How to make gift cards work hard for you

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So, what do you do with all these gift cards you’ve been earning on Swagbucks or given for Christmas? Today I’m here to explain how to make them work harder for you. It’s tempting to hit the sales with them immediately after Christmas and before New Year, when the shops are pushing the fact that they have a sale big time. And whilst, if you really want a certain thing (especially something that’s bound to be popular) and want to be sure you don’t miss out, then that’s a good idea. Generally, it’s not – by this point in January most retailers are getting desperate to shift their old stock. We all know from the news, that retailers in the UK are generally having a very tough time out there and so, most of them have shed loads of stuff still left to shift.

By waiting until this point, and picking your day – you can hit retailers when they mark things down to 70%-75% off (or greater if you’re prepared to wait another week or so). This is when stuff becomes as cheap, or cheaper than buying it second hand in charity shops. So, take that stash of gift cards and hit the shops (but only if there’s stuff you really want or need).

Marks and Spencer went to 70% off in-store and online yesterday. I shopped both methods and found that the discounts were greater (nearer 80% in store, where they have shed loads of stock) and slightly less online (usually differing by between £1-£2). Mothercare have gone down to 75% off. Debenhams and H&M are at 70% off. You get the gist of it, most retailers will be dropping their prices now, on the stock that’s left. Just be aware that you have more rights when purchasing online, as they still have to give you 14 days to change your mind, under the distance selling regulations. Whereas, if you buy these items in-store – you’ll likely be told they’re non-returnable (unless faulty). This is certainly the case in M&S. So try things on, if they’re clothing or take the sizes you need with you, or a tape measure!

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Are you a Home Bargains shopper?

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No? You should be! My shopping habits have been revolutionised since they opened up a store near me. They sell everything from stationary, to groceries, toiletries, toys, cleaning products, hardware, home furnishings, pets and more!

One of regular purchases here is 4 packs of John West tuna chunks. They sell 3 varieties – in brine, in sunflower oil and in spring water. All are £2.79 for a 4 pack, that’s 67p per tin! The next cheapest I could buy is an economy, supermarket brand at around 80p per tin, although the price has come down recently and you can buy Asda Smartprice or Tesco Value for 65p per tin. However I don’t think the quality compares, as economy brands are usually grey mush and barely resemble a tuna steak. I rarely see John West for less than £4 in the supermarkets. The tuna is pink and meaty, definitely top quality!

I use a lot of mailing bags and tissue paper for sending eBay items. I used to buy my mailing bags at Wilko, as I found them the cheapest. Their A4 mailer bags x5 are £1.50 are and A3 x5 are £1.75. The same at Home Bargains are 49p for 6x A4 and 89p for 6x A3. They sell 10 large sheets of tissue paper in a rainbow of colours for 49p, the next cheapest I can find is at a local bargain store for 99p. There’s just no contest is there? You can see how the savings start to add up!

I regularly buy sweets and chocolate here, as they are so much cheaper than the High Street. They have a HUGE range! I also love my oatcakes and I can buy them for 65p per box here. Compare that even to Poundland, where surprise, surprise – they cost £1 a box! They have a huge range of cheap biscuits and top brands too. As someone who eats a gluten-free diet, I often spy gluten-free items in Home Bargains at a mere fraction of the supermarket cost. A while back they were selling Nutribix for 79p a box! They cost £3.79 a box in the supermarkets- they had a slightly shorter best before date of 1-2 months, but what does that matter when you’re going to eat it soon anyway?

I buy some of my toiletries here too, dental products are much cheaper than the high street and I always pick up big name toothpaste for £1 a tube, like Colgate, Sensodyne or Arm & Hammer. They often have bumper sized packs going for this price too.

Do you use Cif cream cleaner? They sell it here for £1 a bottle. You might find it for £2 in the supermarkets if you’re lucky and occasionally £1.50 a bottle at Wilko. But other than grabbing it from time to time, in Poundland – you won’t find it regularly, this cheap. They also sell Dri-Pak Soda Crystals at 65p for 1.5kg which is way cheaper than £1 a bag at Wilko. These have so many household uses and I’d never be without a bag.

In the pet section today, they had pet carriers for £20 and scratching towers for the same price. They are always cheaper for treats here, like Weebox sticks at 79p per pack, next cheapest is 99p in the supermarkets or Wilko.

I regularly pick up Sequin Art kits here for £6-£7 instead of the £15-£18 they are full price. I have had lovely hardback Disney notebooks for £1-£2. If you check out http://www.moneysavingexpert.com and look on the ‘Quick Grabbit’ forums, you will find a Home Bargains thread where members post the hottest deals. But I want to encourage you to go there anyway for your everyday basic items because they are much, much cheaper! Oh and be sure to come back and tell me what you’ve found 🙂