If you don't like the price, ask for another

Want a discount? Be persistent and ask nicely, says Ruth Jackson. Plus, four more money saving tips - and one warning.

Want to get some amazing discounts? Try persistence and just asking nicely. The Observer's Laura Potter managed to achieve a £51 saving on an iPod just by lingering in the store. "I looked longingly at the £149.99 iPod Nano until a staff member asked whether he could help." When she asked how much she could get it for, he said £110. A bit more lingering elicited a reduction to £100. Then when Potter said she would be paying with a debit card, the price was brought down again to £98.

Cut your train fare by phone

Buying tickets in advance is usually guaranteed to save you money. But if you need to take a last-minute trip, still buy the tickets over the phone and collect them from the ticket machines in the station- even if you are standing in the station at the time. "Amazingly, it can still be cheaper than buying a ticket at the ticket office," says Dixe Wills in The Observer. Call 0121-634 2040 to find out which company will be running the train service, so you'll know who to call to buy tickets.

Take advantage of student digs

Many universities offer their student halls of residence as budget accommodation in the holidays, says The Observer. Prices start from £22 per person per night. See www.budgetstayuk.com, or call 0870-922 4100 to book a stay.

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Cut the cost of your holiday

Many people spend hours shopping around for cheap flights but then get stung on the cost of getting to the airport. For example, a standard return on the Heathrow Express train from London Paddington costs £32 return, whereas a ticket for the tube between zone 1 and Heathrow costs £4 each way. Similarly, a return on the Gatwick Express from London Victoria costs £28.80 return, but a return off-peak ticket on the standard service- which takes a little longer- will cost you £21.80. Buy the ticket in advance and it's even cheaper.

Switch energy supplier

Five of the six big power companies have now announced price cuts, so it's time to start shopping around for a new deal, says Martin Lewis on MoneySavingExpert.com.

Nationwide cardholders beware

Nationwide has been feted for not charging holders of its credit or debit cards extra when they use their cards abroad. But this is about to change. From 6 May for credit cards and 1st June for debit cards, Nationwide will charge 0.84% on spending outside Europe- the cards will still be free when used within Europe- and 1% in July. The change arises from Nationwide's decision to stop absorbing charges levied on it by Visa. These will now be passed on to customers in the form of the 0.84% charge. But even with the charge, the Nationwide Debit card remains the cheapest card to use in Europe. However, the Abbey Zero and Post Office credit cards will soon be the cheapest credit cards to use abroad as neither of them charges for overseas use.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.