personal finance

The best bargains you’re missing out on

Stately homes on a shoestring

If you are partial to a walk around a stately home and garden but shudder at the cost of admission, you could save a fortune by buying a National Trust (NT) membership. 

Discover the real ‘upstairs downstairs’

But thanks to a reciprocal agreement, should you join the sister organisation, the Scottish National Trust, you can visit all the National Trust properties in England and pay a third less. 

For instance, in England, an adult membership of the NT typically costs £69 a year, but those over 60 who opt to join the equivalent heritage body over the border pay as little as £45 for a senior membership – a saving of £24. 

You could further add to your savings and buy a joint senior membership, suitable for two adults at one address where one is aged 60 years or older, for just £72 a year – or £36 per person.

Keep doing the things you love with an additional tax-free income. Find out more.

Pay less at the pharmacy

For those who are dealing with non-urgent medical conditions such as eczema, hayfever and ingestion, the NHS minor ailment scheme run in selected pharmacies can save you time – and money.

Designed for people with minor health conditions, the scheme diverts people from visiting their doctor by enabling them to see a qualified health professional at their pharmacy – avoiding a GP appointment or queuing at A&E.  The professional is able to dispense medicines and advice, thus saving the patient time that might otherwise have been spent waiting in a doctor’s surgery.

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It also means that if you are exempt from paying prescription charges – because you’re under 16 or over 60, for example, or have a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) – you won’t pay for the medicine at all. 

And the savings are not to be scoffed at as the costs of over-the-counter medication soon add up.

Your guide to prescription painkillers

At present the scheme is not offered nationwide, and the conditions covered will vary depending on the location and the particular service. Ask in your local pharmacy if they participate in the scheme. 

Bear in mind that it’s also designed to offer medication to meet an acute need rather than provide an opportunity to stock up on free medications – if a pharmacist thinks someone is trying to abuse the system, they can refuse any request for treatment at their discretion.

Get paid to recycle

Getting paid to recycle may seem too good to be true, but believe it or not, you really can cash in clearing out your cupboards.

For instance, MAC cosmetics accepts returns of its primary packaging through the Back To MAC Programme. By returning six containers to a MAC counter or MAC Cosmetics Online, you will receive a free lipstick of your choice as a thank you.

If you have piles of unworn clothing clogging up your wardrobe, take them down to any Marks & Spencer and earn 50 Sparks loyalty points through the retailer’s “Shwopping” scheme, where all donations go to Oxfam. Or you can take your items directly to an Oxfam store to get a £5 voucher off a £35 spend on clothing and home products. The only catch is that your donation must contain at least one item of M&S labelled clothing.

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While those with computers can even recycle empty ink cartridges. If you are a Clubcard member, you can earn up to 125 Green Clubcard points per cartridge at Tesco, while sites such as Printer Cartridge Recycling will pay around £3, depending on the type of cartridge. 

What’s more, it won’t cost you a penny as many of these companies provide a freepost service for smaller quantities and a free courier collection service for larger amounts.

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