What Katy Did - saving money

Usually prone to splurging money, Katy finds that a few hours of internet research saves her a few hundred pounds.

Always one to swing from one extreme to the other I have recently been trying to curb my overspending tendencies (i.e. recent Madonna tickets) by tightening the belt here and there.

My first port of call was Martin Lewis's fantastic website at www.moneysavingexpert.com. This site, which my bargain-hunter boyfriend recently introduced me to, provides a plethora of cash-cutting tips on everything from credit cards and loans to roadside assistance and phones.

The first time I used it was when my RAC membership came up for renewal. They wanted a whopping £78 for basic cover but thanks to Martin, I discovered 'pay and claim' breakdown cover - i.e. if you need to call them out you pay for the repairs then claim back the cost in full - for just £32 a year! Or, if I wanted to stay with RAC I could use Tesco clubcard points, though I don't think I have enough at present.

The website also has an entire section dedicated to mobile phone tariffs - something I also needed to review.

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Last March when I moved into my flat, I realised the time had come to wean myself off Pay as you Go and onto a committed contract. Forever topping up my credit was not only costly but time-consuming so it was time to change. But as I'd only really used my phone for texting I had no idea how many free minutes I'd need and so the choice was overwhelming. In the end, I chose BT Mobile (yes, they do mobiles as well as landlines) because they offered line rental at only £9.99 a month - cheaper than any others I'd seen - which included 150 cross network anytime minutes and 50 texts.

While this proved a good option for the first five months or so it soon became apparent - particularly when I started calling mortgage men, estate agents, solicitors etc on a regular basis re. the ongoing quest for a house - that this was nowhere near enough. My bills soon started creeping up to the £80/90 mark and what was worse, the £9.99 a month was only possible via cheque-back - i.e. you pay a standard £27 a month (before VAT - another added extra they omit to mention) and then every three months claim back £51 - and I only remembered to do that twice. In fact, the last one I may not even get as I read in the small print that if you leave the network before you claim, then you can't get the cheque (I sent off my application about four days before I switched to another network, despite having stayed the full 12 months, so I'm praying they processed it before then but I somehow doubt it).

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So, now I'm with T-mobile which, for £35 a month, gives me a lovely 500 mins and 200 texts. And what's even better, if I remember to fill in my cheque-back form (this time it's going into my diary) every two months I can claim the whole lot back - yes, free phone calls and line rental for a whole year! But on the minus side, to get this fantastic deal I had to settle for a less than fantastic phone. Not that it's bad but I decided I'd rather have a basic Nokia - which would once have been a must-have model - for 12 months free of charge than one that takes huge pictures, stores music and has up-to-date ring tones for £35 a month.

Buoyant from my phone deal I went onto uswitch.com to discover I could save £95 by going with another electricity supplier. And that wasn't even the cheapest. In my criteria I specified 'green' energy, i.e. renewable power, so if I'd gone purely on price I could save even more.

And I also opened up a new bank account with First Direct that will pay me £50 if I get my salary paid into it (other banks do this too for new custuomers).

Another way to save money is by selling things. Being a Carrie Bradshaw-style shoe hoarder I decided to part with some pairs and yet again, turned to the internet.

Having only ever given e-bay a cursory glance I thought I'd give it a try. At first it was laborious setting up my details but the initial pain was worth the gain as I sold a pair of trainers, stilettos and only once-worn sandals for around £55.

So there you have it - fantastic tips from a self-confessed money splurger. If I can do it, anyone can. Next week I might even divulge yet another website that stops you having to pay over the odds for premium rate phone lines (and no, I don't mean of the X-rated variety).

Stay tuned …


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