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Five money saving tips: From boot sale bargains to free kids' meals

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 12/08/2022 Helen Crane For This Is Money

The cost of living squeeze isn't going anywhere, with the latest forecasts putting bills at an unmanageable level for many households in the near future.

But that doesn't mean there aren't simple tips and tricks to help navigate your way around it. 

Each Friday, one of our expert team of personal finance journalists rounds-up five tips we think are worth noting that can go a little way to helping you save money, or make money in the midst of sky-high inflation and rocketing bills.

This week, it features top tips for selling at car boot sales, an app that supercharges your search for free stuff online, and how to avoid demand pricing when booking flights. 

Shifting your unwanted stuff at a car boot sale can pay off - if you know how to play the game  © Provided by This Is Money Shifting your unwanted stuff at a car boot sale can pay off - if you know how to play the game 

1. Sell at a car boot sale

My mum and her partner are car boot sale veterans. He used to run a homewares shop, and still has tons of stock hanging around in his garage… and his loft, and his van, which he tries to shift at sales every few weeks. 

They're based in Northamptonshire, so I wasn't surprised to learn this week that locations in the East Midlands have some of the best boot sales around. 

A recent poll by Wholesale Clearance UK found that nearby Lincolnshire has the best car boot sales in the UK, based on things like seller fees, selling hours and customer reviews. Other top locations include Shropshire and East Sussex. 

If you fancy giving it a go, my family swear by the following tips. First, get there early. That's when the serious buyers turn up - and you also might be able to sell to other sellers, who scout around for the best bargains after they've finished setting up.

Second, get an assistant. Boot sales are all about the patter, and if you have someone else on hand you can chat to more than one customer at a time, maximising your sales.  

If you have a lot of stuff to shift, offer people a discount if they buy more than one item.

And sell seasonally. One of the items they had plenty of was England flags. They brought them out at 50p each during the women's Euros and, while football might have come home, the flags certainly didn't. They shifted the whole lot.

Giving it away: The app Trash Nothing is a secret weapon when searching for local freebies © Provided by This Is Money Giving it away: The app Trash Nothing is a secret weapon when searching for local freebies

2. Up your free stuff game with Trash Nothing 

I recently moved, and had to buy a lot of furniture for my new flat. I intended to get some of it for cheap or free by scouring websites such as Freecycle, Freegle and local Facebook groups - but this proved easier said than done. 

I live in in a huge block so people are moving in and out all the time. But while this means there's a lot of good stuff up for grabs, it also means competition is hot and anything good is usually snapped up within minutes. 

So I branched out and joined groups for other nearby areas, in the hope that I might have more success. 

My most-wanted item was a sofa, which might seem like a stretch for someone to give away, but as the free Habitat velvet number I rolled up the street with a housemate years ago can attest, it does happen. With so many different websites to keep tabs on, though, I kept missing out. 

I did pick up a fair few items on the cheap - mostly from the British Heart Foundation furniture shops, which are great - but after too many nights watching TV on an office chair I gave in and ordered a sofa from Ikea.

So, I felt very silly indeed when a friend recently told me about the free app, Trash Nothing. It is essentially an aggregator where you can bring together Freegle and Freecycle groups for lots of different areas in one place, as well as independent local recycling groups.

It's just for give-away sites, so you won't find paid-for items - but there is a huge variety of stuff. Some of it is a bit naff, as is to be expected, but there are also real gems. 

A brief check of my local area reveals used wrapping paper, a broken kettle and a holey t-shirt - but also hardly-used tennis racquets, a good-as-new steam mop and a very nice solid wood children's wardrobe.  

You can set the distance you are willing to travel (picking up items yourself is usually a condition of getting them for free) and set up search alerts for the things you want most. You can even post an 'item wanted' ad and see if anyone replies. 

As always, just make sure you're safe when going into other people's homes and take someone along with you if needed.  

Free lunch: Children can eat very cheaply at Asda or Tesco this summer holiday © Provided by This Is Money Free lunch: Children can eat very cheaply at Asda or Tesco this summer holiday

3. Get a free kids' meal at a supermarket café

We're at the mid-way point of the summer holidays, and parents' budgets are feeling stretched.

So it is worth knowing that two of the big supermarkets are offering kids' meals in their cafes for £1 or even less. 

Asda is offering £1 meals to under-16s until the end of the summer holidays, with no purchase required from a parent.

And Tesco will be offering free kids' meals to Clubcard holders with any item purchased in 311 of its cafés, every day until 26 August.

Parents need to make a purchase, but this can be anything on the menu which starts at 60p for a piece of fruit.

Other supermarkets and restaurants have similar offers, but most require the parent to spend at least a few pounds, or buy a full meal.

Savvy searcher: It's best to clear your cookies or go incognito when booking flights © Provided by This Is Money Savvy searcher: It's best to clear your cookies or go incognito when booking flights

4. Go incognito when booking flights  

I'm currently booking a last-minute holiday for mid-September - my first trip abroad since 2019 -  and trying to make the most of the savings that come with travelling out of season. 

One tip is to turn on your phone or computer's 'incognito' mode, or clear your cookies, when browsing for hotels and flights. 

Airlines and travel firms often base their pricing on demand, which means they use algorithms which can tell when you've looked at the same trip a number of times and push up the price accordingly. 

But if you don't allow them to track your movements, they can't do this, so the price will be the same as if you were coming to the website fresh. 

Other good tips include trying to fly mid-week if you can, as tickets are often cheaper, and contacting hotels direct to see if you can get a better deal than what's being offered on comparison sites such as booking.com. 

Hotels have to pay a commission when they get a booking through one of these sites, so they might be willing to give you a discount if you cut out the middleman. 

It's also worth researching whether you could fly to the second-closest airport to your destination for cheaper, then complete the journey by public transport. I've done this plenty of times in European cities where trains are usually cheap, pleasant and reliable. 

Click unsubscribe: Stopping advertising emails from shops can reduce temptation to spend © Provided by This Is Money Click unsubscribe: Stopping advertising emails from shops can reduce temptation to spend

5. Unsubscribe from shopping emails 

I love to buy clothes. Some people splash out on holidays or cars, but for me most of my spare cash has always been invested in my wardrobe.

It's an expensive habit, and since the cost of living squeeze I've been cutting back my purchases and thinking more carefully about whether I really need things before I part with my money.

Recently, I've been unsubscribing to emails from retailers. I've signed up to newsletters from tons of shops over the years, often to get a discount on my first order - but now when they drop into my inbox they are just a temptation to spend.

When I do buy something, I try to buy on sale and buy out of season. It's in the retail industry's interests to make shoppers think that their clothes go 'out of fashion' every few months, and it's just not true - but you can make the end-of-summer sales work in your favour.

To avoid the temptation of buying things 'because they're cheap,' I have a written-down list of things I need - or at least can justify buying. 

I tend to shop online, too, as I find it easier to take a moment and think about what I'm spending when I'm sitting on my sofa than when I'm at the shops. 

I've just picked up some leather sandals that I resisted buying a couple of months ago, for less than half price. I won't get much wear out of them this year, but I'll stash them away and bring them out next June. And in a couple of months, I'll start wearing the bargain winter coat I bought and put away back in March.

If, like me, you don't have much space, invest in some vacuum pack bags and store them under your bed.

And if clothes aren't your thing, it works for almost any seasonal purchase - so if you're in the market for garden furniture, a paddling pool or a barbecue for next year, now might be the time to buy.

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