With prices sliding up across the board we’re all looking for the simplest way to save some cash on our essential shopping.
While money saving forums have plenty of ideas, a lot of them seem to involve making big changes to your buying habits, going out of your way to go to a particular place or hunting down codes to get some additional money off – all a lot of faff for a few pence of reward.
I made one simple change to how I shop online several years ago and was surprised when I checked my account settings recently and realised that I’ve ended up effectively saving £1,600 over that time, buying the things I was intending to buy anyway.
As someone who works permanently from home and constantly seems to be lurching from after school clubs to kids’ birthday parties, to doctor’s appointments, family commitments and all the things we all struggle with in the modern world, most of my shopping is done online.
I know it’s not ideal, I’d love a browse down the aisles, but mostly shopping is something to be ticked off a to do list, usually done on my phone at night while I watch TV.
This week so far, not including my regular online supermarket shop, it’s been something red white and blue for the kids’ school Jubilee celebrations, a birthday gift for a six-year-old whose party we’re off to at the weekend and a hay fever remedy that actually works.
I’m always keen to get the best deals and shop around to find the sites with the best prices, but once I know where I’m going to buy something there’s one simple thing I do that has over several years saved me hundreds of pounds.
Quidco is one of the UK’s biggest cashback sites and, while I’ve tried others, I’ve found the interface and ease of use such that it’s the one I’ve been able to incorporate into my online shopping routine, not least because with 4,500 companies attached to it, pretty much everything I need to order can get some kinds of Quidco cashback.
You can sign up for Quidco for free. It works by referring customers to a wide range of online shops. If these customers make a purchase Quidco earns a commission, some of which it then passes back to the customer themselves.
As well a straight percentage cashback, lots of companies also work with Quidco to give additional offers throughout the year meaning you can get bonus cashback for ordering at specific times or buying particular kinds of products.
I found their Mother’s Day flowers deals particularly handy, getting me a hefty 15% cashback on a beautiful Bloom and Wild bouquet for my mum that I would have bought anyway. ShopDisney often comes up with additional limited-time cashback offers perfect for when you’re picking up Christmas and birthday gifts too.
It can take a while for cashback to be paid, basically the purchase is tracked at the point you click ‘buy’ but the money from the retailer can take up to a few months to appear in your account. Once it is in though you have an earnings balance which you can withdraw either via Paypal, bank transfer or gift cards for many of the shops involved.
Quidco is totally free to use, although if you get on with it and find you’re accruing cashback well you can opt into their Premium service which, for £1 a month when you earn cashback (so you don’t get charged if you’re not using it) gives you higher commission rates and the opportunity to get boosts on the money you withdraw for gift cards.
I’ve done this once when I withdrew some money as a Not on the High Street gift card to buy a fancy personalised wedding present for a friend. Not only did I got an extra 10% in the value of the money I withdrew but when I ordered the item I was even able to get Quidco cashback on it, starting the process of saving again.
For me, training myself into checking Quidco before I buy anything online has saved me hundreds of pounds.
My account currently stands at £1,628.58 cashback earned since I opened it, with £483 waiting to be withdrawn as holiday spending money later in the year. You can withdraw it whenever you like once you’ve made £1 worth of earnings but I’ve found it really handy as an extra chunk of ‘bonus’ money to cover treats or holidays when I’ve been feeling short.
I’ve also cashed my earnings out as Amazon vouchers – getting an extra 2% on top – to help cover Christmas shopping. They key is remembering to use it every time.
Often it’s made up of small amounts on, say, our Domino’s treat, which might work out at 30p. But, so long as I remember to go via Quidco first, by the time I’ve picked up some some second hand workout equipment on eBay, we’ve had a Just Eat takeaway, or I’ve bought kids’ school clothes for September at M&S it all starts to add up – all on purchases I was going to make anyway.
A British Airways flight got £19 and a host of lower price Travelodge and Hotels.com staycation nights away with the family came in at between £5 and £11 a time.
When we first started my husband was a bit dubious and, to be fair, to get the most out of it it’s good to take a look from time to time at the cashback offered and any additional deals they’re doing, sometimes you can pick up a ‘boost’ of £5 or £10 if you make a certain number of qualifying transactions in the month.
But in the end he signed up for an account too and, while he doesn’t tend to shop online as much as me (he has no need for Platinum Jubilee-themed tat for six-year-olds), he’s picked up a few hundred pounds along the way through choosing a new broadband provider for the house and buying white goods from AO.com.
Of course the easiest way to save money online shopping is to not do any, it’s important not to get drawn into buying stuff you didn’t intend to anyway and cashback is still money you have to spend up front.
But as the person in our household who organises the weekly shop, the birthday gifts and a host of other things all ordered online, signing up for Quidco and using it regularly has been a great and simple way to get a chunk of the money we spend back with minimal faff.
Do you use Quidco or any other cashback sites, or have any money saving tips you’d like to share? Have your say in the comments below.