It really is as easy as one, two, free...

You can shop around for some great bargains, especially when it comes to a meal out
You can shop around for some great bargains, especially when it comes to a meal out

LETTER OF THE DAY: Housing - more needs to be done

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Everyone’s heard the age-old saying ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’. But in these austere times, it could be just a tad naive.

With autumn just around the corner and retailers shedding their summer stock, cut-price vouchers and freebies are back in the frame as a way to keep us coming through their doors.

It’s all a far cry from just five years ago when as many as one in five of us would have turned our noses up at these ploys to boost discretional spending.

Perhaps it’s not surprising though. With inflation running at 2.6 per cent, the average family needs to stump up £900 more on goods and services than a year ago just to maintain the same standard of living.

So why not throw your inhibitions to the winds and look around for some of the latest deals and offers?

· FOOD AND DRINK

Start tucking into the bargains. Never plan to dine out without first checking companies’ websites. Current top offers are from the Harvester and Slug and Lettuce restaurant chains.

Two-for-one pub meal offers are now almost the rule, and along with most supermarkets the Co-op are promoting shopping list deals for super saver bargains. Check them out at http://www.co-operative.coop/food/deals/Shopping-List/all-deals/

Having friends around for al fresco dining? Pizza Hut has a two-for-one offer for medium or large pizzas if you order online before the end of September. Just enter the code VCLJUETFE at the checkout.

Fancy a coffee? Kenco are giving away 10,000 samples packs of their Millicano whole bean instant coffee each month. Log on to http://www.kenco.co.uk/range/kenco-millicano/try-kenco-millicano-for-free/725 for your free trial.

· BACK TO SCHOOL

With the back-to-school season in full swing, Staples is offering 10 per cent off school supplies. Just enter the code OFFICE10 at the checkout. The offer is subject to stock availability and ends on September 9.

All supermarkets are in the running with cut-price deals on school uniforms. ASDA and Tesco have some amazing deals to kit out the kids for as little as £20 each.

· ENTERTAINMENT

Don’t lash out on tickets to see famous actors, singers, or comedians. Plan ahead for the autumn half-term break and watch recordings for free with tickets from the BBC. (bbc.co.uk/tickets). Other sites to try are recordings.com, hattrick.co.uk, and beonlive.com.

Blockbuster is offering an introductory five-week online trial package plus a £20 Marketplace voucher for those who’d like to catch up with their favourite movies. To get this great deal just enter code MVC222 before September 21. The deal is only available to anyone 18 or over.

Join a test audience for a new film and you get to see it before general release for free. Sign up at seefilmfirst.com.

DVD rental clubs offer free trials for up to 90 days. Spend a cold wet winter evening in front of the telly, save money, and get to watch top box office movies. You can switch clubs to get more trials by logging on to dvdtrials.co.uk.

· LOOKING GOOD

Cosmetic manufacturers have always been up for dishing out free samples. Usually it’s in return for a bit of feedback, but also to start a bit of a buzz about a new product. Sign up for loads of free stuff at freesamples.co.uk.

· COMPUTER SOFTWARE

From operating systems such as Linux (linux.org) to Open Office packages (openoffice.org) and anti virus software from AGV (free.agv.com/uk) it’s all out there on the web and replaces the applications you would otherwise have to pay for.

· LEARNING

Evening classes can be pricey, but the BBC and the Open University provide many courses in literature and languages free online, including interactive facilities such a videos and tests. See what’s on offer at bbc.co.uk/learning, or open.ac.uk.