Attempt 2: Utility bill savings

Ok, so this sounds like the most boring title for a blog evaaa, I realise.

But money saving can’t always be mystery shopping like a super sleuth, or etsy-ing it up like Kirstie Allsop (more on that in future). And to be frank, sometimes the fastest money getters are earned by just not spending money you were going to spend. Or perhaps, spending less of it.

I should credit here my motivation for switching companies like a wanton hussy, which is money saving expert. I could have devoted a whole blog post to the folks at MSE, really. If you sign up, they send a weekly email full of tips on how to save cash – switching debt to low interest offers, offers on all sorts of things from hols to hairbrushes (maybe the latter is too specific, but a big Boots offer has been advertised of late so I’m not too far out!). For me, this email gives a Wed morn kick in the ‘nads to think about all things money. If you want to save some shekels – sign yourself up now – what are you waiting for?

On the website you can also do what MSE calls a ‘money makeover’ – takes a couple of hours of your life to investigate where you could be saving money on all your regular bills – gas, elec, telephone, broadband etc – and then maybe a couple of hours more on the blower to start / stop new contracts. I do that process each year or thereabouts, so generally speaking if I’m not on the best contract or have the savings account with the best rate, I’m on one that used to be! For the purposes of this blog, only savings that I make in 2017 count, so as I switched gas and elec and mobile providers last year, there are relatively slim pickings for me now!

So – raving about MSE over (if you’re still reading and haven’t signed up for that newsletter yet you’re daft – DO IT, NOW. You’re welcome.), onto today’s savings – telly, phone and broadband packages!

I have been a talk talk customer for YONKS. Minimum 3 years. I was on a package that combined all 3, for £37.70 a month for 24 months. I haggled that down in the latter part of last year – they were offering customers much better offers so I tried my luck and they reduced it to £24.50 for the last 6 months of my contract – helped that my service had been poor in the weeks running up to our negotiation. Then, for the last month since my contract ended just after Crimbo, it reverted to £40.45.

It had been on my mind to research and change provider all Jan, but MSE’s email today gave me a nudge. I did some investigating and WHAAA? Turns out talk talk’s tv box (love of my life* – lets you record, rewind and pause live telly) is now mine – that I paid for it upfront earlier in my contract and it’ll still work even if I leave them for another provider. Yep, I’ll still be able to record and rewind – all that good stuff!

So, as I don’t use any fancy channels, I now only need broadband and phone. (And let’s be honest, the latter mainly only so my Ma can call now and again, saying ‘oh hello’ when I pick up the phone like she’s surprised it’s me – when she called me?!) Comparison time (again, MSE get the credit for having all the best packages neatly laid out on their website) and BOOM…I’m heading over to plusnet for their special offer (ends last day of Jan) for a package that’s gonna be £155 for unlimited broadband and phone for a YEAR. Whop on the £7 for them to send me a router and total cost (which takes into account £55 cashback I should get in a couple of months, and me paying for line rental up front), and total cost is £162.

Back on the phone to talk talk (I was an idiot and renewed my contract with them earlier, thinking their £22.95 per month new deal was the best I could get – this was before I had the ‘the tv box is mine to KEEP?’ revelation – what price to pay for true love, after all?), and in particular their customer loyalty department.

Eesh – that was an hour of my life I’ll never get back. It basically consisted of me spilling the beans about my new deal, and the lady coming back with an offer that was nowhere near. And then trying again. And failing. And then aggressively telling me how the plusnet offer she was looking at on her screen was different to the one I was about to enter into. There were some deffo misleading bits, too – for example: ‘with us you’ll save £34 per year compared to plusnet’ even though it was being compared to a different offer, and ‘you’ve entered a new contract with us – you’ll need to pay an early termination fee’ even though I’m in the legally required cooling off period. I ended up needing to get quite grumpy with her…’Look – if you can beat £162 let’s talk. If not, I need to go elsewhere – I don’t want any further conversation about it’.


God I’m a badass.


Anyway – it’s done. I should be a plusnet customer any day now, making big savings and using their altogether friendlier customer service agents. Two caveats: 1) I know they pulled out the nice guys on me today when they were trying to get my business. But generally their customer service is rated well. 2) I’m not strictly speaking comparing like with like – the plusnet offer I’ve gone with has speeds of 4-8MB instead of the ‘up to 17’ promised by talk talk. But looking at the average speeds available in my area, I’m willing to try it more slowly and see what happens. I can always upgrade to fibre – plusnet do a good fibre deal, too so it wouldn’t require switching provider again if I did.

So onto the figures. I’m going to base savings across the whole year (so counting the 11 months Feb-Dec), and against what I would have paid if I’d taken no action whatsoever – i.e. if I’d stayed on my £40.45 contract.

Old spend: 11 x £40.45 = 444.95

New spend: 162/12 = 13.5, then 13.5 x 11 = £148.50



+ Big savings: done once and will hold for the rest of the year. Because I’ve paid line rental up front it also means I’m only paying £2.01 each month – happy days!

+ Easy to do: online comparison tools make life easy

– Need to do your homework first – they’ll bamboozle you on the cancellation lines with cost per month / set up fees etc so have a calculator handy to translate it so it compares to your price to beat. Plus don’t take any sh!t – if they say you’ll need to pay a fee to leave, ask why.

Just thought of another +…can do it from home in your pjs and no one need know (unless you then blog about it. Dammit.)


Running totals…

Attempt 1: £18.98

Attempt 2: £298.45

Grand total: £315.43

Keep tuned. Still to come are my attempts at becoming an etsy billionaire, a youtube sensation and the mother load…re-mortgaging!


* Please don’t tell my other half that the telly box has been described as the love of my life. I think he’s under the impression that it’s him…





Attempt 1: Mystery shopping

Well, here are my reflections on my very first attempt to make some money for nothing: mystery shopping.

I signed up for a mystery shopping service a few years ago, with an address I no longer live at. Over the years I’ve received invitations for assignments in that town, so I updated my details a few months ago and was waiting for an assignment that would work, and where the fee was over £20.

And then, on Christmas Eve Eve, it arrived! Could I go to the town next to mine, try on either footwear or clothes, ask some questions, make some observations, take a snap of the entrance on departure, and then complete a report? For the princely sum of £22?

Heck yes, I can.

Having emailed to say ‘pick me!’ I then started entertaining spy-like thoughts, coming up with an elaborate back story to explain why I’m in that shop, interested in those particular shoes and then (because I’m easily led) a CONCRETE reason why they’re not suitable and I therefore need to leave the shop. This whole gig won’t work if I end up spending more money buying stuff I don’t need so CONCRETE (caps are necessary) reason for departure is key.

And of course it’s not as easy as I’d hoped it would be. I get the ‘yep, this has been assigned to you’ email, then realise I’ve forgotten my password to the website where all the details of the location and assignment are stored. And the password reset function isn’t working.

30 mins later I’m in, firming up my back story with my other half, and then getting in the car. Another 30 mins wasted on traffic (which to be fair doesn’t really feel like a chore because I’m signing Christmas choons the whole time), I’m chucking £1.40 in the parking machine and walking (in a spy-like way, I feel sure) into the shop. ‘Yes those boots are lovely, oh no they’re too long, do you have any shorter? Oh no not in my size – I MUST LEAVE.’ Pic snapped, and I’m sat back in the car, furiously scribbling my observations just 15 mins later.

After another 30 mins of return traffic, I’m fumbling with the rubbish website I need to use to enter my observations. My work all deletes. I do it again. It deletes again. I curse. But, buoyed by my experience and determined to get my £22, I try again and manage to complete it.

And boom – approx. 3 hours after I originally started trying to get into my account, my task is done. The next day I’m emailed with a score of ‘very good’ for my report (and some tips for improvement next time), and told the fee will be sent through paypal within 6 weeks.

So – let’s cast our verdict:

  • Fun to complete – who doesn’t want to be a spy?
  • Really is money for nothing – I would have otherwise spent my day lying on the sofa, eating brandy butter with everything.


  • Take into account driving there and the time spent on travel and work around the actual visit, and the pay per hour is very low.


  • It’s fun – so I’ll deffo try it again.

Money talk…

  • Money spent: £1.62 petrol (rough estimate, using journey price), £1.40 parking
  • Money earned: £18.98

This means we’re off. It’s now 2017, and we officially have some money (almost) in the ‘canigetmoneyfornothing’ coffers. Wahoopla!

(If you’re keen to try this method out yourself, the website I’ve been using is international service check. If you do try it, let me know what you think!)




So, what’s this all about then?

New boiler.

Car repairs, or worst case scenario new car.

New bed. Cannot keep living with backache-inducing, too-short bed.

Christmas flight tickets.

So – next year is looking pretty expensive, and it hasn’t even arrived yet. Conscious that it’s going to be a budget-buster, I’ve been starting to think about how we could bring in a little bit of additional cash, to help offset the various financial commitments coming our way.

Don’t get me wrong. The OH and I earn entirely enough for our needs – to fund the big stuff and the nice to haves. But it’s going to be an expensive year, and I’d like us not to exhaust our ‘just in case’ funds if we can possibly help it – which means, essentially, finding some money for nothing.

And because I’m a loser who likes to make a game out of everything, I’ve decided to try as many different ways I can think of to earn a few pennies, save a few pounds, and generally feel the burn of the new commitments coming at us as little as possible.

And I’ll blog about my efforts, in case there’s anyone else who’d like to follow the journey, get some inspiration for which are the real money spinners and which are hokum, or generally have a laugh at my expense (I’m totally fine with that) while I try out these new ideas.

Obvs some things are off limits. I’m not going to sign up to become an egg donor, do medical testing or become a telephone sex worker. Because those all require just a little bit more commitment than I’m willing to give.

What I will do is see where I can trim the fat off our bills and day to day expenses. In addition, I’ll try selling possessions we no longer need, starting a much-discussed etsy shop and turning my hand to various other money-spinning adventures. All while holding down my full-time job, and not letting it take over my life. She says.

So – come and join me on the ride. And if you have any potential money-collecting things you’d like me to try, just give me a shout!


The Penny Pincher