images (97)Twelve pain-free money saving tips for 2013





Pay for prescriptions in advance, claim for delayed trains … keeping more of your hard-earned cash need not be taxing

Tired of trite advice on stretching your budget? Here are some real savings you can make for the year ahead.

1. Pay for prescriptions in advance
If you live in England and have to pay for your prescriptions (currently £7.65 each), you could save by buying Prescription Prepayment Certificates (PPCs). If you pay for more than 13 prescribed medicines each year, you could save money with a 12-month PPC costing £104, while a three-month PPC at £29.10 will also save you money if you need more than three prescribed medicines in three months. or call 0845 850 0030.

2. Use the “assessed charge” to cut £100 off your water bill
If you are single and live in a property in which it is not possible to have a meter installed, you can ask your water company to base your bill on an “assessed charge” which better reflects your consumption.

The water companies try to keep this billing method quiet. If you think you qualify, ask your water provider for an assessment and see how it compares with your existing flat-rate bill. Plenty of people will save between £50 and £100 a year. For example, the average unmetered household water and sewerage bill is around £380. But United Utilities charges £272 for a single person under the assessed charge, and Thames Water charges £202.

3. Save on train fares by using “carnets”
Many train companies offer the chance to buy batches of single tickets, called “carnets”, for both peak and off-peak travel, on many of their commuter routes. These last for three months and you pay up front. They offer great value if you make a few journeys a week. For example, First Capital Connect lets you buy singles from Stevenage to London King’s Cross for £6.80 each way (ie: £13.60 return) compared with £14.80 for the cheapest off-peak return (although prices will change in early January).

Carnet tickets are also available on longer journeys, and from most of the big train companies. The terms vary slightly – in some cases you get 12 trips for the price of 10, in others the price is discounted. If you regularly travel in and out of the capital, consider this option. Hull Trains, Virgin, Chiltern and several others offer carnet tickets.

4. MOT your car at a council-run testing station
Always have your car tested at council-run MOT testing stations. These typically charge full price for an MOT (around £55) but because they don’t do repairs, they have no incentive to fail your car. Numerous people report how they faced a big repairs bill after a failed test at a garage. They then took it to a council-run site where it passed.

5. Get £50 by avoiding water “run-off” charges
While most people are aware of water meters, how many know that they pay for all the surface water (rain) that runs off a property and into the public sewerage system? If your drainpipes that take rainwater off the roof of your home aren’t connected to the sewerage system – and millions of properties aren’t – you can apply for a rebate of between £17 and £50 a year.

The water companies – or to be precise, the sewerage companies – apply a charge to treat that water, and if it’s not applicable, then you don’t need to be paying for it. This, again, is a little-known fact that the water companies don’t exactly shout about.

You have to fill in a form, and it may require a visit to your home. If you can show that the rainwater running off your property goes into soakaways, you can apply for the rebate. Curiously, there is no onus on the company that provides your sewerage services to automatically apply the rebate; you only get it if you apply.

6. GroupSave on trains
If you’re planning to travel by train with a group of adults or children, buy a GroupSave ticket. Up to four people can travel for the price of two adults on off-peak services – and you can add more children at a flat rate of £1 each.

7. Promo and discount codes are exasperating – but worth trying
When buying items online, do a Google check first for any current discount codes before completing the checkout. Infuriatingly, most voucher codes you obtain online are out of date or prove worthless when applied. Many just bounce you into retailers’ sites. But careful hunting around can elicit savings of 10% or more. Try dedicated smartphone voucher apps for the latest codes.

8. Delayed on the train? Claim the ticket price back
It’s amazing how few people claim for delayed trains. The minimum compensation, by law, is 20% of the ticket value if the train is delayed by an hour or more. But individual train companies have more generous terms which you can find in their passenger charter. Chiltern Trains and First Capital Connect give you 50% back if the train is 30 minutes late, rising to 100% if it’s delayed by more than an hour. Virgin Trains gives you 25% back if the Birmingham/London route is delayed by more than 45 minutes.

How to claim compensation if your train is delayed

9. Dump your packaged account
These can cost £300 a year – for which you get travel insurance and breakdown recovery, plus some other services. But you can usually buy them more cheaply elsewhere. It should require no more than a simple phone call to your bank to degrade your account to the basic current account. While you’re at it, dump lots of other dubious insurances: legal expenses cover (hardly anybody claims); mobile phone insurance (nearly impossible to claim on); and boiler cover (madly expensive).

10. Check your tax code
You may have the wrong tax code on your pay packet, which means you are overpaying income tax. Martin Lewis at says some of his users have saved thousands after double-checking their code. He has a handy guide to check whether you’re eligible for a rebate at

11. Always buy generic medicines
Don’t be fooled by branded over-the-counter medicines. A 16-pack of Nurofen caplets costs £2 compared with Tesco’s 16 pack of Ibuprofen caplets at 19p.

12. Don’t buy guide books. Pop into the library instead
Libraries aren’t just for fiction; use them to borrow travel guides and OS maps for free before you head off on holiday. CDs, audiobooks and DVDs are cheap to rent too.

Do you regularly do any of the tips above? If so, how much have you saved in any given week, month or year? What else can readers do to save cash? Share your tips.