HSBC Computer Faults & The Rise Of On-Line Banking

Global banking giant HSBC started 2016 badly – with glitches to its on line banking.

This was fixed after a few days, with the Bank spokesman citing “a complex technical issue within our systems”. The Bank’s IT department worked nonstop, running tests across various servers and systems to isolate the issue. The problem was fixed after a few days – but still, inevitably, caused chaos for many thousands of HSBC customers, both personal and business.

HSBC Chief Operating Officer, John Hackett, was clear to dispel any idea that the outage was due to a cyber-attack. He further apologised to customers, promising that “any fees customers incur as a result of this outage period will be waived.”

Customers of subsidiary First Direct were not affected. Some MP’s will be questioning HSBC executives over the matter, as a similar on line banking outage occurred in August 2015, which prevented over 270,000 payments from going through just before the Bank Holiday long weekend.

According to Andrew Tyrie MP (Con – Chichester), the head of the Treasury Select Committee, “the frequency of these failures across the financial services sector suggests a systemic weakness in IT infrastructure. This is concerning… I will be asking the chief executive of HSBC, and the regulators, for an explanation of these failures and action taken to sort them out. They just keep coming.”

Any investigation will once again see senior British based HSBC executives apprearing before British MP’s, following last year’s allegations that HSBC’s Swiss banks were helping wealthy clients evade tax.

It just goes to show the importance and popularity of on line banking. A British Banking Association (BBA) report from 2014 indicated that internet and mobile banking accounted for £6.4bn per week – an increase from £5.8bn in 2013. Internet banking services saw on average seven million logins per day. Those figures date from 2014: doubtless 2016 will see even greater number of internet banking users and transactions, as people embrace internet banking more, and banks update, improve and market their on line services more. Indeed, a previous post (Atom Bank: The Future Of Banking? http://www.frugalphil.co.uk/uncategorized/atom-bank-the-future-of-banking/) has already highlighted the steady rise of on-line banking, both on computers and increasingly via mobile apps. For both banks and customers banking, on-line services and banking are going to grow and become increasingly more important. Already, banks are starting to market their on-line banking services to new customers, in addition to their current and savings accounts, and other financial services and products. The nature of, and services offered by, the traditional bank branch are seeing slow but subtle change.

With more and more money being moved on-line, with more and more everyday transactions carried on on-line, banks need to be increasingly aware of the capabilities, limits and security of their on-line systems and servers. However, computers and IT systems are fallible, and probe to any number of glitches or bugs. Any number of technical issues could impact upon your ability to monitor and oversee your finances on line. That is without the ever present threat of cyber warfare, or hacking, in whatever form that may take.

It is always advisable to be prepared. What would happen if your on-line banking went down? Make sure that you take the appropriate steps to protect your finances, and ability to pay your debts and bills, in the event that you cannot use on line banking, for whatever reason. Make sure that you are prepared for a banking computer crash, and therefore protect your finances.

Set cash aside, and make sure you can make payments manually, or even use that rather old fashioned cheque book if necessary. Some experts suggest ensuring that you have a ‘safety cushion’ of money (in assets or cash) if that worst does indeed happen.

Essentially, it is always advisable these days to be prepared financially for a banking computer fault or crash. That applies equally for the banks as well as their customers.

Atom Bank: The Future of Banking?

The digital revolution coming to banks and banking in no uncertain terms.

Figures show that on line banking is more popular than ever. Recent research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) estimates that the value of mobile and online transactions will double over the next few years, from £1.7bn a week in 2014 to £3.4bn in 2020. The same figures estimate that the sum of all on line transactions will be £9.4bn a week by 2020, from £5.8bn in 2013. Internet only banks and service providers such as First Direct & Charter Savings Bank have shown that on line banking is the way forward. Banks and financial service providers are keener more than ever to improve, update and modernise often old and creaky back room functions to entice new customers.

With that in mind, a North East start up, Atom Bank, will be the first of its kind- a purely digital bank. There are no branches or customer service phone services. Further, it is the digital aspect that is its biggest selling point; it does not intend to have market leading product, high savings rates, or the lowest overdraft charges but rather “good quality products.” Its selling point to entice customers to switch will be its digital only nature.

Anthony Thomson & Metro Bank

Anthony Thomson & Metro Bank

Atom Bank will be led by Anthony Thomson (the founder and former chairman of Metro Bank), and Mark Mullen, the former CEO of First Direct. Mr Mullen recently left First Direct, with no formal announcement, two weeks prior to the announcement of Atom Bank. It will be based in the North East, and will employ close to 120 people – mainly in IT related roles.

In his press announcement introducing Atom Bank, Mr Thomson said of the new bank that “the difference is, we will be able to offer exceptional front-end service plugged into a state-of-the-art back end platform.” Atom Bank will not have any physical branches for customers – except a few for business banking customers – and will not have any telephone banking services either. The bank will exist and operate solely online and via smartphones.

Atom Bank is yet another venture for Mr Thomson, who launched Metro Bank a few years ago atom Bank is a about turn for Mr Thomson, and shows how quickly banking has evolved and changed. At the time of launching Metro Bank, Mr Thomson felt strongly that bank branches, and that personal interaction with staff in a physical presence was important at a time when the major banks were closing branches, and reducing their physical presence. Now, admits to his change of direction, as he is adapting to changes in the banking sector: “a lot has changed since I came up with the idea for Metro in 2007… To put branches in place now would be like BT bringing back phone boxes. Now everything can be done online or through mobile.”

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Despite the popularity of internet banking, recent years have seen big banks dogged by computer glitches, system glitches, and security concerns. That, according to Atom Bank’s team, shows that the IT and back office and computer functioning of the bigger banks is in urgent need of modernising and upgrading, to be fit for service in the 21st Century.

Bank branches, or a physical presence, may soon be obsolete, as more and more is done electronically. New banks with a sole on line presence will profit in such a changed banking sector.

Last year, government rules, enforced by the regulators, meant that it was easier than ever to switch banks. An estimated 2.4 m Britons took advantage and moved bank last year – with a similar number expected this year. In this era, the prospect of a digital only bank could be very appealing to many of those seeking to switch banks. With on line banking set to rise, a good and secure online presence and capability is more important for banks. In such an environment, banks like First Direct and Atom are predicted to thrive, and grow.

Furthermore, the new banks and financial service providers that are emerging are giving customers greater choices regarding who they bank with, and stimulating greater completion amongst banks. That can be to the benefit of customers, and personal finances, as customers benefit from competitive financial products and rates on offer.

Affordable Housing, House Prices & the UK Housing Market: An National Problem

The recent General Election campaign trail saw many issues raised and discussed at length by many parties in power. One such issue regularly approached was ‘affordable housing.’

Many in power on all sides of the Parliamentary divide raised affordable housing as a major concern to modern British society and the economy. There is currently no resolution or end in sight to the problems of house prices, property rental, and related social issues arising from that.

It is a massive national issue, which, if not tackled head on, will spiral and create an ever worsening series of problems to society as a whole. Not only is it property ownership that is a major concern- but even renting property is becoming increasingly problematical.

Regarding renting, increasingly more and more are paying higher rents, and indeed for much longer periods of time prior to buying a house,  as prices shoot up. Mortgages are at lower rates currently- but they are much harder to come by. Consequently, it is harder than ever to start on the property ladder. Renting and flat sharing are therefore increasingly popular. The result of this is to create a greater demand for houses and flats to rent. Sadly, the supply of such accommodation is getting less and less, with the prices for renting being adjusted accordingly.

It is harder than ever to start on the property ladder- and that is not even renting! Runaway prices mean that even renting can be problematical. More and more are turning to flatsharing as a way of finding affordable accommodation. Studies and figures also show that cohabiting couples (studies show that unmarried cohabiting couples are a demographic that are on the rise, despite having little protections, rights and recognition under law)  are increasingly turning to flatsharing as a way of attempting to start their own ‘household.’ Such an arrangement is far from satisfactory- and can put a strain upon each partner’s finances, and indeed upon even the most stable of long term relationships.

The financial crash of 2007, the following recession, slow economic recovery, a creaky Eurozone and many other factors have all contributed to effectively turn the UK housing market completely upside down. Property developers, and those in the housing industry and construction have suffered badly, and have seen less demand- despite increasing numbers requiring housing. The usual economic rules of supply and demand have seemingly gone out the window in the face of recent (and current) prices for housing.

This is to the detriment of all parties; developers, builders, renters, home owners, estate agents, and others connected to the housing industry. Overall, recent years have and are seeing the housing market turned completely upside down.

Government intervention, and financial assistance, as well as decisive action from the Bank of England  are all needed. Projects and initiatives (such as Help to Buy, and a new ‘market town’ at Ebbsfleet) have been announced- but are sadly lacking in their impact, and in their knock on effect on the markets and on prices. Firmer, clearer, tougher action is required. .

Such matters have an impact on society and families. Fewer young people can move out or away from home, which in itself can put extra strains on families and households. Economically, a less versatile and mobile workforce will have an impact on businesses, employment, turnover, and productivity. Although many (indeed more) are willing to, fewer are able to move further away, or even out of their family home, to find work. Additionally, studies show that for some, commuting times are journeys have become ever longer and more convoluted and complicated. Whether it be preference, or simply being forced to by economic reality, more and more are accepting that an increasingly long commute is becoming the norm, and a part of modern society, and the modern work/life balance.

As society has changed in the last few years, particularly following the recession- the housing market has not. However, the housing market definitely needs to change, and effort needs to be made regarding affordable housing.

Falling Petrol Prices as Oil Prices Plummet

The beginning of 2015 has seen the usual unpredictable weather, price hikes in energy and transport costs- and oil prices plummet. There are various reasons for this startling drop in the price of crude oil and gas, and the results of that have been severe economically globally.

Such falling market prices have actually seen an unexpected fall in petrol prices at the pumps. After unprecedented high fuel prices over recent years – peaking last summer at 132p per litre- that price has suddenly fallen. Consumers will see a welcome ease on personal finances, as filling up the car becomes cheaper- and this time without a tax cut. There are predictions that prices will end up under £1 a litre. In the face of that hope, though, AA president Edmund King cautioned that petrol prices “will still take some time to get down to an average of £1 per litre, particularly as 70% of the pump price is tax (57.95p duty and 18.3p VAT).”

Statistics and data compiled by the AA showed that the price of petrol has fallen to its lowest level in five years. The data showed that January 2015 saw that the average price of petrol in the UK was 108.91p per litre, with diesel prices being at 116.11p per litre. Further, petrol pump operators Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco stated that they would all cut the cost of petrol by 2p a litre from1 January.

This can only be of benefit to consumers. Further to the good news as regards petrol prices, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed that food prices had fallen by 1.9% in the year to December. However, in addition to cheaper petrol, falling oil prices bring with them unwanted negative economic impacts. Although very welcome, it is unlikely that these falling prices will be long term. Any savings made by consumers will probably be spent by consumers due to rising prices elsewhere.

The oil industry is still meeting and discussing the challenges before them as regards production and sales. The availability of Russian gas and oil, along with Russia’s recent actions in the international arena, are a cause for concern. Last November saw OPEC member states agree not to curtail oil production amidst falling oil prices. That resolution is now been challenged by several member states, as they struggle will lessened demand, and lower prices, for their oil.

OPEC member Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest oil exporter. The country has previously refused to cut production, even if the price of oil falls as low as $20 per barrel. It has further ignored calls to react this dramatic change in the oil industry, in the face of opposition from other OPEC members, notably Venezuela. Indeed, the recent death of the Saudi King, King Abdullah, will no doubt complicate matters further. It is a mixed blessing that his half-brother and successor, King Salman, 79, has indicated that he will maintain much of his predecessor’s rule and principals (that is also of concern to human rights observers).

The result of a troubled and suddenly volatile oil market will have an impact outside the immediate oil sector. The share prices of the big oil companies and energy companies have seen a dramatic fall in value. Further, financial analysts have cut their forecasts of the value of the oil and energy sector (e.g. predicting a sharp fall in he value of Brent Crude oil to just over $40 a barrel). OPEC will need to react firmly if the oil market continues in its slump and instability. Some countries might find the value of their oil futures lose value as well.

What the future will bring as regards oil production and sales is uncertain. However, these will be troubled and uncertain times for the oil market- which will probably end up being reflected at the pumps, in one way or another.

For British consumers, it would be advisable to make the most of the fall in prices now. Take advantage before the markets recover, and the price rises again and stabilises. Indeed, now is a good opportunity to use the savings to make your car energy efficient now, and spend those savings on your car now in maintenance and upkeep.

Inheritance Tax- and Fairer Taxation?

The Coalition has sought to make taxation fairer, and to tax people according to wealth. Despite such good and earnest intentions, the results have been debatable, morally and practically.

A good example is inheritance tax (IHT).

Currently, the inheritance tax threshold is £325,000 per person. This can double to £650,000 for a married couple- provided that the first spouse to die leaves their entire estate to their partner. Anything over £325,000 is subject to a 40% tax bill.

A problem with the current IHT system are house prices, and the housing bubble. Many middle class, middle income households are accidentally being dragged over the IHT limit by virtue of the value of their home rising in the current economic climate. Unintentionally leaving their children or inheritors with an increased tax bill and burden is an issue that is increasingly being faced by more homeowners, particularly those who would not have been affected in prior economic times.

The average price of a property in London now £514,000, and £338,000 in the South East. This is set against a nationwide average of £273,000 in September. Regionally, Northern Ireland has the most affordable housing, with an average price of £143,000 in September- contrasting with an average of £285,000 in England. Given these figures, it is relatively easy for many single or divorced people who own their owns to pass on an IHT tax burden on the value of their home alone. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), 4.8% of the population currently will pay IHT, with that figures to more than double to 10% by 2018- 19.

For those affected, there are easy steps to be taken to reduce the tax burden passed on. Some advice regularly given out be financial advisors as regards reducing a potential IHT tax burden is:

  • Make efforts to reduce the value of the estate to below the £325,000 threshold. After all, surely retirement should be enjoyed, after all?
  •  Gifts of £3,00 per year are tax free
  • The threshold rises upon marriage.
  • Putting assets into pensions results in inheritors having to pay less
  • Charitable contributions reduces the overall tax bill of the estate.

Aside from those simple steps, financial advisors have a wide range of advice and suggestions for those considering trying to reduce the IHT tax burden.

Passing on an increasing IHT tax burden onto inheritors is an issue that increasingly more households will have to face- despite the government’s statements and plans for the opposite.

Currently, the Prime Minister, in speeches earlier this year, set out plans to make taxation fairer. Under Conservative plans (not yet fully set out), people would be taxed fairly. Such assertions included IHT. Quoting from one of the Prime Minister’s speeches made in March:

“Inheritance tax should only be paid for by the rich. It shouldn’t be paid for by people who have worked hard and saved, and bought a family house in, say, Peacehaven [a town near Brighton]. So the ambition is still there and I would like to go further. It’s better than it was, but it didn’t make it into the coalition agreement. It’s something we will have to address in our manifesto.”

This returns to a previous Conservative pledge in 2007 to raise the threshold of IHT to £1,000,000 so that only the rich would pay IHT, and those on middle or low incomes would not be so affected by the burden.

That pledge was never addressed, or taken further. With an election next year, that Conservative pledge might be revisited in keeping with the statement to ‘make taxation fairer.’

Alternatively, that overarching pledge could again result in a series of questionable taxation polices.

Generating Additional Income

In this day and age of economic austerity, financial caution, rising prices and the average wage remaining stubbornly the same, many are increasingly turning to alternative ways to generate an income.

That can be achieved in many different ways. However, one point to remember, and one point to change a person’s financial perspective is this: your salary is not your only source of income. That itself starts a whole new mind set. The average person, contrary to how they feel, or to how they have been programmed to think, is not simply and solely dependent on their job for an income. There are a great many ways to generate extra income without being reliant solely on work.

Aside from the increasingly common phenomenon of having a second job, it is wise these troubled financial times to consider alternatives, and to essentially diversify your earnings.

With a bit of creativity, that can be achieved in a variety of ways. Obvious methods include selling old or unwanted possessions. What about clothes that no longer fit? Unwanted Christmas gifts? That blender bought in a feel good moment when you were determined to be healthier, and to make juices and smoothies for yourself, which actually never made it out of the box? Not only can such items be sold privately, but car boot sales and similar also offer opportunities to sell unwanted items. Additionally, the digital 21st century has given rose to platforms such as Ebay. Indeed, taking that further, in addition to selling unwanted items, the crafty seller will also buy unwanted items from others, and sell them on to make a profit. All of a sudden, another income stream has been generated- and those vital bills can get paid after all.

Another option is to sell and market any skill or experiences you might have. That second language ability you might have acquired visiting an exotic country in your twenties could give you a few hours a week teaching a language. Passionate and a skilled amateur in a certain sport? There are many who could, and who want, to benefit from casual instruction. Think creatively about the skills, experiences and knowledge that you have. Quite often, those skills or hobbies can be marketed and offered to those who are eager to learn about them, or who can benefit from them.

Indeed, your job can also provide a second income. If you work in a particular field, then with a little extra training, or an additional qualification, you can use your regular job and market your new found skill or qualification. If working as a fireman, for example, you will have excellent First Aid training. Obtain a few professional first aid qualifications, then that skill which you use on a regular basis can be used outside work, training others in first aid, or freelancing as a first aider at events (a high demand area).

A person’s income is not solely linked to their job. With as little thought and creativity, taking stock of what you have or know, it is relatively easy to use that to diversify your earnings, and to gain a second income. In addition, a lot of fun can be had with such casual, part time enterprises, and a lot of interesting experiences and new people can come your way whilst making extra money.

Combating Car Depreciation

Car DepreciationThere are many cost factors to consider when buying a new car; price, fuel economy and cost of insurance to name a few. However, one thing that a lot of people don’t think to consider is depreciation. This doesn’t mean that we as car buyers don’t realise how quickly the value of our purchases can plummet. But most buyers are just resigned to the fact that, if they sell the car on in a few years, they will only get a fraction of what they paid.

But depreciation can have a significant effect on the car’s cost in real terms. Not all cars depreciate at the same rate, and there are many other factors that play a role. When you sell a car on, you effectively get back a portion of the money you paid, so if a car has depreciated less you will recover more of your money and it will effectively have cost you less overall. It is rarely possible to completely avoid the problems of depreciation, but there are a number of things you can do to try and minimise the problem.

Model Cycles

Most cars will get periodically replaced by the manufacturer with a newer model, and when buying a car it is worth finding out whether this is due to happen soon. If you are buying a car, new or used, of the current model but this will be replaced soon, it is likely to depreciate more because when you come to sell it will be an old and outdated model. If, on the other hand, it is a model that was introduced fairly recently and the manufacturer seems to have no immediate plans to update, the car will probably hold its value better.

Reputation

If a car has a strong reputation, this will give it an element of desirability which will help slow down depreciation. This might be a reputation for reliability or excellent fuel economy – two practical features which serve to make a car sought after. Alternatively, it could simply be a reputation as a fun and stylish vehicle, such as BMW’s new Mini or Fiat’s reimagined 500. In either case, this will mean a part of the car’s value is tied up in the make and model rather than factors like age, and this will help to slow down value loss.

Age and Mileage

There is nothing you can do to keep a car from aging, but understanding how age affects the value of a car can still help you minimise the effects. Cars depreciate most rapidly in their first three years of existence. After that, value loss slows down a lot. So if you are buying a second hand car, buying one that is more than three years old will mean you will probably lose less to depreciation than if you bought one that was only two years old.

Saving Money on Train Travel

Train TicketDriving your own car is probably the best and most convenient way to handle most day-to-day travel. But sometimes even the most diehard lovers of driving will want to hop on the train, usually when facing a longer journey. Other people may simply not have a driving licence.

Rail fares can seem expensive and are regularly going up. However, there are a few things you can do to cut the cost of travelling on the train.

Book in Advance

Train tickets will often be cheaper if you buy them in advance. This can be done online directly from National Rail or from a number of other sites. The discounts can be significant, and when facing a long journey they can result in a very noticeable saving even if your encounter with the rail is only a one-off.

However, some other methods of discounted travel may not be usable when booking in advance, or they may simply not stack into multiple discounts. In these cases, make sure you work out which option affords the best value. Some smaller stations will also present a problem, as they may not have facilities for picking up your ticket on the day of travel.

Railcards

Railcards give significant discounts, usually a third, on off-peak train travel. Rail cards are available for a number of different people and groups, including:

  • 16-25 year olds
  • Families with children
  • Over 60s
  • Those with disabilities
  • Two named individuals travelling together

Railcards do cost money in themselves, currently £30 a year or less if you buy a card that will be valid for multiple years in a single transaction. However, if you make even a couple of moderately long journeys in a year, for example if you will be visiting family who live some miles away, you will ultimately have saved money.

Split Ticketing

Rail fares follow a strange and esoteric structure, and there are a few quirks in the system. Sometimes, when travelling a long distance, you can save money by buying two or more different tickets for different sections of the journey.

This method of “split ticketing” can result in some surprising savings. For example, the Telegraph reports that a return ticket from London to Durham costs £301. Buying four tickets – London to York, York to Durham and then vice versa for the return, costs a mere £82. Working out manually whether you could make a saving is doable but fiddly, but there are online tools to make the process much easier.

Where to Buy Refurbished Electronics

GadgetsElectronics make for a big purchase, and if it happens unexpectedly because your old device breaks down this can mean an unwelcome expense. Buying refurbished electronics is a great way to get some real bargains.

What Are Refurbished Electronics?

Refurbished electronics take a range of forms. They might be ex-display items, or items that have been returned because the customer changed their mind or due to a small, repairable fault. They are thoroughly cleaned, checked and, if necessary, repaired before being repackaged and sold at a discounted price. The result is that you get what is basically a brand new item, but for a price often far below what you would normally pay.

PC World

Though they have merged, Currys and PC World maintain separate websites. The product lists are nearly identical, but one key difference is that the PC World site has an abundance of refurbished goods. Many of their product categories include a refurbished section, including laptops and iPads. Many of the items are far cheaper than standard retail prices, and they usually come with a warranty. Plus you get the security of buying from a respected high street shop. Not bad at all.

eBay

eBay is home to some of the best deals on refurbished electronics, but you also have to be a little careful. Don’t just buy from any retailer who claims their goods are refurbished, especially if they label it “seller refurbished” which means the job has been done by the seller instead of the manufacturer. But don’t despair. Getting the real deals is as simple as knowing where to look.

A number of major retailers use eBay as a platform for an outlet selling refurbished goods. Perhaps the most notable is Argos, whose eBay outlet includes a huge range of products at bargain prices, almost all with decent warranties. Once again, you get the security of buying from a trusted retailer. Many manufacturers also host outlets for refurbished goods on eBay, such as Canon, and once again this is a great place to get bargains from a trusted source.

Manufacturer Outlets

Since it is the manufacturer, or a company they have approved, who handles the refurbishment process, often electronics can be bought directly from them. Sometimes this is done through their main website, other times through a separate online outlet. Dell and Apple are two of the biggest companies to take this approach. Be aware, however, that this doesn’t mean products from these manufacturers will never be available elsewhere. Sometimes, better deals on the same items can be found from some of the other sources listed above.

Three Steps to Save Money on Food

We all need food. It’s something we need to have several times every day, and as a result it’s one of the main things we buy. Most of us can probably say that we like food, and understandably we are willing to pay a bit more if it means we get to eat something that tastes better.

However, it is possible to save money on food without necessarily compromising on taste or quality. There are several tactics that can be used to reduce a weekly food bill and make big savings.

Reduce Wastage

Wasted food is a surprisingly big drain on the finances of many households. Lovefoodhatewaste.com estimates that the average household wastes the equivalent around £40 worth of food every month. For families with children, this can rise to nearly £60 per month. These figures respectively amount to £470 and £700 a year. Ways to reduce wastage include ensuring you store food properly and making meals from leftovers. It is also usually a good idea not to immediately throw out food that has reached its date. Foods marked “best before” may decline in quality but will not harm you when they have gone off. Foods marked “use by” will usually last a couple of days past their date, but keep in mind that these can be harmful when they do go off.

Shop Around

Be prepared to shop around for the best food prices. The internet can be useful for this. Comparison sites aren’t just for things like utility providers and car insurance. Websites such as Mysupermarket.co.uk can help you compare the prices that major supermarkets are charging for everyday foods. This can help you work out where it will be cheapest to do your weekly shop. Discount supermarkets are also worth checking out. As well as their own discount brands, they often sell big brands at lower prices. Their own brands have also improved drastically in recent years, and are now often competitive with other products on the market.

Bulk Buy

Foods that do not go off can be bulk purchased in order to save money. These include frozen foods (or foods you can freeze at home), tinned goods, and a wide range of other items that simply have long shelf lives. One way to save money by buying these in bulk is to purchase larger packs, which will almost certainly work out cheaper. Another method is to stock up whenever there is a special offer. If they are suitable for home freezing, you can also stock up on perishable goods that are reduced because they are nearing expiry, as long as you promptly freeze them when you get home.