There’s no such thing as a free lunch – or is there? There is an absolute tonne of free stuff out there for you to get your hands on if you know where to look. And since the rise of smart phones and social media, getting your hands on freebies is even easier.
Once you’re in the know it’s just a case of bothering to claim it. This is where most people have a problem – the effort of filling out a voucher, walking into a shop or saving a receipt seems too much for many people. DO NOT BE THAT PERSON.
Focus on getting freebies for items you would otherwise buy or stuff you would like to try. If you’re not going to use it, there’s no point getting it – even if it’s free.
Make it work around your life. Sign up to stuff while you’re waiting for the bus or pop out to collect items on your lunch break but DO NOT make special trips out of your way unless the item is really worth it or you might spend more on travel than the item is worth. Here are seven tips for getting free stuff:
- Social media
Social media is a great way to get easy access to free stuff. Brands use it to promote new products all the time and money savers like to share (gloat about) what they have found. I recommend following Latest Free Stuff and Student Money Saver (you don’t have to be a student to use this) on Twitter as a starting point. Spend 10 minutes a day browsing – maybe while you’re enjoying your morning coffee – to see what you find.
- Check your emails
This might sound stupid but it’s amazing how many people don’t read their emails! To prevent spam totally blocking up my inbox I have two personal email addresses which I use regularly – one for important stuff and one for ‘spam’ emails and offers. Get yourself onto mailing lists and watch the offers come flooding in – free bottle of wine with a meal, gym passes, money off vouchers – you get the picture. My top pick? Show Films First to get free cinema and sometimes theatre tickets!
- Download apps
The minimalist in you might not want to have loads of apps on your phone but I assure you some are totally worth getting. O2 Priority is a must have (I’m not on O2 but I bought a pay-as-you-go sim for my old phone and just tether it to my ‘real’ phone’s 4G when I want to use it), £1 lunches on Monday (OK not free but still worth having), free Caffè Nero on Tuesday along with weekly freebies from Boots and other goodies are all ready and waiting for you. Just don’t activate the code too soon or it might time out while you’re in the queue.
Cashback apps are great too, these pay you when you buy specific items at the right store by simply photographing your receipt – don’t get too snap happy though as some items only pay you a percentage of the value but others you get items totally free – I only use on the freebies and items I would buy usually. I did a raid at Tesco yesterday and got a soup for 50p, a bag of popcorn for 39p and a free packet of Popchips! My favourite is Shopmium (use code KHUUUGMG for a free chocolate bar!) but there’s also ClickSnap (part of Quidco) and Checkout Smart.
- Become a mystery shopper
Being a mystery shopper literally meant that I could afford to eat when I was interning in London a few years ago. Nowadays I use it more as a hobby and cos I LOVE having an excuse to treat myself to the occasional Pret lunch (read my article on cheap homemade lunches to see how I normally spend my lunchbreak). Mystery shopping normally involves entering a shop, browsing, taking note of stock and cleanliness and assessing customer service from staff. You will normally be reimbursed for your purchase and paid a small fee. I always have and always will use Marketforce. I’m not sure why I sided with them but it works for me and my lifestyle, covering Pret, Itsu, Pizza Express, Zara and River Island to name a few. I wouldn’t recommend it for people outside London though as the assignments are quite sparse. Other companies include Field Agent, Grass Roots and Mystery Shoppers Ltd.
- Take advantage of cashback!
It blows my mind that people do not take advantage of cashback! Cashback sites (as opposed to the cashback apps I’ve already mentioned) work through proving to retailers that they can bring in new customers by allocating some of their marketing budget to cashback. It’s not a scam – I promise! Whenever I buy anything online I ask Quidco if they do cashback, I’ve racked up several hundred quid just from this. There’s also Top Cash Back but I don’t like it as much. Banks and credit cards are also upping their game with cashback offers. Nationwide, Natwest and Halifax all offer cashback at selected retailers when you pay using card. The TSB classic plus account (which is a free account) offers 5% cashback on the first £100 of contactless payments each month and the matching credit card offers 5% cashback on the first £100 of Apple Pay payments each month. The Nationwide Select credit card pays 0.5% cashback on all purchases, not much but it does add up. If you prefer high street vouchers the John Lewis and Waitrose Partnership card and House of Fraser Mastercard both allow you to accumulate points which can be cashed in for vouchers. Free cash just from shopping? It’s a no-brainer really.
- Don’t be afraid to ask
Not sure what ice cream you want? Politely ask if you can try a free sample. Same goes for cosmetics, I’ve had multiple free samples of foundation etc. from asking to try out the colour at home. When booking a restaurant for a special occasion mention this, I’ve been given a free glass of wine or a mini cake, you’re also more likely to get the table with the view. Same goes for holidays, everywhere I stay it’s our anniversary (unlike birthdays, this can’t be disproved), which often means a cheeky room upgrade or a bottle of wine. Always be polite when asking and don’t be mad or upset if you don’t get the freebie, you aren’t entitled to it after all!
- Be nice to people.
My final piece of advice is just to be nice and smiley to people whenever possible. Some shops (such as Pret) don’t offer loyalty cards but instead allow their staff to give out free coffee to customers of their choice daily, if you’re a regular and you make the effort to smile and have a quick chat chances are this will stack up in your favour.