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Using technology to save money in these tough times

As the cost of living crisis continues, Dr Harry Brown offers some tips for healthcare professionals to save money, from NHS discounts to recovering refunds.

With inflation still rearing its ugly head (and likely to be with us for some time to come), interest rates at risk of rising further and elevating mortgage monthly payments as well as the general cost of living crisis, these are tough times for many if not the vast majority of us.

There does not seem to be any respite for any of these adverse financial circumstances at the moment. No matter your income, expenditure or financial situation there is plenty of room for all of us to save some cash. This is where technology can help.

The humble email

I start with the humble email, a more mature technology that a lot of people hardly use nowadays except for work, transmitting documents and images, or for legal reasons. Many of us tend to rely on messaging services such as WhatsApp instead of email. However, it still has a lot to offer.

From the MoneySavingExpert website founded by the well-known and highly respected consumer champion, Martin Lewis, comes an excellent weekly email that I have been subscribing to for many years. This free no obligation money tips email takes a short while to read and is independent. It pops into my inbox almost every week and is always worth a read.

There are often great money saving tips and ideas and the website is full of great and impartial advice. I often refer to this website when making financial or consumer decisions. It has reliable, regularly updated and dependable information about a huge number of financial and consumer issues which can potentially save you money. The in-house search engine is pretty good as well. This service is excellent and please give it a whirl, especially if you are not aware of it or have not used it for some time.

Financial apps

Many of us own a smartphone that allows access to an abundance of financial apps which can cover many of our bank accounts and credit cards. These apps have very useful capabilities including performing a financial self-check.

As we now have instant access to our accounts through these apps, we can analyse spending patterns and direct debits on our bank accounts and credit cards. There are also online equivalents and sometimes web access on a big computer screen can be easier to access and visualise. This allows us to see where the money is going and how we can tackle excess spending if there is room to prune your outgoings.

Bank accounts and credit cards also offer deals on certain products. For example, not that long ago, I obtained a significant period of time of a free subscription to Apple TV (the streaming service) from one of my credit cards. My bank also offers a deal to obtain Avios points, which we can use to reduce the cost of a holiday or a flight from specific providers such as airlines, in our case British Airways.

Everyone loves a bargain and apart from saving money, there is an inner satisfaction that you have managed to obtain a good deal. Remember a good deal is a good price for something you definitely want or need and not for an impulse purchase that you think you want but maybe don’t need. That is more likely to lead to a waste of money.

NHS discounts

Talking of discounts if you work for the NHS or are retired NHS staff, there is also room for group discounts for goods and services. My favourite is the Blue Light Card which will also take non NHS staff. There is a modest membership fee and I am sure many people will get their money back within a short time. The app and website lists companies and organisations that offer discounts, and some can be significant. Occasionally, I have asked a vendor if they take the Blue Light Card, even if they are not listed as offering this service and sometimes, they do. I have saved a significant amount of money using the Blue Light Card.

Of course, they are not the only people offering NHS discounts. Not surprisingly, MoneySavingExpert offers a page with a listing of discounts to NHS staff, and this is well worth a look.  There is also Health Service Discounts and they offer a cashback service.


Another way of getting a good deal is not to accept the face value of the price offered. Some consumers are shy about “haggling” but in many situations it may be appropriate. It is usually not acceptable to haggle for the price of goods and groceries (there may be the odd exception) in a supermarket at the checkout desk but it may be more appropriate if you are buying a service from certain vendors.

Again, referring to the excellent MoneySavingExpert website, there is a section on good places where haggling may work in your favour. Check out negotiating with service providers and you could cut your bills in a number of sectors such as broadband for example.

Refunds and complaints

As well as saving money by looking for good deals and discounts, surprisingly you can also recover money already laid out. For example, if you are trying to get a refund, or trying to solve a complaint and are getting nowhere. One solution is to contact the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of that organisation causing you the problem.

From personal experience, I have often found this a surprisingly good way to solve a problem and not uncommonly, I have received compensation as well as a satisfactory solution. Sometimes the CEO themselves will respond and other times one of their team with executive powers will assist. Where do you find the contact details (in particular an email address-another victory for the humble email) of a CEO? The answer can be found in this excellent website. It contains a huge amount of relevant information and I have found this website to be so reliable and very helpful.

Reductions on subscriptions

I suspect over recent years we have accumulated subscriptions, often digital, and it is easy to forget about them if you don’t use them regularly. As mentioned previously, you can use apps or online access to see your credit card activity or bank account debits to track your regular subscriptions.

I have previously mentioned negotiations or haggling and it is surprising what can be achieved in terms of a price reduction. Some subscriptions will allow you to go to a lower tier. For example, in your mobile phone deal, can you cope with a contract that allows less data or call time and still manage? Or maybe you have a streaming service, does it offer a cheaper alternative that may be advert driven. The music streaming service Spotify offers a free advert supported service with some restrictions. Netflix also offer tiered pricing. Don’t forget there are also free TV streaming services and Amazon has a decent one.

An excellent adjunct to help you straddle the numerous streaming services is the Just Watch wesbite, which searches for a specific programme, movie or TV series in one single search across a number of streaming services. You can compare prices to buy, rent or stream a specific programme or movie and there is also a filter for free and best price.

There are other services for free and sometimes they can be just as good as or nearly as good as the commercial product. There is plenty of free computer software around and if you pay for computer software you make want to look at the free alternatives though it may not suit all your needs. A good collection and review of free Office type software and others can be found at you have guessed it, MoneySavingExpert.

Local library and comparison sites

Another amazing source of free material is your local library. In particular, most local libraries in England and Wales offer a fantastic array of free digital versions of newspapers and magazines to local residents. My local library offers a stunning service including, audio books and eBooks as well as access to online reference resources. From my local library I get a massive choice of high-quality full text reading material, all at no charge.

Finally, once you have decided on a product to purchase don’t forget to use a price comparison website to check the price for that specific product elsewhere. It takes seconds and my favourite price comparison website is Google Shopping, which is quick and easy to use.

Spending a bit of time researching, supported by apps and websites, can save you a decent amount of money and could help you keep ahead of the cost-of-living crisis which is affecting so many of us. Happy hunting!


Dr Harry Brown is a retired GP, Leeds


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