15 ways to swap and save

Swapping used to be reserved for the playground; whether it was trading football stickers or 'top trumps' playing cards, kids have always loved trading something they didn't value that much for something they desperately coveted.
But swapping is fast becoming a popular pastime for adults too, as we endeavour to cut back on our spending. From holiday-home swaps to clothes and make-up exchanges, 'swap shops' today are a far cry from the old playground barter of comics and stickers.

Read Moneywise's guide to swap shops
It's not just about swapping unwanted goods, though; there are also plenty of everyday costs you can cut by switching to cheaper alternatives. So here we give you a few ideas to get you started.

1. Swap branded goods for supermarket own-brands

A 750g box of Kelloggs cornflakes costs £2.26, while Asda's own version only costs £1. So if you buy a box of cereal a week, in a year it would cost you £117.52 for the brand name but only £52 for the supermarket's own version.

However, according to a survey by global brand strategists Dragon Rouge, 81% of consumers say they have remained loyal to a brand because they prefer the flavour of the products. Admittedly, sometimes there's a difference in quality, but often the extra cost is simply due to the brand name or packaging.

We might tell ourselves it tastes better, but is that simply because we've bought into the advertising spiel? The best thing to do is test out the own-brand versions; if you don't notice the difference, then why not switch?

Take Moneywise's 'drop a brand' challenge

2. Get on your bike

Not all commuters will be in a position to swap four wheels for two, but even if you can't cycle to work, using a bike for local errands will not only reduce your petrol costs, but also means you can wave goodbye to expensive parking charges.

There are the added health and environmental benefits too. Alternatively, local transport is, by and large, a cheaper alternative to driving.

Find out how to protect your bike from thieves

3. Swap the holiday villa for someone else's home

The British summer frequently lives up to its disappointing reputation, so unless you're the sort of person who enjoys bracing walks in the wind and rain, you'll probably want to head overseas for some sun. It doesn't have to cost a fortune, though.

House swaps are an increasingly popular option - you get all the home comforts without the pricey hotel bill. And it means you have someone to look after your property while you're away.

There's usually a small membership fee to sign up to a house-swap website - around £30 - but in return you can browse through pictures and descriptions of other people's homes.
Once you've found a property you like, it's worth exchanging emails with your potential swap partners to check you have similar standards of cleanliness, for example, and that they're the sort of people you'd feel happy to have staying in your home.

Check out websites such as homebase-hols.com, exchangeaway.com and intervac.com.

4. Switch to a better mobile phone deal

Depending on how much you use your mobile, it may be worth changing from a contract to pay-as-you-go, or vice versa. If you use your mobile fairly regularly, then a contract should work out cheaper - if you're careful. Monthly deals tend to offer a better standard of phone too.

However, the advantage of pay-as-you-go phones is that you know exactly how much you're spending, and provided you're not topping up your credit by £10 a week or more, they're a good way of staying within your budget.

Should you opt for a SIM-only deal?

5. Ditch Starbucks and make your own coffee

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but a cup of takeout coffee a day will quickly empty your purse. An average Starbucks coffee costs £2.05, so a cup every working day for a year will cost you £492.

Meanwhile, a Morphy Richards 47001 coffee machine costs as little as £24.99, and if you add in the cost of coffee beans, a cup of home-brewed coffee could work out at just 5p a day, according to Kelkoo.co.uk.    

6. Change your bottled water for tap water

Tap water is essentially free, although with water rates taken into account it costs on average 0.22p a litre. However, this is 39 times cheaper than a litre of supermarket own-brand water and 182 times cheaper than a litre of Evian mineral water.

Tap water in the UK is perfectly safe to drink, but if you're one of those who believes it has a strange taste, you can buy a water filter. Although a top-of-the-range filter can set you back £100-plus, a Brita Elemaris filter jug costs just £9.99.

7. Read your news online (apart from the Times)

As well as the BBC, all the national newspapers have websites with up-to-date news. If you couple these with the 24-hour news available on digital TV channels, the 90p a day you spend on what is - if not literally, then metaphorically - tomorrow's fish-and-chip wrapping seems a bit of a waste.

But, of course, websites can't replace the in-depth information and analysis that specialist publications provide, so don't cancel your Moneywise magazine subscription just yet.

8. Grow your own vegetables

Sales of plants, seeds and bulbs have gone up by 37%, according to statistics from eBay, with Brits keen to discover the joys of 'growing your own'.

Five packets of seeds plus a bag of peat-free compost would cost you £12.58 at B&Q, and the DIY store estimates that savvy gardeners could save up to £740 a year after this initial minimal outlay, compared with buying the required "five a day" fruit and veg at the supermarket.

9. Bring your own lunch to work

Home-made sarnies are a fraction of the cost of shop-bought sandwiches, but not everyone is a fan of soggy bread combos. However, if you've got a microwave at work, pasta dishes or jacket potatoes are easy to fix the night before.

Chunky homemade vegetable soup is another easy option - and especially cheap if you follow point eight and grow your own veg.

10. Do it yourself

Having someone weed your flowerbeds or do the ironing is a luxury that a lot of us simply can't afford. "We're getting increasingly creative in finding ways to beat the credit crunch, from mending our clothes to growing our own veg," says eBay spokesperson Julia Hutton-Potts.

If you don't fancy getting your hands dirty, though, consider a skills swap - that way, if you don't like cleaning, you could offer to mow someone's lawn or babysit for them in exchange for their services.

11. Ditch the gym membership

Pricey gym memberships can strike you as even more expensive when you realise just how little you use them. Divide a £50 monthly membership by four and your weekly visit costs £12.50 - considerably more costly than a one-off trip to your local leisure centre.

The Great Outdoor Gym company has also teamed up with local councils to fit out parks with gym equipment. Go to tgogc.com to find your nearest free gym.

12. Take a shower not a bath

Taking a shower instead of a bath and using the washing line instead of the tumble dryer are two great examples of how being more energy-efficient means you'll be more cost-efficient too, if you have a water meter.

For example, a bath typically uses around 80 litres of water, while a short shower can use as little as a third of that amount - although power showers are the exception to the rule and can use even more water than a bath.

Drying your clothes outside in the summer months could shave an average £15 off your annual electricity bill, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Go to energysavingstrust.org.uk, for more energy-saving tips.

13. Forget the nursery and share a nanny

Returning to work after maternity leave, only to find that all of your savings go on childcare costs, can be very demoralising. And nursery times won't always be convenient. An alternative could be to nanny-share.

The website nannyshare.co.uk helps you link up with one or more other families to share the weekly cost of hiring a nanny. For example, in London, this will be around £12 an hour, excluding national insurance contributions and taxes, compared with hiring your own nanny at £8 to £9 an hour.

14. Staying in is the new going out

Whether you invite friends round for a bottle of wine and a DVD or host a full-blown dinner party, staying in needn't be dull.

Board games are growing in popularity, with Scrabble sales up by 12% and Monopoly by 8%, according to eBay.

15. Go second hand

Charity shops and second-hand stores require a certain amount of patience but potentially offer great bargains. Undoubtedly the leader of the charity-shop pack, Oxfam has over 120 bookshops and a number of specialist boutique shops.

Go to oxfam.org to find your nearest stores. Alternatively, take advantage of the many fashion swap shops featured in the box below, or arrange your own clothes- or book-swapping party. Finally, if you register with your local library, you can find a wealth of books or DVDs to suit most tastes.