Yeah Mr TEA, we’re loving the fancy psychology…but what about some meat and potatoes?…how about some actionable consumer advice for UK FI-seekers. Where can we get stuff for less?
OK, so this week we are introducing the new TEA Recommends page. This is where I put up in one place where I buy my stuff from. The basic stuff that we all buy: food, utilities etc
In order to beat the system ethically and stick it to The Man, we’re going to be using the principles of life-hacking, including crowd sourcing and alignment of interests.
Crowd sourcing allows us to benefit from the wisdom of crowds. This is why Ask The Audience is always the best lifeline on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? So the way I’d like this to work is that I put up some suggestions and then you frugality ninjas out there can laugh at my extravagance and suggest smarter / better / cheaper alternatives via the comments section. If you’ve got a better idea than mine, great! Leave a comment and I’ll investigate and update the page accordingly.
Alignment of interests is when you benefit by being on the same side of the deal as someone smart and well informed. If Warren Buffett is buying, would you rather be buying or selling at the same price? Avoid conflicts of interest. As Buffett says, never ask a barber if you need a haircut. Why believe a washing powder company will give you unbiased advice on how much powder to put in the machine? They are on the other side of the deal here.
The stuff on this page is what I actually buy and use. I’m not on commission and there are no affiliate links on this page. I’m on your side brothers and sisters, so cut me some slack in the comments. I may not always be right, but I’ll always be honest.
You can use Monevator to find the lowest cost broker (as well as all the free investing advice most people will ever need).
I also look for service quality and scale. We use The Share Centre for our ISAs and non-tax sheltered accounts and Hargreaves Lansdown for our SIPPs. I only use The Share Centre for overseas listed stocks as they don’t screw you with an FX commission and the service is great. Don’t use Hargreaves Lansdown for holding funds or overseas stocks (expensive) but if you hold London listed ETFs or shares then HL are competitive on costs.
For spending in the UK, I use the American Express platinum cashback card which gives 1% cashback and has no fee. Why wouldn’t you want a 1% discount on everything? Just don’t spend anymore than you would have done if you’d used cash. Pay the balance off every month by direct debit and never, ever pay interest. Obviously.
When overseas, I use the Halifax Clarity Mastercard which is the best way for us Brits not to get shafted with ridiculous hidden FX charges.
Use Moneysavingexpert to find the best deal. Look for a flexible mortgage that allows over-payments with no penalties. Then pay off your mortgage as if it were an emergency (it is) and 15% interest rates were coming back in a couple of years time (they might be).
If you own a house and have a spare room, rent it out. If you want cheaper rent, share a house or flat. Either way, take a look at www.spareroom.co.uk.
If you want a large and super-luxurious family car that’s cheap to run, the Skoda Octavia works really well and is what we have. The (smaller) Skoda Fabia is even cheaper. You can also check out the Seat Toledo or any small car by Toyota or Citroen. Diesel not petrol. Used not new. Cash not finance. Obviously.
Can you live with 1 car rather than 2? Do you have a bike? Legs? If you drive distances less than 5 miles, you are at risk of Car-Clown Syndrome.
Buy real food that grew in a field or used to walk / swim / fly. Avoid stuff made in factories. Avoid brands and packaging.
We use Tesco home delivery which is the height of decadent luxury. Why pay more?
Frugality ninjas should check out Costco and Lidl. For example, why not blind taste test Lidl’s fruit and nut chocolate versus Cadburys (its a fraction of the price). Lidl’s champagne is excellent as well.
Here’s a clue…anything on a multi year contract is probably a rip-off. Why the fuck would you allow yourself to get locked into a 3 year contract when telecoms bandwidth expands exponentially and the price of IT related shit comes down every year? Respect Moore’s Law and the value of optionality.
Check out the smaller brands (3, Giff Gaff, Lebara). I’m on the 3 network with a pay as you go tariff which is as cheap as chips…even when you are overseas.
Are free from your local library. Or can be bought used from Amazon for next to nothing. You can get a better education (virtually free) by reading the right books than you can from any university.
Satellite / Cable TV
Are you shitting me? If you insist on watching TV, you can watch the BBC free on iplayer with no adverts fucking with your head. You are also allowed to watch Channel 4 if you fast-forward over the ads. We also use Netflix which is good for downloading films and documentaries. We’ve also used Amazon Lovefilm in the past.
Bikes are incredible frugality machines that come with healthy side effects like small bones and fast metabolisms. You can get a bike second hand for almost nothing. Use Ebay to find high end nearly new bikes at large discounts to the showroom price.
Anything new from Trek or Specialized between £500 and £1,000 will be more than enough bike for 99% of the population. If you are not a professional cyclist, I’d recommend the Trek 1.5 or the Specialized Allez as great road bikes. If you are a professional cyclist, you should be using your team sponsors bike…so that’ll be free then.
We just bought a new hybrid bike for our 12 year old son (the Apollo Transfer from Halfords) for £99. Talk about inflation…that is as cheap as new bikes were in 1982 when The Escape Artist was 12! And yes, it works just fine.
Thank you free trade and globalisation…and sorry about all the complaining!
Gas / electric
We use the Moneysavingexpert Cheap Energy Club to tell us what provider and tariff is cheapest. We are currently with Sainsbury’s Energy (which is provided by British Gas but is cheaper than British Gas…go figure).
Find out if you are on a water meter or not. If not, you can ask the water company to install one. Our bills went down when we did this but obviously this might not be the case for everyone.
Are free in the UK. Some people don’t seem to realise this. And no, standards have not fallen. If you’d been to my comprehensive school, you’d know that.
I don’t recommend most forms of insurance…I prefer to save the money and self-insure…unless its a legal requirement like Third Party motor insurance. For example, health insurance is unnecessary in the UK. If its serious, the NHS provides great healthcare. If there is a long waiting list, use some of the money you’ve saved over the years to pay for the op.
Ditch that expensive private gym subscription. Local authority gyms are cheaper. Exercise more naturally. Use your bike. Walk. Take the stairs. Do press-ups. Try sprinting – like you are being chased by a lion – every now and again. Read the book Convict Conditioning. Check out your local Park Run.
Is free and is all around you…enjoy it. Rent your own country estate the cheap way with The National Trust. Own thousands of acres of private woodland via The Woodland Trust. Get ridiculously cheap accommodation in amazing locations by joining the YHA.
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