Max Your Cash: Vouchers
As the recession continues to bite hard a new breed of consumer is hitting the High Street.
The 'recession shopper' has evolved alongside the worsening financial climate.
They try not to pay full price for anything, they're always on the look out for a decent bargain and their wallets are bulging - not with banknotes, but with money-off vouchers and loyalty cards!
These days, over half of us say we regularly use vouchers and loyalty cards when shopping and a massive 43% of us have admitted buying something we didn't need just so we could use our discount vouchers.
But are they really the key to beating the credit crunch or just a clever way of getting us all to spend even more?Food
If you're trying to save cash then perhaps eating out isn't the best idea but the deals on offer from chain restaurants in the High Street can often seem too mouth-watering to resist.
We've all seen the signs - '2 for 1', 'All You Can Eat for £10', '50% off' - sometimes it's hard to just say no.
We worked out how much you might be able to save in an average day on food if you get the right deal and have the right voucher.
- Signing up for a loyalty card with some coffee retailers could get you a free coffee (around £2) or two coffees for the price of one.
- Buying sandwiches, crisps and a drink as part of a meal deal at lunch time could save you around £2 on the price of buying the same items individually.
- Some pub chains offer a voucher that could get you a free pint after work which is a saving of around £3.
- And with the right restaurant, on the right night, with the right voucher, it's possible to get two plates of pasta with garlic bread for less than a tenner.
We make that a saving across the day of nearly £20. However, remember that retailers have to make their money back somehow.
Dr Kelly Page from Cardiff Business School gave us some advice to make sure you're not taken advantage of while taking advantage of a voucher deal.
She says to make sure you understand exactly what's included in the deal before you sit down. Expensive drinks, starters, puddings and extras that aren't in the deal can mean that you're worse off than you were before you started.
Retailers are hoping they can lure you in with the promise of a cheap meal and then get you to return to the premises another time when you'll maybe have to pay full price. Ultimately, they're not doing this out of the kindness of their hearts.
It's also always worth checking what your local independent restaurant may have on offer. Chances are they'll be doing a special deal of their own that could save you an equal amount of cash.Loyalty cards
We all know what loyalty cards are - retailers have been using them for years. Basically, you spend money in store or on the high street and receive loyalty points in return.
The three most popular loyalty cards in the UK are the Nectar card, Boots Advantage and the Tesco Clubcard.
It's worth looking at how much you have to spend in order to receive your loyalty points. We worked out that to earn 1000 loyalty points or £10 you'd spend £250 in Boots, £500 of purchases on your Nectar card and £1,000 in Tesco.
And it pays to be clever how you redeem your points too. Don't just spend them on groceries. There are lots of special deals that mean your vouchers or loyalty points can be worth up to four times their face value.
For example, £31 of Tesco Clubcard vouchers could buy you a return flight to Dublin, Paris or Amsterdam - a saving of nearly £60. Remember though, it's only a saving if you were planning on buying a flight in the first place.
Boots will currently give you up to 5000 Advantage points (£50 to spend in store) for recycling your mobile phone but it's worth checking if the items you're buying are cheaper in other chemists or supermarkets.
And with a Nectar card it's possible to earn loyalty points whilst
paying your energy bill or even opening a Child Trust Fund.
Bear in mind that you may have to spend in the region of £500 just to get a DVD in return. It could be a lot cheaper just to go out and buy it in the first place.
Dr Kelly Page says we should weigh up what we're getting from the
retailers as loyalty points against what they get from us.
As well as getting you to spend your money in their store they also get hold of valuable data about your spending habits which can be stored on their databases and used to target you with other deals that tempt you to part with your hard-earned cash.
Ultimately, if you're a regular shopper at an outlet you may as well collect the loyalty points - but remember to actually use them! Tesco reckon that in Wales alone £1.2 million of Clubcard vouchers end up lost or forgotten about!
Check the internet for the latest vouchers and voucher codes and don't forget to check newspapers and magazines - any self-respecting voucher shopper should be just as happy with a pair of scissors in their hand as a computer mouse.