Top Tips: Our Favourite Suppliers

Here's a list of our favourite suppliers for electricity, broadband, mobile, telephone, banking, savings, investments, and more. We currently use all of these companies: we feel they represent good value and are reasonably ethical, but also we have experienced no problems with any of them. We have set up this list for the benefit of our friends and relations, but you are welcome here too if you're not one of them. Just be aware that any decisions you take are entirely your own.

Several of these companies offer a referral incentive scheme; if you sign up using the referral link shown you'll receive a payback and so will we! Once you're accepted by the company as a new customer, you'll be able to refer people too.

Other links are also provided for your convenience.


Electricity

Octopus

Octopus supplies great value 100% green electricity. Their normal tariffs offer competitive prices, but if you can be flexible with when you use the bulk of your electricity, their 'agile' time-of-use tariff is very attractive. Essentially, you need to avoid using a lot between 4pm and 7pm when the price per kwh can be very high. Outside of those times the rates are very economical and, occoasionally, when the grid gets over-supplied, you'll find you actually get paid for using electricity! They also have an 'outgoing' tariff for people who generate electricity (with solar, wind, or water).

Their normal tariffs will work with any meter, but for the time-of-use tariffs you will need a smart meter, which, if you don't have (a suitable) one, they will instal for you without charge. (This may take a while so be prepared to wait!)

https://octopus.energy/

Sign up using this referral link and get a £50 credit or enter our code: showy-race-673 when they prompt you for it.

Mobile

GiffGaff

We have fallen foul of a couple of mobile service providers in the past - this sector seems to attract a few bad apples - so we were very pleased to have been introduced to GiffGaff a few years ago. GiffGaff offers a variety of great value plans but with no contracts: each 'goodybag' lasts a month and gives you data, calls and texts. You can set it to recur each month automatically if you wish, or choose one manually each month. If you run out before the end of the month, you can buy a new goodybag early:

https://www.giffgaff.com/sim-only-plans

There's a slight catch here (and this is the only one we've found): if you want to make calls not included in your goodybag (e.g. international calls), you'll need to add some credit. That's fine, but if your goodybag runs out and you don't buy a new one, you'll be charged for any calls and data at the full rate until your credit runs out. You will be warned though.

However, on the plus side, if you're a very light user, you can just top up some credit without a goodybag and 'pay-as-you-go'. The rate per minute is high, but it's a very simple way to have a mobile phone you don't really intend to use. Giffgaffers can call and text each other for free (up to 60 minutes per call) provided you make a purchase once every three months:

https://www.giffgaff.com/pricing

We have also purchased two of their refurbished mobile phones, and have been very pleased with them.

Sign up using this referral link and get a £5 credit

GiffGaff uses the O2 network.

Broadband

Who needs it?

Sign up to GiffGaff (see above) and use a mobile phone as a wifi 'hotspot'! You can then get on to the internet from another device. This is called 'tethering' and is allowed by GiffGaff but not by some other providers. We buy a £12 goodybag each month which gives us 10GB of data plus unlimited calls and texts. Other sizes, smaller and bigger, are available. E.g.: £20 currently gives you 80GB (usually 40GB) of data plus calls and texts. You also get 1GB extra free from your 4th month onwards with most of the goodybags.

Sign up using this referral link and get a £5 credit

GiffGaff uses the O2 network.

Telephone without broadband

Post Office

£13 per month including line rental but broadband would be extra if you want it. On the other hand, many people are doing without a landline altogether and simply using mobile phone and data. We're certainly thinking of it.

www.postoffice.co.uk/broadband-phone/home-phone

Telephone calls

1899

1899 is a pre-dial access code which by-passes most telephone providers and gives you low-rate calls, both within the UK and internationally. Calls to UK landlines currently (Jan 2020) cost just 1.7 pence per minute with a 4 pence connection charge. Signing up is free and without any obligations. There are no subscription costs, no monthly or minimal fees nor any form of prepayment.

There is a minor downside (apart from having to remember to dial 1899): Charging will start directly after the spoken tariff information at the beginning of the call, and you will also be charged if the number you wish to call isn't answered or is engaged. You may also have times when your normal calls would be free as part of your landline package.

www.1899.com

Personal Banking

Nationwide Building Society

Trouble-free banking and savings. We have been with Nationwide for many, many years. Their FlexDirect account is free and pays 1% gross interest (5% for the first year) on credit balances up to £2,500. (Minimum criteria apply.) Get in touch if you want to switch your bank account to them so I can recommend you. We both then receive a £100 'thank you' upon completion! Nice.

Nationwide Building Society FlexDirect Account

The Co-operative Bank

Very recently, we have switched a second account to the Co-operative Bank, and so far this has all gone very smoothly. This new account is free but doesn't give interest. However, if you also sign up for their "Everyday Rewards" (no charge), they will credit you £4, - and give you 5p per transaction on the associated debit card (up to £1.50), for each month you meet the minimum requirements of the scheme. That is quite an attraction:

The Co-operative Bank Current Account

Savings

Chelsea Building Society

General savings interest rates are pretty rubbish at the moment, and while the Nationwide's 1% interest on their FlexDirect current account is very welcome, their savings accounts don't really come up to scratch. Probably the best Building Society account around now (JApr 2020) for interest and access is the 1-year 'e-isa plus' from Chelsea Building Society. It gives up to 0.85% tax free (usual ISA rules apply), and you can make unlimited withdrawals if you need to. As usual, your money is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) up to a total of £85,000 in deposits you have with the following: Yorkshire Building Society, Chelsea Building Society, Norwich & Peterborough Building Society and Egg - all of whom are owned by Yorkshire Building Society.

e-isa plus from Chelsea Building Society

Martin Lewis is usually a good source of info at MoneySavingExpert.com and is currently showing interest rates up to 1.9% - but we have no experience of these accounts so cannot actually recommend them ourselves.

Investments

Ratesetter

Ratesetter is a 'peer-to-peer' investment platform which connects investors to a portfolio of borrowers (anonymously) to achieve a high return for the investor and a competitive rate for the borrower. 'Peer-to-peer' investments are not covered by the FSCS but Ratesetter's unique 'Provision Fund' goes some way towards providing a safety net. Since starting to trade in 2010 Ratesetter has handled investments totalling over £3.5 Billion without any loss to investors. Ratesetter is FCA authorised and regulated. However, "Your Capital is at Risk" still applies!

Read more about Ratesetter then, if you would like to give them a try, use this referral link and get a £100 bonus if you invest £1000 for a year. We'll get a £50 bonus too!

Food

Home Delivery

Living in a fairly remote location, we have come to rely a great deal on home deliveries for food. So far, we have used both Sainsbury's and Waitrose and have found them equally reliable. Both stock a wide range of organic and fair-trade products.

For organic meat and veg delivered to your door, you might like to try Higher Hacknell Farm. We are currently enjoying Jim's veg box as a useful supplement to our own veg from the garden!

Grow Your Own

We grow quite a lot of our own veg, and do so entirely organically. So when we buy seed, we try to ensure that even that has been organically grown (not always possible). Our seed supplier for many years has been Premier Seeds Direct, who offer a very wide choice of seed, including an impressive range which is certified organic. Premier Seeds Direct are registered with the Soil Association and Defra (APHA).

Premier Seeds Direct

Engineering and Hardware

CPC

CPC supplies a vast range of products - from plugs and cables through lighting and heating to tools and gadgets and more. Often very good prices and delivered free on orders over £8 (ex vat). CPC has been trading since 1967.

cpc.farnell.com

Computing

Ubuntu Linux

Ubuntu is a popular version of the Linux operating system which we have used for many years and have never looked back. It's fast, increasingly easy to use on any device, and free ...and being very efficiently written, it can breath new life in to new and old computers alike! It's also extremely safe, being almost completely impervious to attack by viruses etc. There is a wealth of information and help available online should you need it (though you can also buy support). It can seem a very big step to make the change, but you can try it out first by installing it on a usb stick and booting your computer from that. If that doesn't completely convince you, you can even install it on your computer as an extra partition alongside your existing OS and have a dual boot! Always back everything up first.

Ubuntu

Firefox

As you might expect, we also use the Firefox web browser. Surf the internet safely, securely, and fast. Free.

Firefox

Gmail

Google may not be everyone's favourite company, but we have used Gmail for many years now and have found its web interface very easy to use and entirely reliable, and syncs across all your devices. Its spam filters are excellent, with only an occasional email incorrectly dropped into the spam folder. You can also use it to send and receive email to and from any other accounts you may have. Other Google features such as Drive, Maps (and especially StreetView), and Calender are all invaluable to us. Take it or leave it.

Google


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T & K.