Freebie Friday: treats for all the family for half term

Family watching television on couch

Half term doesn't have to be expensive. Of course, the weather is usually too horrible for lovely free outdoor activities, and going out to an all-weather attraction can cost the earth. Fortunately, with these freebies, the kids will have all the entertainment they need at home - with free DVDs, toys and Amazon Prime Video.

Free goody bag
If you can stand the thought of popping into a toy shop during a school holiday, you can pick up a free goody bag. The users of have spotted that Smyths toyshops are giving them away free this Saturday, between 9am and 1pm. They contain a My Little Pony blind bag, a tub of Play-Doh and a Transformers blind bag - so there may well be some scope for swapping among siblings. They will apparently be operating a queuing system, and will give one bag to each child until they run out - so it may be worth getting there early.

Free snacks
Sainsbury's is giving away free Organix snacks at the moment. The whole range is on offer right now, so you're only getting a freebie worth 50p - but it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. The range includes everything from carrot sticks to cheese puffs, mini gingerbread men and fruit gummies, so there should be something that appeals. All you need to do is add a 'Goodies singles' pack to your online shop, and use the code FREEGOODIES at the checkout.

Free Disney DVDs
Disney is offering its very handy 2-for-1 deal in the run up to Christmas, so you can buy two classic DVDs for the price of one. DVDs in the offer include oldies like Beauty and The Beast, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid - but also newer films like The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out. Now Topcashback is making things even more rewarding, by offering new members the chance to get two Disney DVDs for nothing. You just sign up for free, find the offer, and click through to Zavvi to buy the DVDs. The total (up to the value of £12) will be in your cashback account within seven days.

Free 'Grand Tour' episode
The users of Latest Deals have spotted that at the moment you can get a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime. Not only could this prove handy for your Christmas shopping and for Black Friday, but it'll also give you access to Amazon Prime Video until after the first episode of The Grand Tour (with Jeremy Clarkson and friends) has aired. Alternatively you can wait a few weeks, so you get four episodes to watch during the trial - or hold on until all 12 have been screened and watch them on catch-up. The only risk is, of course, that you cannot guarantee the freebie will still be available then.

Free cider
There's also a freebie for adults only, because Heineken is giving away free bottles of Old Mount Cider at 229 pubs - including lots of Slug and Lettuce pubs. A bottle would usually set you back up to £5.20, so it's a pretty good deal. All you have to do is sign up, and your voucher will be emailed to you. Then you can pop into the pub, show the voucher on your phone, and pick up your freebie - any time before 11 November. Once you've had your freebie, you'll then get another voucher to buy-one-get-one-free, which will be valid until 13 November, and if you take this offer up, you'll get a second BOGOF voucher to use by 16 November.

Shopping: when spending more isn't always better
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Shopping: when spending more isn't always better

The wine world is notoriously snobby, and the experts will tell you that there’s no way to buy a good bottle without spending at least £25. However, a study in 2011 at the Edinburgh International Science Fair demonstrated that people could only tell the difference between a cheap and expensive wine 53% of the time - which is roughly the result you'd get from flipping a coin.

Instead of focusing on price, it’s worth looking for wine awards. In December last year, for example, the International Wine Challenge awarded silver medals to Tesco Finest Fiano (selling for £5.49) and the Tesco Finest Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (priced at £5.99).

The price you’ll pay for your hotel room depends partly on type of room you choose, but also on a host of things that have nothing at all to do with the room itself. If you shop carefully, therefore, you can get more for less.

One of the most effective approaches is to use a ‘secret hotels’ service, which gives you details of the location and facilities, but doesn't tell you the name of the hotel you are booking until you have paid.

This enables hotels to slash their prices by as much as 50% without damaging their brand. If you book this way you can easily get a junior suite for less than the advertised double room rate at the same hotel.

Logically, the longer the interest-free period on your credit card, the more you’ll save. However, it doesn't always work out that way.

If you need to borrow for exactly the length of the interest-free period, then it’s a great option, but if you need to borrow for a longer or shorter time, it's a waste of money.

You have roughly a 40% chance of being tempted by the longer interest-free period into failing to pay off the debt in time - and being hit with high interest charges. In this instance, you may be better off with a long-term low rate.

Meanwhile, if you are one of the third of people who tend to pay off their card early, then you'd be better off paying a smaller balance transfer fee for a card with a shorter interest-free period.

If you need to buy new clothes, then choosing a product that has done minimal damage to the environment is clearly a kinder option than buying from a manufacturer that doesn't care about its impact on the world.

However, you will usually pay more for an environmentally-friendly brand, and there’s a far cheaper option that’s even kinder to the environment: buying second-hand clothes.

Your local charity shops will have items in perfect condition that would otherwise be going to landfill, so by buying them you meet three great criteria: you're saving the planet, saving money and helping a good cause.

You can pay anything up to 1,000 times more for water in a bottle than from the tap, so it stands to reason that it must be better.

However, instead of necessarily paying for superior water, we're paying for bottles, transportation and marketing, which might not be the kind of thing you value

On average we drink 33 litres of bottled water every year, and at an average cost of 48p per bottle, that's almost £16. You have to ask yourself if it's worth it.

Your expensive fashion headphones may look cool, but if you look around among the professionals, they won’t be wearing them.

The very best of the professional headphones cost the earth, so they're not a money-saving option. However, if you set a budget and check out the gadget magazines for their recommendations in your price range, not one of them recommends the fashion brands.

Instead of paying for branding, it's worth doing your research and paying for better sound.

We're loyal to brands for two reasons when it comes to medicines. The first is that they advertise, and they don’t mention the name of the active ingredient, so if we have a specific problem, all we know to ask for is the brand.

The second is a matter of trust, because we know the brand, and we can see it costs many times more than the generic versions of the same thing, so we trust that it is better.

In reality, the active ingredients are exactly the same, and if you don't know the generic drug that you can substitute for your expensive brand, you can simply ask your pharmacist - and look forward to spending a fraction of the amount your usual brand name medicines will set you back.

Pedigree pets are incredibly expensive. Even common breeds like springer spaniels will cost you several hundred pounds, while rarer breeds can set you back thousands.

It’s easy to assume you are paying for a well-bred pet, which will be free from medical problems. However, the breeding process means that pedigree pets tend to be prone to far more medical issues - which end up costing a fortune.

A mongrel dog or a moggy will often rack up far fewer vets bills, and there are usually an enormous number looking for new homes at the local rescue centre.

There’s an enormous advertising industry, pouring huge resources into convincing us that the more expensive beauty products are the best. In some cases this may be true, but it’s also worth keeping your eyes open for the cut-price beauty products recommended by the experts and winning awards.

A couple of examples stand out from recent coverage, including Boots Protect & Perfect for £23.95, which was so hotly tipped that it had a waiting list before its release in May last year. An even more affordable option is the £1.69 Bottle O’Butter moisturiser, which flew off the shelves thanks to an endorsement from the beauty press a while back.

Often in the mobile market, the more you pay, the more you get. So if you want a flash phone, all you can eat data, oodles of airtime and endless texts, you'll pay through the nose. The question you really need to ask yourself is whether you need all of this.

It’s worth checking your statements each month, and going back to look at them for the duration of your contract. Check your average use, then look at any extra you would have paid for the months when you went over this. In most cases, those who are paying for the very biggest mobile packages could save substantially by downshifting.


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