cheapest broadband without a landline below.

  • Still use your landline to make calls? If this is you, you'll need to factor in call costs when choosing line rental.

But you can make massive savings on call costs to landlines, mobiles and overseas without changing phone line by using specialist access numbers. See Cheap Home Phones for a full how-to and best buys.

Check if you're under contract and haggle your bill down or your speed or package up

If you signed up to broadband in the last 18 months, or longer in rare cases, first check if you're still in your contract period. If so, double-check that leaving doesn't breach your contract before switching. Exit penalties may kibosh savings. If you're planning to move home soon, check if your new contract's portable, or consider a no-contract deal.

Before you ditch your current provider, remember broadband's a mature market and companies are frantic to keep hold of customers, so...

Just call up, threaten to leave and your existing company will often offer kick-butt discounts.

Say you want to move to a new provider and it'll automatically lead to a 'why are you leaving?' chat. It should put you through to what we call 'disconnections' but they call 'customer retentions' – these operators have serious discount-giving power.

If you're still in contract and it isn't worth leaving, check what speed you're actually getting and compare it to the advertised speed you're paying for. See our Boost Broadband Speed two minute check. If you're getting less than advertised ring your provider and ask for a better package, such as fibre, a discount or another concession.

  • We polled 4,000 MoneySavers to see where hagglers had most success. Companies where hagglers revealed over 76% success rates included TalkTalk, Sky and Virgin. See full results.

For more tips and the top companies to haggle with, see Haggle With Call Centres.

Best buy broadband deals

Below are our top picks. These are mainly price-focused, and these deals are only for those that live in the providers' network areas (typically about 90% of the population). If your local BT exchange hasn't been opened up to rival firms ("unbundled"), you'll pay more.

Best buys : Unlimited broadband & line rental

Broadband usually requires a landline, and rather than getting your broadband and line rental from different companies, at the moment it's possible to get them as a 'bundle' for £198 for a year plus you get a £90 voucher. All of the cheapest deals listed below also offer unlimited broadband, so you don’t have to worry about going over your download limit.

It's also worth checking cashback sites as sometimes you can get more cashback on top of the below offers. Check deals are the same and be aware that if the site doesn't track properly you may miss out on the cashback.

Broadband & line rent £198 for 1yr, get £90 vch*

IF LINE RENT PAID UPFRONT. PAID MONTHLY, IT'S £219

  • Available to: 97% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb 
  • Download limit: Unlimited 
  • Traffic shaping? No 
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? No
  • New line installation: £25

Since it was hit by a high-profile hack in October, TalkTalk's been doing its best to gain new customers with some attractive deals, though whether people will trust it after the brand damage is yet to be seen. In our last customer service poll 47% scored it 'poor' - it's worth thinking about before you make your choice.

Until Thu 28 July, newbies to TalkTalk's Simply Broadband* can get unlimited 'free' up-to-17Mb broadband when they take TalkTalk's line rental on a 12-month contract. This is how it works:

  1. Sign up now. Go via this specific link*.
  2. Choose to pay for line rent upfront. If you can afford to it's cheapest to pay £191.16 for a year upfront (equiv £15.93/mth), otherwise it's £17.70/mth. Once you have a login to your online account you can select Value Line Rental to pay upfront.
  3. Unlimited broadband's 'free' for the entire 12mth contract. After this it'll rise to £7.50/mth – so diarise to switch at this time. You get a 'free' compulsory router, though you must pay £6.75 for p&p.
  4. £90 Love2Shop voucher. Once the broadband's live, the voucher will be posted to you automatically within 28 days. Love2Shop can be used at Argos, Boots, Debenhams, Superdrug etc - see the full Love2Shop list for all retailers. You won't get the voucher if you need a new line installed or you're not switching from Sky, Plusnet or BT. Read more on how to ENSURE you get the voucher.

Add up one year's upfront line rent and router p&p and it's £197.91 for 12 months, equivalent to £16.49/mth. If you're paying line rental monthly it's £219.15 for the year or £18.26/mth. Plus you'll get the £90 Love2Shop voucher.

If you'd spend that at one of the shops anyway, factor it in and it's effectively £107.91 over 12mths, equiv to £8.99/mth (paid monthly it's £129.15, equiv to £10.76/mth).

- What about calls? No calls are included but you can get anytime calls to UK landlines and mobiles for £5/mth for 12 months. You'll be charged £7.50 per month unless you cancel before the end of your contract. Calls over 60 mins are charged so hang up and call back. See call costs for full info.

- Need a new line? If you don't have a line or only have a cable one (or in a few cases other lines), installation is £25. However you won't be eligible for the Love2Shop voucher.

B'band & line rent £303 for 1yr, get £150 back*

IF LINE RENT PAID UPFRONT. PAID MONTHLY IT'S £326 FOR A YR

  • Available to: 99% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb 
  • Download limit: Unlimited 
  • Traffic shaping? No 
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? Weekend
  • New line installation: £30

Until Thu 28 July, BT newbies (those who don't currently have broadband with it) can get its Unlimited Broadband + Weekend Calls* package on a 12-month contract. It's the second offer down.

Here's how you get it:

  1. Sign up now. Go via this Cable.co.uk link*.
  2. Choose to pay line rent upfront if you can afford to. It's cheapest if you pay the £205.08 year's line rent upfront (equiv £17.09/mth), if not it's £18.99 monthly, you choose which option during the application.
  3. Unlimited broadband's £7.50 for 12 months. You get a 'free' BT Hub router, though you pay £7.95 p&p. If you stay after the contract ends the broadband jumps to £20/mth.
  4. £100 Mastercard BUT you must claim it. Frustratingly you need to register for the Mastercard via this online form once the broadband's activated, it's then posted within 45 days.
  5. £50 cashback BUT you must claim it. You'll need to register via this online form for the cashback once the broadband's activated. The cheque is then posted within 45 days. Make a diary note with a copy of these links – BT WON'T remind you. Seefull details of how to claim.

The total cost including broadband, line rental upfront and router is £303.03 for the year, equivalent to £25.25/mth or £325.83 if you pay line rent monthly – equivalent to £27.15/mth.

If you factor in the £100 Mastercard and £50 cashback, the total cost is £153.03 for the year, equivalent to £12.75/mth or £175.83 if you pay line rent monthly – equiv £14.65/mth.

What about calls? Weekend calls to UK landlines are included. If you want extra calls, add-ons start from £3.50/month. Full info on call charges below.

- No line/switching from cable? Installation's £30.

- Want BT Sport? Lite's included – the full shebang is £6/mth or free with BT TV.

Broadband and line rent £294 over 18mths*

IF LINE RENT PAID UPFRONT. PAID MONTHLY IT'S £323

  • Available to: 90% of the UK 
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb 
  • Download limit: Unlimited 
  • Traffic shaping? Yes 
  • Contract length: 18 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? No
  • New line installation: £49.99

Until Tue 26 July, new Plusnet customers, or those who've not been with it in the last month can get an 18-mth contract with BT-owned Plusnet* which includes line rental, unlimited downloads with up-to-17Mb speed broadband.

It's a strong performer in our customer service poll - 62% rate it 'great', only 15% 'poor'. The deal's available to 90% of the UK based on postcode (you're told when applying), but you can't get it if you're already a Plusnet customer (or left in the last month). Here's how it works...

  1. Sign up. Use this specific link*.
  2. Choose to pay line rent upfront if you can afford to. It's cheapest if you pay the £185.88 year's line rent upfront, it's then £17.99/mth for the remaining six months (equiv £16.32/mth). If not it's 16.99/mth until 1 September, £17.99/mth after. You choose which option during the application.
  3. Broadband's 'free' for the 18-month contract. If you stay after the contract it's £9.99 or £17.49/mth depending where you live so diarise to switch at this point.

If you pay a year's line rent upfront, add on six months line rent at £17.99/mth it's £293.82 over 18 months (equiv £16.32/mth). Pay line rent monthly and it's £16.99/mth (£17.99 from September 1). If you factor in one month at £16.99 and the remaining 11 months at £17.99 it's £322.82 for the 18 months (equiv £17.93/mth).

- What about calls? No calls are included – calls to other UK phones are mostly slightly cheaper than BT (a bit more than BT from 1 Sept, see Plusnet charges).

No line/switching from cable (or in a few cases, Sky cust)? Installation's £49.99. You'll know before committing.

Need a router? An optional 'free' one is available, though it charges £6.99 for package & posting. It's worth checking whether your router is compatible and whether you need to unblock it first. Read Plusnet's FAQ on this.

» Read more

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If you’re enjoying an ice cream in the sun, winter energy bills may seem distant, yet energy price hikes means this could be your last chance to switch to the cheapest deals, as they're disappearing. But, act now and you could save £300 a year.

We've shouted about it for years, but the cheapest deals are for switchers, vastly undercutting the rest. This guide tells you how you can switch.

CHAPTER  I -Now's a great time to switch energy tariff

Even though EDF, British Gas, Npower, E.on, Scottish Power and SSE shaved just over 5% off their gas prices earlier this year, if you're on a big six standard tariff, you're still massively overpaying.

And our research suggests the price cutting trend has reversed, and the cheapest deals are disappearing - likely due to Brexit and the weak pound. Back in May, someone with typical usage could lock their energy for just £724, and there were five firms offering tariffs under £750 a year. Now, the cheapest fixed deal is £758 for a year’s usage.

1.- Compare to find YOUR cheapest price (plus possible cashback)

The winner depends on where you live and your usage, so use our Cheap Energy Club top picks comparison to find YOUR exact winner (plus £30 switchers dual fuel cashback) – it only take five minutes. Here's an example of savings...

The Cheapest Dual Fuel Deals (based on typical usage)
Find YOUR cheapest & YOUR SAVING via Cheap Energy Club

TARIFF

SUPPLIER

COST/YEAR

EXIT FEE

CASHBACK VIA CHEAP ENERGY CLUB

Typical big six standard tariff (1)

-

£1,063

-

-

Cheapest one-year fix with no exit fees

Avro Energy

£758

None

None

Cheap one-year fix

GB Energy Supply

£780

£30 / fuel

None

Cheap two-year fix

Places for People

£842

£30 / fuel

£60 dual fuel / £30 single

Tariffs correct as of 14 July 2016. Based on Ofgem calculations for medium usage. All tariffs assume monthly direct debit. Varies by region. (1) Estimated average across the big six.

2.- Energy switching Q&A

Worried about the pitfalls of switching? Here's a quick video on how to avoid them- https://youtu.be/mm3IjUWgDTs  As well as the video, we've also answered the most common switching questions posted on TwitterFacebook and ourforum. See the answers below.

  • - Comparing shows a fix'll cost me more – should I still do it?
  • - I have a prepay meter. Can I switch or fix my energy tariff?
  • - Should I take a short, cheaper fix, or fix long? I can't decide
  • - How much did prices drop in 2016?
  • - Switching questions, including 'I'm in debt, can I switch?' and 'Is it a big hassle?'

CHAPTER II - Get CONSTANTLY cheap energy with MSE's free Cheap Energy Club

Our Cheap Energy Club is designed to keep you constantly on the cheapest tariff – fighting the fact most cheap deals only last 1-2 years before their rates rise. It does this by...

  • Finding you the cheapest deal. If you're already on it, great. If not, it'll help you switch. You usually get £30 cashback on top for a dual fuel switch or £15 cashback for switching just gas or electricity.
  • Then constantly monitoring your tariff. Each month, without you doing anything, we do a background comparison to check yours is still cheapest.
  • Alerting you when it's time to switch (again). If you can save money switching either because your rate's changed, or others have, we'll tell you.

Energy bills work a bit like phones – you have the standing charge (like line rental, you pay it regardless) and the usage charge (like calls). Many who go away for some of the year want to avoid a standing charge – so Cheap Energy Club now lets you compare all 'no standing charge' tariffs.

Cheap Energy Club's results also show which tariffs will and which won't be eligible for the Warm Home discount. This is a Government discount of £140 you can get during winter - if you qualify. It also shows which tariffs are made of 100% renewable electricity.

And finally, in the past our alert emails went just to the person who registered, but lots of you said you wanted somebody else copied in, so we've added that function too. Do it when you register, or add them to the account details page if you're already a member.

Comparison sites don't always show all tariffs by default

It's also possible to get cashback for switching from comparison sites. Bear in mind though that some comparison sites by default only show you tariffs you can switch to via them (ie, where they're paid commission). This filters out some results –Cheap Energy Club shows you ALL those available by default.

If you do use a comparison site always make sure you've selected the option to show all available tariffs to get the full picture before making a decision. 

For more help switching energy via comparison sites click here

CHAPTER III - Not switched for a while?

A recent CMA investigation into the energy market found that 70% of big six customers are still on expensive standard tariffs, paying an estimated £1.4 billion a year more on average than they would on more competitive tariffs.

To encourage switching, the CMA announced proposals to force suppliers to give Ofgem details of everyone that has been on standard tariffs for more than 3 years. This will be entered into a database to allow rival suppliers to contact customers by letter and offer cheaper deals based on their actual energy usage

But don’t worry about spam, the CMA say you will be able to opt out of being contacted by post, and you will only be contacted electronically if you explicitly choose to opt in.

These measures are expected to be finalised by the end of the year, and will likely be implemented at the beginning of 2017.

CHAPTER IV - Switch to monthly direct debit to save £75

Fixed monthly direct debit payments, where you pay a fixed estimate each month, can usually save you £75/year as companies are sure you won't default and they earn interest on any overpayments. So if you can do this, go for it. Depending on your supplier, any overpayments are refunded automatically or on request.

Plus don't assume dual fuel (getting gas & electricity from one supplier) is cheapest. When comparing, check the cheapest separate suppliers too.

CHAPTER V - FREE insulation & boilers

Energy efficiency can seriously cut bills. There are wads of freebies on offer from energy providers, from new boilers to loft and cavity wall insulation.

It's all part of their efficiency obligations to people in certain groups. The full Free Insulation & Boilers guide has more, but below's a taster of what you can get and what it'll save you.

  • Boiler replacement or repair. Heating accounts for around 60% of what you spend in a year on energy bills. The more efficient your boiler, the more heat it produces from each gas unit.

Depending on your boiler's age, a shiny new efficient one could save you up to £350/year. New boilers typically cost £2,300 – a fabulous freebie.

  • Cavity wall insulation. Most homes built since 1920 have a gap between internal and external walls. Filling the cavity with insulating mineral wool and foam means cold air's kept out, and warm air stays in. It can save an average three-bedroom home up to £160/year.
  • Loft insulation. Up to a quarter of your home's heat escapes via the roof, but you can solve this by laying mineral wool under the rafters, saving up to £140/yr.

CHAPTER VI - Got electricity only? You can still save

If you don't have a gas supply, don't think the rules are different. If you only have electricity you can still save serious cash using the comparisons. Use Cheap Energy Club or the other comparison sites listed above to compare electricity prices.

CHAPTER VII - How to save if you're on a key/card meter

While a push from the Government means it's getting better, those on prepayment (key/card) meters are still pretty hard done by, certainly compared to those who pay by direct debit. If possible, switch to a billed meter. You may have to pay, but the savings are usually worth it.

Often they won't let you though, due to credit score or income difficulties. For full info on how to ditch a prepayment meter for a credit meter, or if you can't, how to save on a prepay meter, see the full Cheap Prepaid Gas & Elec guide. If you can't get a normal meter, you can switch and save (compare prepay tariffs).

» Read more

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If you're with BT, Virgin Media or TalkTalk, chances are you're paying too much. It's possible to slash line rental down to an equivalent £13.50/month and daytime calls to 5p each, plus get half-price calls to mobiles - saving £100s a year.

No one phone provider is cheapest, so this straightforward guide shows you how to make sure EVERY call you make is at the lowest possible rate.

Cut home phone costs

This guide includes standalone line rental best buys, as well as bundled best buys for line rental and broadband, via comparison sites such as Broadbandchoices*,MoneySupermarket* and uSwitch*, as well as MSE Blagged deals.

Quick tips to slash costs without switching

For the really big savings, you'll need to switch providers. But there are plenty of ways to trim bills without moving.

  • Pay by direct debit. Most providers will charge extra if you pay by cash, cheque or any method other than direct debit. Virgin Media, for example, charges £5/month for non-direct debit payments.
  • Check social tariffs. If you're struggling financially or have a disability that makes using a landline difficult or necessary, speak to your provider. It may have a social tariff that will minimise the cost of using your landline.

For example, the BT Basic* tariff is available to those on certain benefits (though who gets it is at BT's discretion) and costs £15.30/per quarter. It includes £4.50 worth of calls to other landlines. Outside the allowance, calls cost 11.3p/min plus a connection fee of 3.3p/per call.

  • Free web-to-web calls. You can talk to anyone, anywhere worldwide for free via the net. Programs such as Skype let you use headsets and webcams to speak to your friends (see the Free Web Calls guide). Don't assume this means web-to-phone is cheaper though, as sometimes there are costs involved.

The rest of this guide assumes you're calling from a normal phone, not via the web.

  • Know your peak. Always check when peak and off-peak is. In 2010, BT and TalkTalk moved their peak times from 6am-6pm to 7am-7pm, meaning their users lost an hour of cheap early evening calls.

PROVIDER

PEAK TIMES (DAYTIME)

BT

7am - 7pm

TalkTalk

7am - 7pm

EE

7am - 7pm

Sky

7am - 7pm

SSE

7am - 7pm

Virgin Media

7am - 7pm

Post Office

6am - 6pm

  • Ditch caller ID. Historically, if you used another service for calls (while still paying BT for line rental) you were able to make chargeable calls by dialling the prefix 1280 which routed calls through BT, keeping the caller ID service free. It's no longer possible to do this with all providers, so ditch caller ID to keep costs down.
  • Put down/redial. Unfortunately, almost all "unlimited" call packages are, in fact, limited. While they may say free calls in the evenings, actually that's usually only up to the first hour or so. After that, they're billed. The easy way round this is to put the phone down before the deadline's up, then redial.

PROVIDER

FREE CALL DEADLINE

BT

60 mins

TalkTalk

60 mins

EE

60 mins

Sky

60 mins

SSE

70 mins

Virgin Media

60 mins

Post Office

60 mins

  • Mobile "call-back" pact. Free minutes on mobiles include calling landlines, but inclusive calls with landline packages DON'T usually include calling mobiles. So if you have free minutes, agree a call-back with friends if one of them calls a mobile from a landline.
  • Use an override provider. It's possible to cut call costs without switching provider. Use a no-frills override provider, where you dial a prefix number to connect to its service, then pay its cost. This can cut costs from 5p/min to 35p/call, and slash mobile rates. Full detailsbelow.

Say no to 0870. Most major providers include 0870 numbers as part of their inclusive call plans, though not all (with 0845 numbers it's more mixed). See the full table here.

There are ways to cut costs if your provider doesn't include them, or you're calling outside of your call plan. See the Say No To 0870guide for full info.

  • Check your package. Don't automatically pay for an "unlimited anytime" call plan if you're not going to use it. BT's standard package, BT Unlimited Weekend, includes free calls at the weekend, for example. Pay a little bit more and you'll get evening and weekend calls.

The next level up is "anytime" calls, which means daytime calls to landlines are included too - with BT it's £7.95/month. As a rough rule of thumb, it's only worth taking it if you make over an hour of peak-time calls each month. Of course, you can undercut this deal by switching.

Home phones: Choosing a package

There are some good home phone deals on the market at the moment, including cheap line rentalupfront line rental and line rental with broadband.

If you're planning to switch, always contact your existing provider first, as it may offer to beat/match any deal you've found.

What's a "BT line"? The term "BT line" doesn't necessarily mean your home phone service is provided by BT. All providers - apart from Virgin Media, which has its own fibre optic network - use BT's copper wire network (overhead phone lines from telegraph poles to your home).

So even if you pay line rental to the Post Office or others, behind the scenes the actual line is provided by BT Openreach. When it comes to getting a "BT line" installed, there are a number of options available - take a look at the dropdown below for more information.

Landline installation options and top deals

Not every package is available at the cheapest price everywhere - it can vary with location.

Best buys: Cheapest line rental paid monthly

If you haven't switched your landline provider, and you're out of contract, you could save over £4/month on line rental when switching from BT to the cheapest deal on the market. But remember to factor in call costs if there aren't any calls included with the line rental.

Post Office: £16/month*

INCLUSIVE WEEKEND CALLS TO UK LANDLINES & 0845/0870 NUMBERS

  • Price: £16/month
  • Inclusive calls: Weekend landlines
  • Length of free calls: First 60 mins
  • Connection fee: None
  • Allows override providers? Yes (home phone only, not broadband customers)

The basic Post Office* Home Phone package is £16/mth on a 12-month contract, and gives inclusive weekend calls to UK landlines.

The Post Office's home phone service did well in our Jan 2016 customer service poll, with 49% of customers rating it "great".

Direct Save Telecom offer a cheaper monthly line rental at £14.95/mth but only if you sign up to an 18-month contract. It also comes with inclusive weekend calls.

Best buys : Cheapest line rental paid by year

If your provider offers the option - and many including BT, TalkTalk, and Plusnet do - paying upfront is usually the cheapest way to get line rental. For example, you can save £22/yr on BT compared to paying monthly. However, it doesn't mean an upfront deal is necessarily the cheapest overall package for you.

Warning - beware paying upfront. There's a risk of losing your cash if the provider goes bust. This risk is bigger with smaller companies.

Direct Save Telecom: £162/yr (equiv £13.50/mth)*

FREE WEEKEND CALLS TO UK LANDLINES & 0845/0870 NUMBERS

  • Price: Equiv £13.50/month
  • Inclusive calls: Weekend landlines
  • Length of free calls: First 60 mins
  • Connection fee: None
  • Allows override providers? No

If you're happy to pay for a year upfront, Direct Save Telecom* offers the cheapest deal on the market. A year's upfront line rental costs £162, equivalent to £13.50/mth. Weekend calls to landlines (max 60 minutes - if you need longer, hang up then redial) and 0845/0870 calls are included.

Direct Save Telecom isn't as big as other providers so we don't have much feedback on its customer service. However, it has been established since 1999 and has provided line rental since 2004.

Post Office: £168 (equiv £14/mth)*

LINE RENTAL, FREE WEEKEND CALLS TO UK LANDLINES & 0845/0870 NUMBERS

  • Price: Equiv £14/month
  • Inclusive calls: Weekend landlines
  • Length of free calls: First 60 mins
  • Connection fee: None
  • Allows override providers? Yes (home phone only not broadband customers)

If you pay £168 for a year's line rental upfront with the Post Office*, you'll get it for the equivalent of £14/mth, including weekend calls to UK landlines. This works out cheaper than it's standard option paying monthly, which is £16/mth - £192 over a year.

The Post Office's home phone service did well in our Jan 2016 customer service poll, with 49% of customers rating it "great".

BT Line Rental Saver: £205.08 (equiv £17.09/mth)*

GOOD FOR BT CUSTOMERS WHO DON’T WANT TO SWITCH

  • Price: Equiv £17.09/month
  • Inclusive calls: Weekend landlines
  • Length of free calls: First 60 mins
  • Connection fee: None
  • Allows override providers? Yes

This pay-in-advance option from BT* is only available with online paperless billing. You must set up a direct debit to cover call charges.

This isn't the cheapest pay-in-advance option, but for the many BT customers who don't want to switch away, it offers huge savings on BT's standard line rental.

More providers' upfront line rental costs compared

PROVIDER

UPFRONT COST

COST IF PAYING MONTHLY

INCLUSIVE CALLS?

ANNUAL SAVING VS PAYING MONTHLY

EE Yearly Line Rental Saver

£189, equiv £15.75/mth

£17.50/mth

Yes - weekend

£21

Virgin Media Line Rental Saver

£184, equiv £15.33/mth

£17.99/mth

Yes - weekend

£31.88

Plusnet Line Rental Saver

£185.88, equiv £15.49/mth

£16.99/mth

None

£18

TalkTalk Value Line Rental

£191.16, equiv £15.93/mth

£17.70/mth

None

£21.24

Best buys : Cheapest with broadband

Many phone providers offer competitive bundled deals - for comparison, remember BT's basic line rental alone costs £18.99/mth. See Cheap Broadband for more deals.

Broadband & line rent £198 for 1yr, get £90 vch*

IF LINE RENT PAID UPFRONT. PAID MONTHLY, IT'S £219

  • Available to: 97% of UK
  • Speed: Up to 17Mb 
  • Download limit: Unlimited 
  • Traffic shaping? No 
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? No
  • New line installation£25

Since it was hit by a high-profile hack in October, TalkTalk's been doing its best to gain new customers with some attractive deals, though whether people will trust it after the brand damage is yet to be seen. In our last customer service poll 47% scored it 'poor' - it's worth thinking about before you make your choice.

Until Thu 28 July, newbies to TalkTalk's Simply Broadband* can get unlimited 'free' up-to-17Mb broadband when they take TalkTalk's line rental on a 12-month contract. This is how it works:

  1. Sign up now. Go via this TalkTalk link*.
  2. Choose to pay for line rent upfront. If you can afford to it's cheapest to pay £191.16 for a year upfront (equiv £15.93/mth), otherwise it's £17.70/mth. Once you have a login to your online account you can select Value Line Rental to pay upfront.
  3. Unlimited broadband's 'free' for the entire 12mth contract. After this it'll rise to £7.50/mth – so diarise to switch at this time. You get a 'free' compulsory router, though you must pay £6.75 for p&p.
  4. £90 Love2Shop voucher. Once the broadband's live, the voucher will be posted to you automatically within 28 days. Love2Shop can be used at Argos, Boots, Debenhams, Superdrug etc - see the full Love2Shop list for all retailers. You won't get the voucher if you need a new line installed or you're not switching from Sky, Plusnet or BT. Read more on how to ENSURE you get the voucher.

Add up one year's upfront line rent and router p&p and it's £197.91 for 12 months, equivalent to £16.49/mth. If you're paying line rental monthly it's £219.15 for the year or £18.26/mth. Plus you'll get the £90 Love2Shop voucher.

If you'd spend that at one of the shops anyway, factor it in and it's effectively £107.91 over 12mths, equiv to £8.99/mth (paid monthly it's £129.15, equiv to £10.76/mth).

- What about calls? No calls are included but you can get anytime calls to UK landlines and mobiles for £5/mth for 12 months. You'll be charged £7.50 per month unless you cancel before the end of your contract. Calls over 60 mins are charged so hang up and call back. See call costs for full info.

- Need a new line? If you don't have a line or only have a cable one (or in a few cases other lines), installation is £25. However you won't be eligible for the Love2Shop voucher.

B'band & line rent £303 for 1yr, get £150 back*

IF LINE RENT PAID UPFRONT. PAID MONTHLY IT'S £326 FOR A YR

  • Available to: 99% of UK
  • SpeedUp to 17Mb 
  • Download limit: Unlimited 
  • Traffic shaping? No 
  • Contract length: 12 months
  • Deal requires line rental? Yes
  • Inclusive calls? Weekend
  • New line installation£30

Until Thu 28 July, BT newbies (those who don't currently have broadband with it) can get its Unlimited Broadband + Weekend Calls* package on a 12-month contract. It's the second offer down.

Here's how you get it:

  1. Sign up now. Go via this Cable.co.uk link*.
  2. Choose to pay line rent upfront if you can afford to. It's cheapest if you pay the £205.08 year's line rent upfront (equiv £17.09/mth), if not it's £18.99 monthly, you choose which option during the application.
  3. Unlimited broadband's £7.50 for 12 months. You get a 'free' BT Hub router, though you pay £7.95 p&p. If you stay after the contract ends the broadband jumps to £20/mth.
  4. £100 Mastercard BUT you must claim it. Frustratingly you need to register for the Mastercard via this online form once the broadband's activated, it's then posted within 45 days.
  5. £50 cashback BUT you must claim it. You'll need to register via this online form for the cashback once the broadband's activated. The cheque is then posted within 45 days. Make a diary note with a copy of these links – BT WON'T remind you. Seefull details of how to claim.

The total cost including broadband, line rental upfront and router is £303.03 for the year, equivalent to £25.25/mth or £325.83 if you pay line rent monthly – equivalent to £27.15/mth.

If you factor in the £100 Mastercard and £50 cashback, the total cost is £153.03 for the year, equivalent to £12.75/mth or £175.83 if you pay line rent monthly – equiv £14.65/mth.

What about calls? Weekend calls to UK landlines are included. If you want extra calls, add-ons start from £3.50/month. Full info on call charges below.

- No line/switching from cable? Installation's £30.

- Want BT Sport? Lite's included – the full shebang is £6/mth or free with BT TV.

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Solar panels can mean big bucks. Photovoltaic panels generate electricity from the sun, and not only do they cut down on your energy bills, you can get paid for generating energy too.

However the Government slashed payouts on 8 February, which means for many people, the sums are much less likely to add up. This guide takes you through whether solar panels are right for you and how much you can earn.

CHAPTER I - Solar panel need-to-knows

"Solar power? Hang on, we don't live in California!" True, but it's all about daylight, not sunshine. Panels can still generate some electricity on gloomy days, vital when the weather's as dull as watching paint dry.

Before you stick them on your home, understand these key need-to-knows:

I.- There are two types of solar panel

The type we're talking about is photovoltaic solar panels – also known as solar PV – which catch the sun's energy and convert it into electricity that can be used to power household goods and lighting. The other type is solar thermal, which allows you to heat water and can cut down heating bills.

This guide shines a light on solar PV, as that's where you can earn money through generating your own electricity through the 'feed-in tariff', as well as save on your electricity bills. According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, over half a million British homes have panels installed.

II.- You need a south-facing roof

To maximise what your panels can make, you usually need a predominantly south-facing roof. If your roof faces south-west or west you'll still get some benefit, but it may be less effective and you might not get the maximum savings.

While some early or late shading from other buildings or trees is okay, your roof should be unshaded between 10am and 4pm.

III.- You need a grade D Energy Performance Certificate

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rates a building on its energy efficiency, from A (highly efficient) to G (inefficient). Once you get one, it's valid for 10 years. The amount you get paid for generating electricity depends on your building's rating, and you'll need one to register for feed-in payments.

If you've got a grade D or above, you'll be able to bag the full feed-in payment. From February, that'll be 4.39p/kWh. If your property scores below a D you'll only be eligible for a lower rate of 0.87p/kWh though.

So if you're assessed and rated E or lower, it's worth making the advised improvements to reach grade D before you register for the feed-in payments – remember, the feed-in rate is guaranteed for 20 years once you've registered. The Government has an online tool to help find an accredited assessor.

IV.- You can still switch energy supplier

Don't, for heaven's sake, think this locks you into your energy provider so you can't get cheaper bills (join the MSE Cheap Energy Club to stick on permanently low prices).

The feed-in tariff is supported by a number of suppliers, as it's mandatory for those with over 250,000 customers. Ofgem has a list of all of them on its website. Yet you don't need your energy supplier to be the same as the supplier that pays your feed-in tariff, so you're free to switch around.

V.- The further south you live, the more you can make

While you don't need a summer home in Hawaii to get some juice from solar panels, the further south you are can make a difference when it comes to their effectiveness. Remember, this is about daylight, not hours of sunshine. Northern homes get slightly less, so where you live needs to be factored in.

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that panels in Manchester could earn you and save a combined £295/year on bills, compared with around £325/year in London and £280/year in Edinburgh. See Does buying solar panels add up? below for full analysis.

VI.- Panels could push your house's value up or down

Some people worry that ugly panels plastered all over their roof could push the price of their house down. However, equally, a more efficient home generating its own energy may be more attractive to buyers.

Solar panels are a fairly hefty investment and might not be suited to those planning to move in the next few years – certainly you shouldn't expect a big upfront investment to be immediately reflected by a jump in your home's value.

Be wary that being tied in to a contract that remains with the property once you've left could be unattractive to buyers, whereas a buyer's ability to benefit from the feed-in tariff once they move in might make your house more appealing.

Think about how visible the panels are and ask local estate agents for their experiences before installation. When we asked the National Association of Estate Agents for an overview, it told us:

VII.- You shouldn't need planning permission

You don't generally need planning permission for solar PV systems. The big exceptions are if your property has a flat roof, is listed or in a conservation area. You might need to get approval from your council's building control team, so check with your local authority.

In England and Wales, the Government's Planning Portal says that panels are likely to be considered as "permitted development".

VIII.- Solar panels are generally low-maintenance

The Energy Saving Trust says little maintenance is required on a properly installed, well-designed solar PV system, though you'll likely need to replace the inverter – a gadget which is a key part of the mechanism – within about 20 years (£800ish).

Of course, though, things can go wrong. Check the installer warranty you get covers the 20 years you'll be getting the feed-in tariff. If the panels are damaged by something unexpected, like a storm, you may also be covered by buildings insurance – check with your insurer before you have them installed and bear in mind you may need to increase the sum insured.

IX- Use your solar panels at the right time and you'll max their value

Once you've got your panels installed and they're up and running, make sure you make the most of them by using them at the right time.

For example, in the winter, when there's less sunlight and you'll generate less solar power, you'll take more energy from the grid. It's a good idea to set appliances to run while it's light outside, staggering them to max the savings.

For tons more top tips from solar nerds, read the forum's Make the most of solar panels thread.

CHAPTER II.- Does buying solar panels add up? Can you recoup the outlay?

Whether they add up for you is all about how much you're paid back later down the line to cover your initial spend via electricity savings or government payments for you generating electricity.

I.- How much do they cost?

This is the key point to start with. The price of a typical solar panel system, including installation, is now around £5,000-£8,000. In the scheme's early days, a system this size used to cost £10,000-£12,000.

II.- How much can you make back?

There are three ways to recoup the outlay...

  1. Electricity savings. First and foremost, you can use the electricity your panels generate, thus reducing your electricity bills. The Energy Saving Trust estimates a typical 4kWp system can knock off around £65 from a family's bills each year.

Savings depend on the system size, electricity use, whether you're at home during the day to use the energy you're producing and other factors. If you can use more energy during the day when the panels are generating, you'll save even more as you'll need less electricity from the grid.

  1. The 'feed-in tariff'This is a payment from the Government (but paid via an energy supplier) to pay households in England, Scotland and Wales for ALL the electricity they generate – whether you use it or not. The rate is 4.39p/kWh. Before rates were slashed in February 2016, you used to get 12.03p/kWh.

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There are a lot of freebies on offer from energy providers if your home qualifies, from new boilers to loft and cavity wall insulation.

This guide shows how to grab these crocks of gold, including current offers, who can get them and how to apply.

CHAPTER I.- What can you get?

"Free stuff" – we're talking £1,000s worth – is a sexier phrase than "Energy Company Obligations (ECO) scheme", but they're the same thing. Generally, freebies are only for people who get tax credits and have an income of £16,010 or less, or those who are receiving certain benefits such as pension credit. Many big energy providers are giving away:

  • Boilers: typically costing up to £2,300, you could get one free if you satisfy providers criteria – full info.
  • Loft and cavity wall insulation: worth around £700 combined – full info.

Quick questions:

Why do energy providers do this?

What options are there in Northern Ireland?

I rent my property – can I get the freebies?

I live in a flat. Am I still eligible?

CHAPTER II.- Free boilers

A new boiler typically costs £2,300, according to the Energy Saving Trust, so this is a fabulous freebie. If your boiler isn't inefficient, just broken, you may be offered a repair rather than a new boiler.

The offer includes fitting, though there may be an extra cost if an engineer needs to carry out extra work – for example, if it needs moving or you need extra radiators. You should be told about this beforehand.

Who can get it?

You're likely to qualify if:

  • You get tax credits and have a household income of less than £16,010 and...
  • You receive income-based benefits, such as pension credit or income support, and you have children, a disabled person in the household, or are over 60.

You won't be able to get a free boiler if you live in a housing association property or are a council tenant. Instead, this will be arranged through their own schemes.

The criteria are complex, so a quick way to check if you qualify is to call the Energy Saving Trust advice service and answer a few basic questions on 0300 123 1234 (England and Wales), 0800 1422 865 (Northern Ireland) or 0808 808 22 82 (Scotland). Also see providers' criteria in How to get it.

How do I get a free boiler?

Just call a provider for a free assessment. You're free to pick any energy company offering the deal – you don't need to be a customer.

All deals are ongoing, with no limit on the number of free installations. If you apply, we'd love to hear your free boiler experiences.

What's offered by each provider?

How much can you save?

The Energy Saving Trust say heating accounts for about 60% of what people spend each year on energy bills, so an efficient boiler makes a big difference. Depending on your boiler's age, a shiny new efficient one could save you up to £350/year.

It's likely new boilers are top of many homebuyers' wishlists, so this could boost your house price, too.

Quick questions

What kind of boiler do you need to have?

How long will it take?

CHAPTER III.- Free loft and cavity wall insulation

Cavity wall and loft insulation is worth around £700 and can slice about £300 off energy bills each year, and energy firms are offering them free to certain groups.

  • Cavity wall insulation. Most homes built since 1920 have a gap between internal and external walls. Filling the cavity with insulating mineral wool and foam means cold air's kept out, and warm air stays in.
  • Loft insulation. Up to a quarter of your home's heat escapes through the roof, but you can solve this by laying mineral wool under the rafters.

Who can get this?

Some providers give insulation away to suitable homes regardless of income, while some require you to be receiving certain benefits such as pension credit. See providers' eligibility criteria below.

You may not be able to get free cavity wall and loft insulation if you live in a housing association property or are a council tenant. The idea is they will arrange to do this for you though their own schemes.

A quick way to check if you qualify is to call the Energy Saving Trust and answer a few basic questions on 0300 123 1234 (England), 0800 512 012 (Wales) or 0808 808 22 82 (Scotland).

How do I get free insulation?

Just call a provider for a free assessment. You're free to pick any provider – you don't need to be a customer. Below is a list of the big six providers that offer free insulation.

How much can you save?

The Energy Saving Trust reckons cavity insulation typically costs £400 to £500 to install (including building work), and can save an average three-bedroom home up to £160/year on its bills. Loft insulation costs about £300 and can save £140/year.

Quick questions:

Will my house be suitable for cavity wall insulation?

I don't qualify for free insulation, how can I get it cheaply?

If you don't qualify for the schemes above, look for an installer on the National Insulation Association site. As a benchmark, the Energy Saving Trust reckons cavity insulation typically costs £450 to £500 to install, and loft insulation about £300.

The DIY route could work out cheaper for loft insulation at about £150. For more help, Homebuilding magazine has a handy step-by-step guide to insulating your loft.

CHAPTER IV.- Other ways to cut your energy bill

Also ensure you're on the cheapest energy tariff and do the energy-saving basics:

  1. Consider fixing to beat price hikes

  2. picture of money jar

Despite recent cuts to gas prices from all the big six, energy prices are up overall. Locking in with a cheap fix is one way to avoid future price hikes, and cut costs now – especially if you're on a standard tariff.

Our Cheap Energy Club checks you're on the cheapest deal and handles the switch for you. Plus to encourage you, there's up to £30 extra if you switch via Cheap Energy Club.

It's the same gas, the same electricity, the same safety. All that changes are the customer service and the price you pay. For more on this, plus top fixes, see our Cheap Gas & Electricity guide.

 

  1. Thrifty heat-saving tips

If you wander round the house in boxers or bra 'n' knickers with radiators on full and windows wide open... STOP IT.

Sensible changes can save you large, from insulating your chimney to notching down the thermostat. Here are a few thrifty ways to keep your home toasty.

Make your own sausage dog draft excluder

Stuff your chimney

Line curtains with cheap fleece

Keep doors closed

Put shelves above radiators

Don't leave the heating on low all day

Put reflective panels behind radiators

For more tips, join the Old Style forum board's Prepare for winter thread. Also see theGreat Energy-Saving Hunt and our Energy Mythbusting guide. If you use heating oil to heat your home, you can save, too. Follow the simple steps in Cheap Heating Oil.

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Unfold Close   MONEY SAVING ONLINE

Amazon Buying Tips

Amazon's the biggest name in online shopping. Some may gnash their teeth because they think the company's tax structure means it avoids paying its fair share of the UK tax bill. Yet, for many, it's a one-stop convenience store and the first place they look.

This guide has 22 tricks to help slash prices, as well as the Amazon Discount Finder Tool (above), which finds secret 75%+ off bargains on electronics, clothes, beauty and more. You can also track price reductions and beat delivery charges.

Take 20 seconds to check that Amazon is REALLY cheapest

Amazon BirdieThe Amazon* business model is that it's a one-stop shop. It's tempting to do all your shopping in one easy sweep, but you can often undercut it.

In the same time it takes to search Amazon, shopbots (shopping robots) whizz through scores of internet retailers to find the cheapest price. Our MegaShopBot.com tool searches the best of these for each category.

For a full guide to slashing the cost of buying anything and everything online, see the 40+ Online Shopping Tricks guide.

Check whether you're buying from Amazon or its Marketplace

If goods say "sold by" someone other than Amazon, then they're Marketplace – a trader selling via Amazon.

  • Delivery can cost more. Items bought from Amazon Marketplace aren't eligible for free Super Saver Delivery (normally you get this on items costing more than £20). Delivery charges vary sharply, so always check.

  • Know your rights. If there's a problem with the item or you want to return it, you need to go to the seller first, not Amazon. Items must be of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and as described though. See the Consumer Rights guide for more.

    If there are any problems, Marketplace purchases are covered by Amazon's buying guarantee. It reimburses you if goods don't arrive or aren't as described (up to £2,500 in value, including delivery).

    But you won't be covered under Section 75, which usually covers items worth between £100 and £30,000 which are paid for with a credit card. The fact Amazon takes the money then passes it onto the retailer means you don't get that protection.

Explore Amazon's secret bargain basement

Amazon often offers 75% and better discounts, yet it directs people to other, higher profit margin products instead.

There's a geeky way to manipulate Amazon's web links to display all heavily-reduced bargains. All you need to do is fiddle with Amazon web addresses to bring up lists of knock-down prices.

The problem is these are a faff to make yourself. So we built the Amazon Hidden Discount Finder tool (above). It creates your own bespoke pages in seconds, where you choose the discount and department.

Top tips for using the Amazon Discount Tool

When searching for treasure, don't just look at the first page of bargains, try a few. Try higher percentage discounts for cheaper, smaller items and lower percentages for niche, expensive ones.

Just because something's listed with a huge discount, it doesn't make it a bargain or worth buying.

Before you try the tool, here are some top discount links we made earlier:

Popular hidden Amazon discount pages

SECTION AND DISCOUNT SECTION AND DISCOUNT
Fragrance* 75%+ off Jewellery* 80%+ off
Fashion accessories* 75%+ off Shoes* 80%+ off
Watches* 50%+ off Digital cameras* 50%+ off
Electronics* 90%+ off White goods* 15%+ off
TVs* 25%+ off Undies* 80%+ off
Power tools* 55%+ off Gardening* 55%+ off
Clothing* 85%+ off Beauty* 70%+ off

Tool finds cheap items to help you hit £20 for free delivery

If an item costs under £20 and is from Amazon itself (not a Marketplace seller), check the delivery cost. It can be anything from £1.49 to £6. So it may be worth buying something small you need that costs less than that to take you over the £20 free delivery threshold.

To help, a cunning new Super Saver Delivery tool (developed by ex-MSE team member Adam) scours Amazon for small filler items to bump up your order to £20. Simply enter your basket total and it displays a list of items with prices close to the cost of the difference. For example:

Imagine Lois Price wanted a £19.73 hairdryer – she'd face £6.01 delivery, a total of £25.74. The tool reveals she could add a 29p paint brush, so she’d only pay £20.02 – saving £5.72 and getting a brush into the bargain.

Do the maths. If the total price you pay getting the extra item is less than your original price plus delivery, it's worth it. As a rule of thumb, always check if you're spending £14-£19.99. The tool just shows a selection of items in the relevant price bracket, so tap in a few basket totals close to yours for more options.

Items bought from third parties on Amazon's Marketplace do count towards the £20 free delivery threshold if they are marked as "fulfilled by Amazon".

Also see how to beat delivery charges with a free Prime trial below.

amazon super saver

Free price-drop alerts monitor when it's cheapest

Our hidden discount finder's proved hugely popular. Yet, as we've warned, just because Amazon lists it as reduced, it doesn't make it cheap. Before you buy, plonk any item's Amazon URL (its web address) into CamelCamelCamel, which charts Amazon price changes, to show if the 'was' price is realistic.

As an example, we found Kraken rum '25% off' at £24.65, but the tool showed it was £23 two months ago, so the deal ain't all that.

Results can be fascinating. Hit the buttons to remove different seller types or drag the timeline to adjust the date range.

Get alerts when prices drop

Amazon prices often yo-yo up and down, and when they're cheap, things sell out quickly. CamelCamelCamel lets you enter your desired price and fires off an email when Amazon hits it.

Simply pop an item's URL into it, and enter the maximum price you want to pay. It will e-mail when the price falls to that amount or lower.

Alternatively, Zeezaw works in a similar way. Sign up, create a list with the max price you want to pay for Amazon items, and it sends emails when the price drops.

Tool scans prices on Amazon's European sites to find goods cheaper

curiua

Buying from Amazon's European sites rather than Amazon UK can be much cheaper – particularly given the strong pound at the moment. Clever tool Curiua checks prices across Amazon's sites in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, converts them into pounds and compares them to the UK.

Forumite deanos used it in Feb 2016: "I bought a Philips sound system for £230 delivered from Amazon Germany. Was selling for £450 over here."

The best deals tend to be on high-end electricals. Prices jump up and down, so always double-check.

When is it worth it?

As a rough rule of thumb, it can be worth buying from Amazon's EU sites if you'll save more than £10. Delivery varies, but it's usually £5 to £10. In the UK, you get free Super Saver delivery when spending over £20 on Amazon (usually not Marketplace sellers).

Curiua can be glitchy and didn't always display every result when we checked. So if you're buying something expensive, it's worth checking the EU sites individually too.

Here are the key tips for buying from Europe:

  • Translate the page. Most web browsers (including Chrome, Explorer and Firefox) do it at the click of a button. Voila!
  • Shipping costs vary. They aren't included in the comparison.
  • If you change your mind... You've got 14 days after receipt to change your mind, and another 14 days to send the item back. You've got a bit more time with Amazon – its returns policy usually gives 30 days on the EU sites above too.
  • If it's faulty... You should be able to get a refund, replacement, repair or reduction in the cost with similar rules to buying in the UK.
  • Beat exchange rates. Pay in euros using a specialist overseas card and you get the same near perfect exchange rate that banks do.
  • Use a credit card for £100+ purchases. Then, under Section 75 laws, the credit card is jointly liable if things go wrong (excluding Marketplace sellers).
  • You can't buy some things. Amazon blocks you from buying some products, such as Kindles, from abroad. Amazon Marketplace sellers may not ship abroad either.
  • Don't forget about European plugs. Adapters cost as little as £1.
  • Try Amazon Austria and Amazon Netherlands too. They're not on Curiua.

You can buy from Amazon's sites outside Europe (Priceonline.eu works like Curiua but compares Amazon US too), but you may need to pay customs, plus consumer rights vary.

Grab 2,000+ free apps and games plus free in-app purchases via Amazon Underground

It's possible to get over 2,000 Android mobile apps and games totally free, including free in-app 'purchases', via theAmazon Underground* app.

Big-name freebies include Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (usually £8), OfficeSuite Pro (usually £12) and Goat Simulator (£4 – yes, you do play the goat). And the extras can be worth more than the apps themselves – eg, in Frozen Free Fall, you could spend a total of £18 unlocking bonus features, but these are free via Underground.

Warning. Underground apps are free with no in-app purchase costs. Yet the app also has a tab for Amazon's standard app store too, where some charge. To be safe, look for the 'Actually Free' banner.

Why does Amazon do this?

This is a pretty decent deal given you can get lots of paid-for apps and games totally free – but there are a few things in it for Amazon too:

  • The Underground app's basically the same as Amazon's shopping app, with an Underground tab. So they hope you'll buy more products/apps while you're there.
  • Amazon says you'll sometimes see ads when the app starts.
  • Like many apps, you'll have to give Amazon permission to track app usage, text messages, location and contacts. Yet it goes further – Amazon can also send/receive texts, take photos and make videos. So you need to decide if it's worth it.

    Some folk think this is excessive, eg, business technology website Information Week says: "The list of permissions for Underground is daunting. The cost of free looks a lot like privacy." See a full list of permissions and what it does with them.

How to get it

If you have an Android mobile, follow the steps below. (It's already preloaded on Fire tablets.)

  • Download the Amazon Underground app to your Android mobile directly from the Amazon Underground page*. (You won't find it on Google Play.)
  • The app will prompt you to change your settings to install from unknown sources. (If not, go to Settings, Security and scroll to Unknown Sources.) This can leave phones more open to viruses – so only download it if you're happy with that.
  • Open the app and scroll to Underground Apps on the menu to download freebies – check out bestsellers for inspiration.

If you have trouble downloading it, go to Amazon's help page. Underground's available on Amazon's Fire HD and Fire HDX tablets, but not other tablets or iPhones.

Beat delivery charges with a free Prime trial

Amazon used to give free delivery if you spent £10, now it’s a £20-minimum. The exception's books, which still have a minimum free delivery threshold of £10.

If you don't qualify for free delivery, the charge depends on the category, and is usually £1.49 to £6. (If spending under £20, also see the new tool below that helps you find small filler items to hit the threshold.)

How to get a free Prime trial

Prime gets you unlimited free one-day delivery, and Amazon* offers newbies a free one-month trial of the service. The beauty is you can sign up, order, then just cancel the trial before Amazon charges you.

Only do this if you are super-organised and will remember to cancel though, otherwise £79 will be taken from your account.

Read more on how to grab a free Prime trial.

Been hit by an £79 charge for unwanted Amazon Prime? How to get a refund

We're swamped with complaints from people who unwittingly paid £79 for Amazon Prime membership, so we wrote a How to get your £79 back guide.

Forumite Tianna is just one of the successes: "I followed instructions from your weekly email and got £79, thanks."

'Free' £1 digital credit trick for Prime members (incl those on a free trial)

free-digital-credit

Prime members can currently grab £1 digital credit (for movie streaming, Kindle ebooks, etc) EVERY TIME they spend £3 or more on Amazon*. You just need to opt for three-to-five day No Rush Delivery, instead of Prime members’ usual free one-day delivery, at checkout.

You get one £1 credit per transaction, so split orders and buy each thing over £3 separately.

People taking a free Prime or Amazon Student trial are eligible, though it excludes Amazon Marketplace purchases.

Amazon adds the credit to your account when the order’s dispatched - it's then applied automatically when you buy from the Instant Video, Kindle, App or Digital Music stores. You can stack the £1s, eg, use three to bag a £3 eBook. The credit has an expiry date though (click 'Details' next to the delivery option to see when).

Amazon is staying tight-lipped on the specifics, including when the deal ends.

Double-check the delivery option so you don't pay more by default

While Amazon lists free delivery on some products, you must select the 'free super saver delivery' box at checkout. If not, the default delivery option is first class.

If you are willing to pay for first class, you can collect your item from selected local Post Office branches. See Amazon to deliver to Post Offices MSE news story.

Reclaim 17 YEARS of lost music

lost musicIf you've bought CDs or vinyl, you're entitled to the downloads for nowt back to 1999.

To recover 17 years of lost music, just login to your Amazon Music library to see if you’ve any past tracks available. As forumite JHL1959 told us: "Crikey, it's given me 182 albums, that's 2,367 tracks. Amazingly, I still like a lot of them - cheered me up."

It’s not always such a success though. GingerJuice says:: "Thought it was brilliant then realised I'd bought the mother-in-law a Susan Boyle CD last year... ugh."

You soon won’t have to pay annually for Prime – but it’ll cost you more

Amazon recently announced that soon all UK customers will be able to opt for a monthly subscription of its one-day delivery service (plus other benefits – see below for what it gets you) for £7.99/month, instead of the £79 annual fee.

While this means paying less upfront, it'll cost you more over the course of a year – £95.88 compared to £79 upfront.

This is still a lot of money though, so consider whether you really want Prime; a recent Twitter poll of ours indicated the majority don't. You may find it encourages you to spend more online (precisely what Amazon wants you to do).

Of course if you just want to try it out for a bit or want it for the run-up to Christmas (and you've already used the free trial), paying monthly might be a better option, especially as you cancel at any time.

Quick questions:

What do I actually get with Amazon Prime?

I want to pay for it monthly but haven't been offered this – how can I?

Get free Amazon vouchers with credit cards or charge cards

cash cardA few credit cards reward spending with loyalty points that can be swapped for Amazon vouchers.

The Amex Gold* charge card gives you 20,000 reward points if you spend £2,000+ on it within three months, enough for a £100 Amazon gift card. There's normally a £140 annual fee, but it's waived in year one, so if you don't want to pay, cancel before year two.

A warning – this is a charge card, so you must repay IN FULL every month, else you'll face a £12 charge and a credit file default. Amex will do a credit check when you apply. See Credit Card Freebies for more.

Earn Amazon vouchers with online surveys and competitions

If you're willing to give your views on things like drinking habits, celebrities, lingerie or the latest moisturiser, you could earn Amazon and other gift vouchers by doing online surveys. All you have to do is put the hours in filling in surveys online.

Dedicated survey do-ers earn £200ish a year from home, and several sites pay you in Amazon vouchers. For a full list of the top paying online survey sites, see theEarn from Survey Sites guide.

If you're feeling lucky, another potentially rewarding hobby is to enter free online competitions to win Amazon vouchers. Read our Comping guide to find out how.

Students can get six months' free one-day delivery (plus 5% off with NUS cards)

student dicountThe Amazon Student* club is a version of Prime specifically for, well, students. It gives those aged 18+ who are in higher education access to free one-day delivery, Amazon's video and music streaming services, its Kindle lending library and photo storage - plus some student-specific discounts.

It costs £39 a year for membership (compared with £79 (or soon £7.99/month) normally), but students can get a six-month trial free (excludes Kindle lending library).

You need to sign up with a valid .ac.uk email address or other form of student ID. Don’t forget to cancel if you don’t want to be charged £39 (go to Manage Prime Membership).

Amazon Student members who have a National Union of Students Extra card can get 5% off many products (excludes Kindle devices, MP3 and Amazon Instant Video). Just log onto NUS for a personal code to paste into the promo code box on Amazon every time you order. The reusable code's valid for 12 months.

Tap into free cash with Amazon Associates

If you've a blog or website, set up a free account with Amazon Associates, a scheme where you earn Amazon vouchers or cash for linking to the site. Just follow the steps to add links and banners to your website.

When someone clicks on Amazon from your site and makes a transaction, it's recorded and you’re paid different rates of commission depending what products you sell and what categories they're in. See a full list of payments.

Get up to 15% off household products

household productsFor regular household product purchases, there’s an easy way to get 5% off - and it's possible to boost this to 15%.

From loo roll to vacuum cleaner bags, pet food to bin liners, Amazon's Subscribe & Save* service covers a host of items that you might order regularly.

The service is free - simply select the item and how regularly you want it delivered. Amazon will automatically send it out and apply the 5% discount when it charges you. You do need to save your payment details to your account.

If you have five or more subscriptions, Amazon boosts the discount to 15% on all your regular deliveries. There is no minimum subscription length, so you can set up your order, get the discount, then cancel.

Use a cashback credit card

You can earn up to 5% every time you spend by using a cashback credit card, although always ensure you pay it off in full to avoid interest charges. For the current top payers, see the full Best Cashback Cards guide.

Grab more discounts with Amazon vouchers

A clever bit of retail spin, this. Amazon’s new voucher page* lists scores of discount vouchers, which you click on to collect (they’re then applied at check out).

When we checked, many of these ‘vouchers’ were similar to its bog-standard online discounts, for example, 5% off a wicker pet basket or 10% off a doormat.

Yet dig through the list and some deals are quite decent. For example, in the past it had a 74-pack of Finish All-in-One Max Dishwasher Tablets for £5 when you used Subscribe and Save. The next cheapest was Morrisons, on offer at £10.

So it’s worth checking – sign in to your account to see all available vouchers, as some are specifically targeted at different users.

Combine Subscribe and Save with Amazon Family for 20% off nappies

You can combine two Amazon discounts to grab a big saving on nappies and wipes. Don’t assume Amazon's cheapest though – compare first.

- Step 1: Save 5% off with Subscribe & Save*. Amazon's Subscribe and Save service gives 5% off selected household items when you place a repeat order, including nappies and wipes. There's no minimum commitment, so if you want, you can simply cancel after your first delivery.

- Step 2: Extra 15% off with Amazon Family*. This'll boost savings to 20%.

Join this paid club and you get an extra 15% off nappies and wipes when you subscribe, boosting the discount to 20%. It normally costs £79/year, but there's currently a free 30-day trial (it’s free for Prime customers though).

Remember – don't forget to cancel your trial before the 30 days are up to avoid being charged, plus stop your subscription once you've got all you need.

- How much can I save? Amazon sells a jumbo pack of 174 Pampers Baby Dry Size 4 nappies for £20.08 full price. With Subscribe and Save and Amazon Family discounts, it drops to £16.06 which works out at 9p per nappy. We found the next best price at Asda for 13p per nappy.

Get Amazon to give to charity as you shop

OK so it's not a money saving tip exactly, but it is possible to give charities a boost at no extra cost to you. Simply click through to Amazon from a charity's special link, log in and click on the product you want.

When you grab something, it's recorded and Amazon pays the charity 5% of your purchase in cash – no small beer.

Click through to Amazon from there BEFORE you put anything in your basket, otherwise the charities won't get the money. Charities doing this include Macmillan Cancer Support, Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Epilepsy Action.

» Read more

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Unfold Close   MONEY SAVING TIPS ON FOOD

Mum reveals incredible money saving tips to feed family-of-five and pooch on just £38 a week

Savings queen Danielle Ross has gained 22,000 followers on Facebook after sharing her incredible tips

Danielle has always been a saver and calls herself a "budget queen" (Photo: SWNS)

A thrifty mum-of-three has won over the hearts of thousands of hard-up families after wowing them with her healthy budget meals. Savings queen Danielle Ross is able to feed her family of five including her pooch for just £38 a week. The master scrimper has gained 22,000 followers on Facebook after she shared her tips on social media.

Danielle, 30, is a host at a local spa, has three young sons and is married to 35-year-old David. She said: “If I wasn’t sticking to a budget I would be spending £600 a month. And my friends spend that much. “For parents it’s the snacks for kids.” Danielle set up a Facebook page to show just how cheap a packed lunch can be. The Colchester-based mum explained: “You can just have sandwiches, carrot sticks, apples but really I don’t buy more than one loaf of bread a week. “A loaf is much more than a bag of pasta because that’s 30p per bag. “So they can have sandwiches but then they will get cold pasta for lunch."

Danielle Ross with sons (l-r) Max Ross age 5, Sam Ross age 5 and Ollie Ross age 8 (Photo: SWNS)

Danielle's weekly shop... for less than £40 (Photo: SWNS)

Danielle gives £1 to eight-year-old Ollie and five-year-old twins Sam and Max when she goes shopping each week so they “learn the value of money” and work out how to budget. Hubby David is banned from spending money on £3 meal deals at chain stores and must also bring a packed lunch to work. The couple hope to eventually have enough money to buy a house and saving the £780 annual spend on meal deals could help them get there. She even manages to save on food for her beloved dog Chester. She said: "Chester has Royal Canin dry food in the morning and some dog pate-style food with his dry food at night.

A healthy salad made by super saver mum for less than 30p per person (Photo: SWNS)

"We get it all once a month at £25 all inclusive. You get a Pets at Home VIP club status which means you get a magazine every month. They send deals and coupons which means you can get Royal Canin for a discount." Danielle has always been a saver – despite her husband wanting to spend more – and has her mother to thank for her thrifty ways. She said: “At my local shop they used to sell 2p cans of beans but it was limited to five cans per person. “So my mum would get people in the queue to stand there for her.

Danielle is able to make homemade meals for just over 20p a person (Photo: SWNS)

“So saving has always been with me – I’m just a budget queen.” Bringing children up to be savers means Danielle includes them in her cooking. “My eight-year-old Ollie is really fussy but when he cooks with me he can try new things more readily because he’s cooked it,” she said. “My twins, however, have been eating curry since they were really young. I just couldn’t have another fussy eater.” Danielle tries taking her three young boys out as often as she can. But she refuses to go anywhere without a voucher.

The saving queen refuses to go on family day-outs without a voucher in tow (Photo: SWNS)

Danielle pays a total of £38 for a family of five and her pooch (Photo: SWNS)

The quick-thinking mum refused to take her three boys to Chessington World of Adventures until she found the best voucher online. She said: “I have people on my Facebook page, Healthy Family Meals on a Budget, have people all over the world commenting on it. “They ask for advice all the time for me but I’m not a nutritionist though but now there are so many people on there other people give advice to one another about gluten-free or whatever. “I’m just a normal mum but it would be nice to start a movement I guess.”

A snack that is both healthy and cheap... three can be made for under £1 (Photo: SWNS)

That scrimping and saving means she can make fake-aways without noticing the difference. She said: "We make pita pizzas. That's literally pitta under the grill or in the toaster to warm them up. "Then spread tomato pure and grate some cheese on the top. Then you can add whatever topping you like. "Or sometimes we have a Chinese. Getting dried noodles for 40p and then some chicken, spring onions, peppers, mushrooms, baby corn and mangetout." Mrs Ross' super saver menu have been featured on her Facebook page, Healthy Family Meals on a Budget.

Danielle says she never deviates from her shopping list allowing her to save the pennies (Photo: SWNS)

She said: "I have no idea how I gained the followers. Before Christmas, around end of November, I had just 250 followers. Now I have 22,000 it's just exploded and got bigger and bigger. It's huge now."

Danielle's Top Tips

  1. Cook with your kids. They’re always much more likely to eat it when they know what’s in it – or at least they think they know what’s in it.
  2. Having said that you should blend your vegetables. If you blend or grate them into your sauces it’s a great way to bulk out meals on a budget.
  3. Never deviate from the shopping list. Everyone has shopping lists but never ever deviate from it.
  4. Always set aside for splurges. Every one deserves a treat now and then.
  5. Stay away from deals. Deals are always encouraging you to buy things for £2 but the own store brand will be something like 60p.
  6. Packed lunches. You can always save using packed lunch rather than buying lunch every day.

Source: Mirror, UK 

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