This article was originally published back in October 2010 and it was very popular so has been updated for 2013!
One of the many ways in which the Internet has revolutionized the way we conduct our lives is that it has made it possible to get a lot of things done for a fraction of the cost when compared to the way we did things before the Internet took hold. With a little bit of cunning and a savvy mind, it’s possible to use the Internet to your advantage to save a huge amount of money, very easily.
Read on for some top tips for how to make your pennies go further using our friend the World Wide Web.
Disclaimer: Some of the services recommended in this article may be provided by businesses that I either own or am involved with financially, in order to recommend services which I can personally vouch for. Other links may be affiliate links which help fund the running of this website.
Tip 1: Save Money and Reduce Your Phone Bills & Travelling Costs by using the Internet
Skype & Google Hangouts
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the geeky terminology used to mean that your phone calls are sent over the internet as opposed to using more traditional (and costly) means. There are many players in this market, but one of the original and best has to be Skype. Skype is one of those great companies which provides a totally free service to the majority of its users, because it makes enough profit to survive from its paid-for services which are only used by a smaller proportion.
Skype-to-Skype calls are totally FREE and the sound quality is usually superb – often even better than calling on a phone! What’s more, you can add video calling into the mix and there’s still no charge.
You can also save lots of money by using Skype to call normal phones – it’s not free, but it’s very reasonably priced indeed, especially for calling Internationally. I lived in Madrid for a while and Skype saved me a huge amount of money, both using the free services and by paying a small amount to call my friends, family and girlfriend (now wife) back in England. They offer a Pay-As-You-Go system as a starter, or if you’re going to be using it a lot over an extended period, their subscriptions are really worth looking at. You can also save money sending text messages with Skype!
Google has recently revamped many of their services and “Google Hangouts” is now the name for what used to be Google Talk and its video-calling service, now part of Google+. Google Hangouts is great because you can have multiple people all on the video call at once, with the main video screen changing to whoever’s talking at that time, and smaller virtual screens underneath. It works on computer/laptop but also Android smartphones and tablets so you don’t even need to lug your computer about with you.
Save Petrol, Hotel Fees and Car Maintenance Costs by using Telephone Conferencing Instead!
Imagine you’re arranging an important business meeting with lots of people from different departments in your company, and they’re all spread across different parts of the country or even different countries. Organising that type of meeting can be quite a nightmare, especially with all the travelling involved as people will need to be free before and after the meeting to spend time sat in their cars burning fuel in traffic jams. Couple that with hotel rooms, breakfasts and other costs and it’s turning into quite a big expenses claim for your company. Right? Wrong!
Each person only needs to be free at the time of the meeting and they don’t need to travel at all. How? By using telephone conferencing, each person just dials in to a conference call and you can all speak. The leader in Internet (or “cloud”) based telecoms like this is called Telecoms Cloud, and you can either choose a number which costs a few pence per minute to call (miles cheaper than petrol, hotel, food etc.) if you’re only using it occasionally, or you can pay a monthly fee to have a freephone (0800) number if you’re going to be using it more frequently. You can set a PIN on the conference room to prevent curious ears chancing across your conference call, and you can also limit how many people will be allowed in each conference room if you know who you’re expecting at the meeting.
Visit www.telecomscloud.com to learn more, and you’ll probably save a load more money whilst you’re there too!
Tip 2: Save Money by Not Paying for TV Subscriptions
Whilst Sky+ and Virgin Media’s TiVo may be great services (I have TiVo myself), they’re also an extra monthly cost to think about and unless you actually watch the extra channels they gives you, it’s a waste of money too. Freeview and FreeSat give you all the channels most people would want without a monthly fee, and you can even get the extra functionality (pause, record, rewind TV) with these boxes too for an extra one-off fee.
Or alternatively you can just watch catch-up TV for free at a time to suit you. All the main TV channels have a system: BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand Five. And you can also watch catchup TV on YouTube. “But I don’t want to have to sit in front of my computer!” you might say… well, if you have a games console then BBC iPlayer is available most of them. So if you have one of those and it’s hooked up to your home broadband then you’re all set. Or if you have a laptop with an HDMI output and your TV has an HDMI input, you’re good to go too (see later on for how to get HDMI cables much more cheaply than the high street rip-offs!)
Tip 3: Save Money by Streaming Music and Films
Despite coming down in price a lot in recent years, music still costs a lot to buy. Apple sell their shiny MP3 players and boast about how many tens of thousands of tracks they can fit on, but I seriously doubt they actually expect the average consumer to spend the tens of thousands of pounds it would take to fill it up with music from their iTunes store.
If you don’t mind the odd advert (it’s just like listening to the radio) then you can stream music for free using Spotify, or for a small monthly fee you can banish the adverts and listen to interruption-free music. Let’s face it, if you listen to most of your music at home playing from your computer-which-is-always-connected-to-the-internet then why not stream it for free?
Rather than buying expensive DVDs as soon as they come out, why not give LOVEFiLM or Netflix a try? You can either stream films to your PC, console or smart TV, or rent DVDs and Blu-rays via post. It works like this: you build up a list of films you’d like to see on their website, they post them to you, you watch it and post back in a pre-paid envelope when you’re ready for the next one. They also have Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 games available to rent, which is often cheaper than buying lots of games.
For the times when you want to get the big-screen experience of the cinema, you can save money on this if you go on a Wednesday. Why? Because mobile network Orange have a promotion giving their customers 2-for-1 on cinema tickets every Wednesday. It works like this: you text the word FILM to 241 and they send you back a code which you show when buying your tickets to get the 2-for-1 deal. The text will cost you 35p so in effect the second person has got their ticket for only 35p which is a considerable saving when you consider cinema tickets can be around £8 these days! This works for Contract and Pay-as-You-Go customers. If you’re not an orange customer, then it’s worth getting a FREE Orange Pay-as-You-Go SIM specifically for getting the cheap cinema tickets. The SIMs are usually free from the Orange website or in high street shops, so if you top it up with £10 then you can get the discount codes 28 times before needing to top up again! Just pop it into your phone each Wednesday and send off for the code!
Lastly, YouTube have a feature allowing you to watch films as well as TV shows on their web site. More are being added all the time, so take a look at www.youtube.com/movies
Tip 4: Get Free Stuff from the Internet, or Sell Your Stuff Online
If you want something, chances are someone somewhere might be willing to give you theirs for free. OK, maybe not expensive stuff like a car or a laptop but often things like furniture or old computers can be picked up by people who just want to get rid of them. The two best web sites for this are Freecycle and Gumtree (look for the “freebies” section) so have a look and you might be surprised at what you’ll get totally free. Police forces in the United Kingdom also auction off stolen equipment that they’ve seized but been unable to reunite with its owner, so you can grab some super bargains there too. Have a look at www.bumblebeeauctions.co.uk
If you’re not feeling as generous as the kind souls on the last websites, you could always sell your stuff. eBay or Gumtree is an obvious place to get started, or if you have an old mobile phone cluttering up your house have a look on sites like MazumaMobile (there are lots of others too) and you might be surprised how much they’ll offer you.
Tip 5: Save Money by using Free Software
There’s a wealth of free software available on the internet, and for almost every non-free programme there’ll be a free alternative which is usually just as good or sometimes even better! Some great examples are:
- AntiVirus and Security software. Why pay lots of money for Norton or McAfee when Microsoft Security Essentials is free?
- Want to edit your photos and give them that “pro” look, but can’t afford Photoshop? GIMP isn’t quite as good, and has an awful name, but does most things that Photoshop can do such as red eye removal, adjusting colour and tones and airbrushing… all without a price tag.
- Microsoft Office might be great, what with Word, PowerPoint, Publisher and Excel – but have you tried LibreOffice? It’s every bit as good as Microsoft’s expensive software suite for the vast majority of uses and it’s also 100% compatible so you don’t need to worry about not being able to open files your colleagues send you. All that, and you don’t need to spend a penny. I’d do that rather than spend nearly £500 for the business edition any day!
- Need projection software for your church? OpenLP is a fantastic, and free, software suite which allows you to project song lyrics from a searchable database of songs (to which you can add your own) as well as play videos and music, all outputted to your projector in a professional and non-distracting way, so you never see the operator’s mouse moving across the screen to press “Play”!
Tip 6: Use The Internet to Shop Around and Find The Best Prices!
The internet has a wealth of information, all you need to do is use it to your advantage. Web sites like Google Shopping allow you to compare prices in various online and high street retailers to find the best deal for your product. It’s often much cheaper to purchase online, even with delivery costs, and because you’ve bought it online rather than in-store you’ve got more rights because you’re covered by Distance Selling Regulations.
An example of how much you can save online is this: Imagine I want an HDMI cable to connect my PS3 to my HDTV. If I walk into PC World, I’d probably believe that £19.99 is a good price for this cable. It does produce stunning pictures, after all. Wrong! I can get an HDMI cable which will do the job just as well for… wait for it… £1.41 including free delivery from a seller on Play.com! (I’ve bought a total of 4 of these, and I can confirm they’re brilliant.)
Tip 7: Encrypted Fax
You might be thinking “Hang on a minute, it’s the 21st Century, why’s he going on about fax?” but believe it or not, despite (or maybe because of?) the unstoppable rise of the Internet, fax is still alive and well in the business world. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons:
- It’s easy to use, and a lot of people are still very familiar and comfortable with it. For some, scanning in a document, saving it, opening email, attaching etc. are more difficult that simple putting a sheet of paper into a machine, punching in a number and pressing GO.
- It’s trusted – people having been using it and relying on it for years, and that takes a while to change
- It’s reliable – spam folders, email delays, misspelt email addresses – they can all cause problems. Plus, because faxing involves making a phone call which shows up on your itemised bill, a financial transaction occurs with each fax sent, meaning you can prove in a court of law that something was sent, and when.
- It’s more secure than email – the vast majority of email is sent as plain-text, which means that people can snoop on its contents if they really want to. That makes email totally inappropriate for sending things like credit card numbers, personal details like names/addresses/dates of birth and patient identifiable information if you’re working in a health service such as the NHS.
The leaders in secure online faxing are Crosby Fax with their SecureFax product. It bridges old technology (fax) with new, such as the internet, email (for alerts only) and enterprise-level 256-bit encryption. Crosby Fax gives you a fax number of your choice (national, local, freephone and geographic numbers available) or you can port your existing fax number over just like you would if you were changing from BT to Virgin Media (for instance) and the monthly subscription fee is far cheaper than having to buy a new fax machine, pay for a BT line to be installed, monthly line rental, electricity, paper, toner, etc. etc. etc. Plus, you may have read recently that an NHS trust was fined £55,000 for a slip-up with patient information which could have been prevented by using a secure online fax service, so it’s a no-brainer really!
When someone sends you a fax, rather than it printing out of your fax machine immediately (even if you wouldn’t need to print that one) and sitting there on the machine for anyone who walks past to pick up and read, the faxes are stored in your secure online account, protected by 256-bit encryption so only you can download and read the faxes (in PDF format). Each time you receive a fax, you’re sent an email letting you know there’s one waiting for you in your account, but the fax document itself is not exposed by being sent over email.
If security isn’t an issue for your situation but you still don’t want to have to get a fax machine, their basic free service, Free Fax to Email, is a stripped-down version of the main Crosby Fax service which gives you an 0871 number on which to receive your faxes which are sent to you as an email attachment. The service is funded from the few pence they receive each time someone dials your fax number, and you need to receive at least 1 fax every 6 months otherwise the number will be recycled and given to someone else. Apart from that, there are no catches and it’s completely free for you to use, with no fax machine or extra phoneline required!
Tip 8: Compare, Compare, Compare!
OK, we all hate the TV adverts but they work because they stick in our heads. Any time you’re looking to renew any insurance, buy a new mobile phone contract, switch gas, electricity or internet provider, you should always use one of these sites to find the best deal. Ideally, use several of them pitted against each other, find the best one and then go directly to them for an even greater saving. That way the company can give you a better deal due to not having to pay the middle man any commission. Don’t worry, they’ll still be able to feed their families because of the countless people who do buy through them.
Tip 9: Cash… back?
The Golden Rule is usually: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.” Well this is the exception to that rule! There are web sites out there which will actually pay you to buy stuff from other web sites! Why would they do that? They basically act as advertisers for those other web sites (even if you knew about them already!) so they get commission from the sale, a proportion of which they share with you. My wife has recently signed up to QuidCo and we’ve already got a decent amount of cashback in our account balance. They keep the first £5 you earn per year but then after that, it’s all yours!
If you want to make it a double-whammy, why not apply for a cashback credit card? For instance, for all purchases you make you can earn back around 1% so if you use the card for EVERYTHING you buy (not just online) then you can be in for quite a substantial payout after any fees which they deduct.
I’m not going to recommend a specific card because we in no way pretend to be able to offer you financial advice – speak to your bank or do your own research on this one. It’s very important that you use the credit card wisely and pay it off in full every single month without fail otherwise any benefit from the cashback will be negated by having to pay interest fees or even worse, penalties!
Tip 10: Save Money and Manage All Your Accounts Online
Follow this one and not only will your wallet love you, but the trees will be hugging you for a change! Why collect a huge pile of printouts of your credit card bill, phone bill, gas bill, electricity bill, etc. etc. on your coffee table when it can all be managed online? Not only will you save money by not paying an extra surcharge for paper billing, but you’ll save the environment too as well as have a tidier living room for when the in-laws come round for tea. Bonus!
So there you have it, follow those ten top tips and you’ll save lots and lots of money each year which you can then spend on more interesting things or put in a savings account for a rainy day.
For more money saving tips, I’d recommend Martin Lewis’ excellent web site MoneySavingExpert.com where you can get lots of up-to-the-minute tips and tricks, chat with other money saving freaks in the forums and sign up to his weekly email.
If any of the tips in this article have helped you save money, or you’ve got any other tips to share then drop us a line in the comments box below – we’d love to hear your stories!
Let the money-saving commence…!