A few months ago, I parted with two years of credit card points to upgrade my Tata Sky subscription to HD. For free! If you use your credit card often, keep track of your points – they’ll give you free gifts.
To get started, first pick the right card, says Shailesh Baidwan, country manager, and head of consumer cards at American Express Banking. Choose one “depending on what you want to redeem your points for – lifestyle items, airline miles, fuel, etc – and what kind of ‘earn’ the card is offering [essentially, how little you need to spend to earn one point].” Also check the extent of the card’s redemption categories, how soon points expire (later is better), and their bonus points programmes.
“Once you pick a card, consolidate all your spending on that card to add up points faster,” advises Baidwan. Use it for groceries and fuel. Shop at the places that provide bonus reward points. It saves trips to the ATM and helps accumulate points faster. And most importantly, adds Baidwan, “pay your bill in full. Otherwise, the interest charges from a single month can wipe out the benefits of any rewards.”
Sometimes, signing up for a loyalty card gives you other benefits, explains Rahul Rana, the chief operating officer of Payback, a multi-brand loyalty programme. “These include separate queues at stores, customer lounges and free parking.”
Several stores also offer an additional small discount at a sale, send you a voucher to redeem around your birthday and go the extra mile with home delivery of goods.
Be shameless. Let friends and family carry your card when they shop so you can earn points.
And every time you take a flight, make sure you sign up for the airline’s frequent flier programme. Even if you’re not a regular flier, there’s still free stuff to be had from even one flight to the US or Europe. For example, the one round-trip to Paris I made with Etihad, netted me a free sleeping bag once I redeemed my points from just that flight. The husband, who also flew Etihad back from London one way in addition to the Paris flight, walked away with a free Zippo lighter and a Swiss army knife respectively worth about Rd 1,000 and Rd 5,000.
There will soon be a time when even as little as 30 to 50 points can entitle you to a redemption, promises Rana. So start amassing those points today.
– Mignonne Dsouza
Shop online. Why burn fuel driving to a store when everything you need can come home for nothing?
Almost every shopping website offers free home delivery and cash on delivery. So why spend on parking and fuel? Let the mall come to you. Just ask for items to be delivered to your office if you’re never at home.
Websites offer better
discounts and have deals around the year. The Shoppers Stop website is still on ‘sale’ right now, with up to 51 per cent off on lots of stuff.
Shopping online is faster, since you’re not trawling a crowded mall on a precious free weekend. Look for links that say Sale, Offers, Value, Deals, etc, to find discounts. Flipkart always has a sale on; I’ve bulk bought my favourite Khadi soaps when they went on sale, saving Rs. 10 on each one.
Several American department stores let you shop from India – prices appear in rupees, you can browse within your price bracket, calculate your exact shipping costs and discounts are deeper than similar Indian brands. On the Bloomingdales site, we noticed a discounted Michael Kors dress for under Rs. 4,000 and a frilly Nanette Lepore bikini that was just R1,500 with a measly $10 for express shipping. ASOS ships for free. Saks Fifth Avenue has Elie Tahari men’s jeans for under R3,000 and designer linen shirts for R2,500. Why look like a Zara clone now?
Stuff that doesn’t need trial is the safest. Men don’t try on socks or belts before they buy. Books, groceries and handbags are one-size-fits-all. Choose from online avatars of traditional stores (Crossword, Big Bazaar, Fabindia, Croma, Hypercity, Cotton World), multi-brand stores selling items at MRP (Jabong, Myntra), and websites dedicated to designer sales (Fashionandyou, 99labels, Brandsvillage, Strawberrynet, etc) or the Indian Amazon (Junglee).
Like a particular brand? Do everything you can to make sure they know it. Sign up for email newsletters, put yourself on their text alerts list, like them on Facebook and follow their tweets. Brands save their best rewards and freebies for regulars and fans, so you’ll get advance notice of sales, be allowed to browse the stuff a day in advance, get free shipping and be privy to their awesome one-day flash sales. On September 21-22, Facebook told me that Kiehls was offering a free lip balm with any purchase at their Khan Market, New Delhi store. The L’Occitane online store had a one-day sale recently that offered 50 per cent off on certain products. Beauty brands also throw in several free samples when you buy online.
Full-price is for last minute shoppers and idiots. Want a weekend trip, spa sessions, lunch, brunch and high tea, or Superman boxer shorts? Check out Snapdeal, Dealsandyou and Crazeal for lower rates. I’ve enjoyed countless massages (Rs 600), got my car shampooed and waxed at home (Rs 600), and directed friends to a weekend break at a five star resort (Rs 5,500 including all meals and one free massage). It’s a world wide web of possibilities – so move that mouse and get shopping.
– Mignonne Dsouza
SO RIGHT NOW
Celeb stylist Tanya Ghavri (she’s worked on Ayesha and Thank You) predicts the styles that will last for the next several seasons
Pumps, flats, peep toes, heels, platforms – it doesn’t matter. They’ll always be trendy, plus you’ll look slimmer.
They’re not very expensive. Buy one now and you’ll be able to use it over time – eventually turning it into a vintage piece.
An Eye-catching Handbag
Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors have cool stuff that’s cheaper than Dior. Go for a bold style. They’ll set off your many neutrals.
Take a friend with a Huge appetite to a dinner buffet or an unlimited thali. You both will eat well without going bankrupt
Invest in a Kindle (or an Kindle app on your iPad) and read e-books free at ProjectGutenberg.org. Then, evaluate your magazine subscriptions and cancel the ones you can read for less with a digital subscription.
These painless switches will save your money but will not make you feel like you’re sacrificing too much
Don’t cut short your telephone conversation. Find a cellular plan that gives you the lowest bill for your use. Or go back to pre-paid. Reliance offers joint billing for an entire family at subsidised call rates. Docomo has per-second billing for the Friends and Family plan.
Cha-ching: Get an extra credit of Rs. 200 on a Vodaphone recharge of Rs. 1,100.
Don’t buy gifts, make them. Websites like honestlywtf. com teach you how to make body butter, home decor objects and jewellery. They make great presents.
Cha-ching: The Body Shop’s body butter costs between Rs. 600 – Rs. 1,000. Make yours at home for less than Rs. 250.
Don’t sign up for the gym in January, do it in July instead. Gyms rely on new-year-resolution mania to fleece you in January, and post-festival weight gain to snare you in the winter. Membership rates are the cheapest in the monsoon.
Cha-ching: Save up to 50 per cent on gym fees.
Don’t holiday in summer, go in the off season. Room rates are lower, restaurants are less crowded, flight tickets are more affordable and the souvenirs are cheaper. Plus, you’ll have the place to yourself.
Cha-ching: A shack in Gokarna is Rs. 1,200 in peak season. A luxe condo is less than Rs. 1,000 off season.
Don’t buy petrol, buy CNG. Eco-friendly is the new cool.
Cha-ching: You will recover the cost of a CNG fitting (Rs 60,000) in a few months.
Don’t waste anything. If you have emergency funds, increase your deductibles – home, rent and insurance policies. You’ll have lower premiums.
Cha-ching: You’re using your money to make money.
Dine Like A King...
...pay like a serf. Smart changes that will ensure your restaurant bills are easy to digest
Look for big portions: Seek out terms like “hot-pot”, “meal in a bowl” and “pot rice” in the menu description. At South-east Asian restaurants, your best bet is a portion of spicy fried rice called Nasi Goreng. At a Continental place, it’s the sizzler. Busaba serves a huge Korean meal for two called Jungsik. And the city’s biggest burger is at Hard Rock Café. Can’t finish? Doggy bag it for tomorrow – dinner just came with free lunch!
Don’t fall for DIY: Places that let you choose pizza toppings, sandwich filling, stir fry wok additions, and pastas are great. But you pay more for the same number of add-ons as regular dishes. Weigh your customisation against a similar a la carte option and take the cheaper deal. Why pay extra for celery and artichoke (instead of cherry tomatoes and olives) in your penne?
Time it right: Breakfast and lunch deals are often cheaper than dinner. Yauatcha’s set lunch is available from Monday to Saturday; soup, dim sum, main course and dessert is Rs. 988 (about half the price of an average meal). Neel’s set lunch (Rs 1,000) has starters or soup, biryani or breads with main course, and dessert and is a value meal. Indigo Café’s Rs. 435 breakfast ensures you have no room for lunch. Otto Infinito’s breakfast – eggs, flavoured yoghurt, fruits, hash browns and sausages – comes at Rs. 275. But if you finish work late, head to a hotel’s midnight buffet. ITC Grand Central’s spread costs Rs. 666, Novotel’s is Rs. 400, Marine Plaza’s is Rs. 475 and Orchid’s is Rs. 550.
Dig deeper: Many lunch deals are available for dinner and weekday deals are often valid through the weekend. India Jones’s unlimited dim sum lunch is served through the week. Goa Portuguesa’s Maharashtrian thali – meat fish and dessert for Rs. 399 – is so popular, it’s on for dinner too. Or go to Smoke House Deli, where the eggs Benedict on the all-day breakfast menu is as delicious at 8.30pm.
Plan it well: Stuck treating a big gang? Head to the restaurant a day before and pre-order a selection that fits your budget. Demand a discount for preordering and paying upfront. Print menus with each guests’ name so they feel special.
Bring it home: Restaurants often offer discounts on home delivery and takeaway. Bag your meal and drive out spending 20 per cent less than dine-ins. And always make sure that the service charge has been taken off your bill.
Pick wisely: Hip restaurants last only a few years. The first eight months is when it’s packed and when the servers throw attitude. The months after are when the buzz dies down and the restaurant struggles to regain it. That’s when you’re likely to get better service, better deals and better value for money.
Know when to duck: New menus mean the prices have been hiked. Food festival? At least a 10 per cent higher bill. Daily specials on a chalkboard? You’re paying extra for novelty. Seafood as-per-size? That’s a byword for “more expensive than the other stuff”. Norwegian salmon, New Zealand chop, Iberian ham, Himalayan trout – don’t pay for an animal whose hometown you can’t prove. Stick to local produce – all the cool people in the West are doing it.
Be nice: Follow your favourite restaurant on Twitter, sign in with Foursquare, upload meal pics on Facebook and tag them. They’ll throw in a freebie in return. And if you get a feedback form with your bill, be specific (not rude) in your response. Put down your contact details and anniversary (a fake one coming up next month!) and give them permission to call you for further feedback. They’ll reward you with discounts and freebies.
Split it smart: Big groups tend to split bills equally – making it cheaper for the steak eater, not the salad nibbler. Go places like Eat Around The Corner or Candies (which makes you pay when you order), or order a set meal and put down the exact amount when the bill arrives.
And lastly: Take full and shameless advantage of Restaurant Week India. Set lunch and dinner at posh places at laughably low prices for one whole week – so long as you can grab a spot in advance. It happens twice a year and it’s awesome.
– Rachel Lopez
The Little Door: Don’t be alarmed by the roaring when you enter TLD, that’s probably just the daily beer-chugging competition under way. If you win, the alcohol is on the house for the rest of the night. If you win the actual beer chugging competition organised towards the end of the month, you get a discount on your booze for the next 30 days. Wait, it gets better. They have an active Facebook page and Twitter account with quizzes and games and winners get a free cocktail or a drink. Andheri (W), Tel: 26732529
Lagerbay: Every Tuesday, the establishment has ‘Eves night’ when women can enjoy as many cocktails as they can hold and it’s all on the house. On a normal night, these drinks cost upward of R300 so that’s reason enough to get silly. Bandra (W), Tel: 67369900
Irish House: Catch the tail end of Happy Hours (5pm to 8pm daily), where you can get one drink free with every alcohol purchase. High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel, Tel 43471111
Three Wise Monkeys: Retro music, the fact that anywhere you’re standing can and will become a dance floor and free kamikaze shots for girls on Wednesdays (The staff just comes up to you with a tray – you don’t even have to go to the bar to claim them); three things to love about Three Wise Monkeys. Santacruz, Tel: 26613825
Wtf!: Regulars get a My Adda card at the relatively cheap WTF. Show your card to get 10 per cent off on your bill and every visit racks up five points. Use all the points you’ve collected to get a huge discount on your birthday, graduation or promotion. Everyone wins. Versova, Tel: 26365750
Busaba: Keep an eye on Busaba’s Facebook page so you don’t miss the invite-only Busaba Funk Night at their
Lower Parel outlet. Once a month the alcohol is on the house from 9pm to 10.30pm. Their regular happy hours are pretty sweet too – two for the price of one between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Lower Parel, Tel: 67478974
Tote On The Turf: Buy a drink and get one free from Wednesday to Saturday between 6pm and 10pm. If that’s not reason enough to hang out at the swish bar, cocktails are on the house for women on Friday. Good times, drunk dials and lots of squealing. Mahalaxmi, Tel:61577777
Ellipsis: Between 6pm and 8pm is when you can get a special selection of cocktails at a discounted Rs. 500. And you thought Colaba’s newest fancy restaurant would have nothing in your budget.
Rude Lounge: Seems like they’re celebrating something every day. Women get vodka on the house after 7pm every Wednesday and two free pegs of vodka on Monday. Sundays has a free sizzler with every one you buy. Fridays you get one free song at the jukebox. Saturdays free fire-led flair bartending with your drink. Plus, free Wi-Fi every day. Juhu, Bandra, Powai, Belapur. Tel: 7738892805
– Bernadine D’Lima
Don’t have a spouse to share costs with? We’ll show you how to make every penny count
House grouse: Even if you aren’t single, rents are stratospheric in Mumbai. Cut costs by moving out of your one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom one and share the rent (and the utility bills) with thrifty roommates.
No more cable: Who needs cable TV when you can stream music (Spotify), videos (YouTube), TV shows (Tv-links.eu), sports matches and films online? It’s absolutely free. Just get a high speed, unlimited-download Internet connection.
Start cooking: Most singles spend a bomb eating out with friends. Put down the menu and back away from it. Organise theme lunches and dinners at home. Or get a dabbawalla and a tiffin service for home cooked meals a few times a week.
Solo life too expensive? Get a joint account with Mummy to keep track of impulse buys and you’ll end up with more savings
Use your head: Don’t fall for your hairdresser’s recommendations of Moroccan oil or jojoba gel. They’re getting a commission from selling those. If you like the product, find a retailer who’ll sell it cheaper. Better still, buy in bulk for a big discount.
DIY: Don’t pay for things that you can do on your own. Paint your own nails, blow dry your own hair, pluck your eyebrows by following a YouTube video. Get a phone app to remind you when to pay your bills so you’re not paying late fines.
Club mix: If you’re a woman, hit the pubs on ladies nights to score free drinks. Entry for women in any nightclub at any time is open and free. But boys, be smart. Hit the pubs during happy hours and stick around for the night. And if you’re solo, sweet talk a girl group and enter with them – a couple charge is less than a stag fee.
Wheeler dealer: Be the designated driver occasionally. You’ll spend less cash and your friends will appreciate being driven around.
Matinee idol: Hit the morning shows, they are always cheaper and popcorn is fresh. Avail offers like Vodafone Tuesdays for discounted tickets. If you’re booking online, do not skip the site’s offers page. You can easily save a couple of hundreds per person.
Travel smart: Solitary wanderers can just backpack. If you’re not up to it, join a hotel rewards program to earn free nights, look for cheap flight+hotel deals instead of full-on tours. Also, sign up with couchsurfing.com to sleep on someone’s living-room couch for free.
Avoid spending triggers: If you’re shopping for emotional reasons, go see a doctor – or get another hobby. Solo shoppers usually end up buying stuff they’ll never use only because there was no one at the trial room telling them they looked hideous. The next time you’re considering a polka-dot shirt – give yourself 30 days to mull over it. Chances are, good sense will kick in before you open your wallet.
Play money: Always set aside some money from your salary as your indulgence money. This way, you will not feel miserable about saving money. Later, get yourself pampered at a spa or a salon because you deserve it.
– Amrah Ashraf
Project Pan: Make-up fans across the USA rely on this money-saver. Make a pact with a group of friends that you all won’t buy new skincare or make-up unless you’ve “hit pan” or finished up a set number of products you own. With your buddies’ support, it’s easier to finish every half-used container of product, without impulse buys in between!
The Shoe Project: Heel-aholics unite, pledge to use every forgotten pair of shoes they own, wear one every day and post a photo to record it. A fun way to ensure that you use what you have instead of lusting for more!
Dance lessons: At Pulse Dance and Fitness Academy in Santacruz, register with eight to 10 friends and all of you get 20 per cent off the fees. Bandra’s L’Infini Performing Dance Academy will knock off 16 per cent on the jazz class fees if 10 pals register.
From HT Brunch, October 14
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