Continuing our series with money-saving guru JASMINE BIRTLES, today she explains why one of her guiding principles in life is to make the most of everything that is free.
The money you save can then be spent on bills or invested to make more money — and you get the reward of enjoying something that has not actually cost you a single penny.
Start with this list of fab ideas for free living.
1. Get restaurant food for free. Download the apps Olio (olioex.com) and TooGoodToGo (too goodtogo.co.uk/en-gb) which tell you daily which local cafes and restaurants will give away or sell off leftover food cheaply.
Businesses on the app will give you a time slot to pick up the goodies. For restaurants, this tends to be after closing so be prepared to pick up your items in the evening.
2. Become a mystery shopper. You will get free meals, drinks, other freebies and get paid, in return for written or verbal reviews about services. No formal qualifications are needed but you must have good observational skills and a good memory.
Mystery shopping has been around for 60 years and is highly regulated in the UK.
The Market Research Society has created a code of conduct, and standards are maintained by trade bodies such as the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. Agencies include ESA, Grass Roots and JKS Mystery Shopping.
3. We’re coming into the best time of the year to forage for free food. Wild garlic, some seaweed and more are there for the picking. Website fergusthe forager.co.uk is full of great ideas and recipes for ‘found food’ and advice on what to avoid.
4. Plums, raspberries, cherries and apples — you can get them all for free if you know where to look. Try fallingfruit.org that tells you about orchards, trees and bushes growing wild in your area so that you can pick your own for nothing.
5. If you live in or near commercial art galleries, get on their invitation list for exhibition previews. They usually have free drinks and nibbles at these so you can enjoy some art and have your ‘dinner’ free!
6. Furnish your home for nothing using websites such as freecycle.org, Gumtree and nextdoor.com.
7. From snacks to seeds, body lotions and recipe books, get your hands on freebies of all sorts through sites such as latestfreestuff.co.uk and freebies.co.uk. Voucher sites tend to spam you with emails when you sign up so set up a separate email account so your usual inbox won’t get clogged up.
8. Go late to car boot sales. Towards the end, sellers often give things away rather than lugging them home again so it is worth staying on until after the main rush. In the last 20 minutes or so, offer to take things off their hands. You could then put these last-minute steals up for sale online if you don’t want them.
Get restaurant food for free. Download the apps Olio (olioex.com) and TooGoodToGo (too goodtogo.co.uk/en-gb) which tell you daily which local cafes and restaurants will give away or sell off leftover food cheaply
Go late to car boot sales. Towards the end, sellers often give things away rather than lugging them home again so it is worth staying on until after the main rush
9. Become a comper! Competitions happen every day, particularly on social media. Put the hashtags #competition or #comp into any platform and you will find loads. Check out the competitions section on my site moneymagpie.com, too.
10. Entertaining children is expensive. On average, parents in the UK spend £323 in a one-week half-term break. Save your pennies by looking out for free local events on websites such as free-events.co.uk which lists most free UK festivals, parades and carnivals.
11. If you love the cinema, you could save by joining show filmfirst.com. Once signed up, you’ll get emails with a screening code which you can enter into the website for free tickets. You can also see films for nothing at your local cinemas and theatres through freecinema.co.uk and fmuk.org.uk.
12. Forget expensive West End tickets. Why not go and watch your favourite TV shows being filmed (as well as other live events). Find out more at the BBC website, and also at lostintv.com, applausestore.com and sroaudiences.com.
13. Music lovers should make the most of the free gigs around the UK with allgigs.co.uk. You can search for gigs by artist, town or type (there’s also an under £10 and under £5 section, if you don’t mind spending a bit).
14. Lots of High Street favourites such as Pizza Express and Frankie & Benny’s offer free food on your birthday. Costa and Starbucks give free cake, too! Just sign up to newsletters or download the apps and show proof of your birth date.
15. You can get into some festivals for nothing by working for Oxfam. You work in shifts promoting the charity and in return you get a free ticket to the event. You can find more information at festivals.oxfam.org.uk.
16. The Animal charity PDSA tours around Great Britain offering free health checks for dogs. They also offer gratis veterinary care for the pets of those on benefits. Try their eligibility checker at pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/eligibility to see if you qualify for this great service.
17. SMS messages can be costly but you can send as many as you like to any mobile at sendsmsnow.com. Use apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal to make free voice calls on wifi.
18. We all love a wardrobe revamp. But buying new clothes can cost a lot. So try swapping your clothes instead. Websites such as rehashclothes.com allow you to swap outfits and accessories online without charge.
19. Never pay for wifi when you’re out. Find the nearest free wireless internet hotspots all over the UK with free-hotspot.com. Search by street, town or country. Make sure your wifi is secure if you’re using it for sensitive data, though. Do not do online banking in a hotspot, for example.
Stop any magazine subscriptions and use your library’s free access to pressreader.com instead to view thousands of titles
The Animal charity PDSA tours around Great Britain offering free health checks for dogs
20. Trade talents with friends and neighbours. Maybe one is a great cook and could bake cakes for you in return for an hour’s ironing? Arranging swaps is a great way to get things done for free and make new friends. The NextDoor app creates an online neighbourhood where you can get free help or stuff others are throwing out.
21. If you don’t want to pay out for something you won’t use often, ask friends if you can borrow theirs. This works well for big items such as a lawn-mower, paint brushes and rollers or kitchen equipment. If you’re friendly with your neighbours, split the cost of a tool and take turns to use it.
22. Many colleges and training schools need guinea pigs to practise on, or models for photographs to showcase their work, meaning you could get a new hairstyle or a glam makeover for free.
23. Lift sharing is a great way to get to work for nothing. Some people may even offer you lifts daily for free if you don’t own a car.
24. If you didn’t enjoy your meal, experience or treatment, complain! Many firms offer refunds, vouchers or freebies as a way of saying sorry.
25. Broaden your mind with the Open University which offers many free courses, as do sites such as Udemy and Coursera. For languages there are Duolingo and Babbel. Many firms host free online courses and webinars.
Take advantage of your library’s offers
Stop any magazine subscriptions and use your library’s free access to pressreader.com instead to view thousands of titles.
The library is also fantastic for kids. Not only do they lend books, many offer free activities and toy borrowing, plus DVDs and CDs for kids and adults to borrow cheaply, or for free.
26. Reap the rewards of referring friends. Many websites give vouchers, coupons or freebies if you refer a friend. Nationwide offers you and a friend £100 each to sign up. At Monzo it’s £5 each.
27. Amazon and other websites provide free digital books. Or you can download the free ones on moneymagpie.com.
28. Some firms offer free feminine hygiene product samples, or consider reusable items such as the Mooncup (an upfront cost but it’ll pay for itself). Some supermarkets have campaigns to provide free items. In Scotland the PickUpMyPeriod app offers free products.
29. Many restaurants and cafes offer children under a certain age the option of eating for free. Check this out online before arriving.
30. Cashback websites refund money and often give back big rewards on your first purchase as a new customer — check out TopCashback, Honey, Cash Rewards.
31. There are thousands of giveaways daily on social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Create a new account or email address specifically for giveaways and enter as many as possible!
32. Take part in market research. You will get to test out a new product or gadget or perhaps an item of clothing. You may be asked for your opinion for market research in exchange for keeping the item for free, or you may also get paid in vouchers or coupons.
33. Haggle! You never know what you may get for free.
34. It’s OK to ask — many people are willing to lend or give items away to get them out of their house. Let people know if you are in need of something in particular and you may get your hands on it for free simply through the power of word of mouth.
35. Be A magpie. People leave a multitude of items outside their houses for the bin men to take. These can include mirrors, books and even bed frames.
36. Offer your services as a house-sitter, looking after other people’s homes and pets while they’re away. You end up using their gas and electricity rather than your own and effectively live for free.
Gym memberships are often pricey but there are many free alternatives from outdoor gyms to exercise classes in the park. Plenty of online sites offer complimentary training sessions and workout plans
37. Why not live on a farm for free. There’s a scheme called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (wwoof.net) where you get to stay for nothing so long as you help to work the land while you’re there.
38. Save on water bills in summer by installing a water butt in the garden. You’ll be using rainwater to water the garden.
39. Many department stores, supermarkets and shops will have free samples of products such as make-up, skincare, scent and even laundry detergent. Many of these products aren’t advertised or on display but will be given to you if you ask.
40. Gym memberships are often pricey but there are many free alternatives from outdoor gyms to exercise classes in the park. Plenty of online sites offer complimentary training sessions and workout plans.
Many opticians give free eye tests to new customers as well as to those on low incomes or benefits. If you need glasses for work, your employer may pay for your eye test and/or glasses — don’t be afraid to ask!
Daniel Galvin guide to a DIY blow-dry
There are ways of blow drying your hair at home that can save money, time and energy says Nick Peters, artistic director at Daniel Galvin’s hair salons.
‘First, don’t waste time blow drying your hair all the way from wet — towel dry or let it air dry until it only has a slight dampness.
‘Then go in with a round brush and your hairdryer and focus on the most important areas: the front, the crown and the sides. Worrying too much about the back and the underneath is wasted energy both physically and economically, as these areas are rarely noticed.
‘Always blow dry down the hair shaft and towards the face, focusing on the roots and then pulling the brush down the hair and following with the nozzle.
‘But a blow dry isn’t the be-all and end-all — you can get gorgeous hair without using any energy whatsoever. Try air-drying, either with your hair in braids to create a wave, or if you have a natural curl, embrace it by using curl cream and finger-twisting damp hair in the same three areas — crown, front and sides.
‘And don’t forget dry shampoo. If your hair is already looking good, use it to extend the life of your style for an extra day or two.’
41. If you are required to travel to specialist hospitals or surgeries often, you can claim the travel costs back from your local authority. The NHS website, meanwhile, offers free diet, exercise and mental health advice.
42. Make use of free technology. Libraries have computers you can use or ask your employer to pay for technology needed for your job.
Phone companies, meanwhile, have help available for people who can’t afford mobiles. Schools may be able to help students who cannot afford computers at home.
Don’t be shy to ask for cast offs either — quite often people have old phones and computers lying around that they don’t use which could be donated to you.
43. Refashion old clothes. Cut jeans into shorts, long skirts into short skirts, tops into crop tops etc. to give your wardrobe a new lease of life.
44. Some photo-printing services offer a free trial or will give you the first few prints for free. Use different printers each time and get the newbie rate over and over again.
45. Many companies offer better deals to new customers so don’t be scared to switch and get a better deal. Or sign up to different websites for vouchers and discounts that are given to people after their first order or purchase.
46. Retired and fancy a free road trip? Keep an eye out for jobs on Gumtree which involve cars or caravans to be driven from one destination to another. You will get paid to travel to different locations for free. A clean licence is essential.
47. Many opticians give free eye tests to new customers as well as to those on low incomes or benefits. If you need glasses for work, your employer may pay for your eye test and/or glasses — don’t be afraid to ask!
48. Some taxi apps offer money off your first journey. I was once given £10 towards my first journey and it cost less than £10 so was entirely free.
49. If you can’t get on the property ladder or want to make extra cash by renting out your property, look for a job that includes living accommodation.
50. Grow your own: there’s never been a better time to plant a vegetable plot. From juicy tomatoes to picking your own strawberries, it’s so satisfying to eat for free from your garden. Even growing your own herbs on a windowsill helps save money.