Jill Papworth, writer for Guardian Money talks about the voucher/discount culture in Britain (The Guardian, August 26, 2011). She says that Britain's "freeconomy" is thriving.
According to recent research, adults are now saving an average of nearly £1,200 a year by using money-off vouchers, special deals and freebies.
A study by Halifax Home Insurance shows how the economic downturn has turned us into a nation of bargain-hunters. One fifth of those that took part in the study, said that they rarely bought anything at full price. According to the study, deals on meals are the top target for a discount, with more than half (53%) of the study participants saving on restaurants, takeaways and fast food. Holidays and flights were close behind.
The survey revealed that 12% of adults admit to haggling to make sure the price is right. This is contrary to national stereotypes. Furthermore, only 1% of those participating in the study said that they are too embarrassed to use discounts. The survey also claims that 44% of us are sharing discounts with friends, making getting a good deal a "social activity".
Thanks to money-off codes and vouchers,more than one in four say they can now do things they otherwise never would like for example, buying better presents for family and friends.
Papworth offers some tips to getting you started on the bargain-hunting bandwagon:
Discount code sites
There are numerous websites, including myvouchercodes.co.uk, vouchercodes.co.uk, everydaysale.co.uk, vouchercodes.com, moneysavingexpert.com and voucherseeker.co.uk, offering discounts on products and services at a variety of online UK retailers for fashion, financial services, gifts, gadgets, books, CDs, DVDs, hotels, travel and eating out.
There are a range of offers from a specific price, to scaled percentage reductions, to free delivery. Each website gives details as to how to redeem the codes. Most commonly, what you have to do, says Papworth, is to "click through to your chosen retailer's site, select your goods or services, and when you get to the checkout, enter the relevant promotional code and click "update"." Many of the sites also have printable vouchers which you can use to get discounts in stores. Some sites advertise that codes expire quickly, but most encourage you to register free of charge to receive the latest offers via email. According to Papworth, there are some serious discount seekers who register with more than one site because each site negotiates its own discounts.
Papworth advises: "If you are shopping online, and are presented with the opportunity to input a code when paying for items, simply open up a new tab and search to see if it is listed on one of the discount code websites. If not, the chances are it is a code offered by the retailer only to an specific group of customers. Such codes do sometimes find their way into the public domain via websites such as hotukdeals.com."
Papworth says that the Freecycle Network is probably the most famous of the recycling sites, At this site you can pick up unwanted items for free or give away your own. Freecycle Network matches people who have things they want to get rid of, with people who can use them.
According to Papworth, the goal of such recycle sites is to save landfill. The result of course for bargain-hunters is that it's a great way to pick up freebies. The first UK Freecycle group was set up in London in 2003 and run by local volunteer moderators. Now, there are 540 such sites across the country, with 2,490,981 members. Papwoth says: "You simply sign up with a group in your local area and then can post free "wanted" and "offer" messages and respond to other members' postings by email.The person giving away an item decides who gets it from the responses and sets up a collection time, posting a "taken" message on the item once collected."
Papworth believes that the system works well. She adds: "Items offered by my local group this week included working fridge freezers, TVs, a dog cage, two sofas, a brand new sink and toilet, and a bag of paperback thrillers."
There are newer sites such as Freegle, which operates in a similar way and has 313 groups and 1,224,919 members. Though gumtree.com, which is primarily a community classified advertising site with listings of items for sale and available in most UK locations, has a useful "stuff for free" section. Papworth says: "This week free offers in the London area included a large trampoline, free haircuts, a piano and house plants."
Free sample sites
According to Papworth: "There are many websites offering free product samples or links to websites offering freebies, competitions and tips on saving and making money. The drawback with most of these, however, is that to get your freebie, you normally have to sign up with the site for regular emailed newsletters which can clog up your inbox. The way round this is to set up a secondary email account to register with sample sites and receive their newsletters."
Some freebie sites worth looking at are: magicfreebiesuk.co.uk, freebielist.com, frugallerforum.co.uk, freesamplesuk.org, freebieuk.org.uk, freeinuk.co.uk and freestuffjunction.co.uk.
Do you use vouchers and discount codes? Tell us about any bargains you have managed to secure and share information on good sites to watch.