Insider MoneySaving tips

Insider MoneySaving tips

Hidden vocational knowledge revealed to help you save money

Millions of people have a hidden MoneySaving expertise, that even they are not aware of.  While at work in current or past jobs, they learn insider tips or tricks about how things really work – and when they're in consumer facing industries, that means we may all gain.


So we asked MoneySavers via the MSE email and social media to spill the (possibly own-brand) beans on their secret work-learnt insider tips. We were blown away by their answers. They came from factory workers, car sellers, travel agents, cleaners, posties, dentists and more…

Share your insider tips? Please let us know via the MSE Forum, Twitter or Facebook and we'll add some of the best.

Important. It is impossible for us to validate many of these crowd-sourced tips, plus some are very specific, so we've tried to sense-check them but please see them as interesting anecdotal help rather than guaranteed to work.

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  1. 'One massive block of cheese... five wrapping stations, including Tesco value'

    Elizabeth emailed us saying she worked in a cheese factory as a student and only ever buys 'value' cheese after she says she made this un-brie-lievable discovery...

    One massive block of cheese enters a huge cutting machine and proceeds through approximately five separate wrapping sections, popping out as M&S, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Asda and... Tesco 'value' cheese blocks. All the same cheese, wildly different prices. I have never bought anything but value cheese since.

    - Elizabeth S

    We at MoneySavingExpert have always suggested going with the taste, rather than the brand or the packaging. It's the core concept of our Downshift Challenge, where you try a brand level lower than normal. If you can't notice the difference, stick with what's cheaper (though, as ever, do check the ingredients if anyone has allergies).

  2. 'Biscuits or baby food – the brands make the own brand stuff too... and it's nearly the same'

    Daniel messaged on Facebook saying he worked for a famous biscuit manufacturer, which also made biscuits for supermarket own-brand lines. He reckons there often wasn't so much of a difference in how they were made...

    I used to work for McVitie's - we made all of the big biscuits like custard creams, bourbons, ginger nuts, digestives etc. We made branded as well as own label for all of the major retailers. The branded and own label recipes were nearly identical , the main difference was usually a bit of salt. The only major difference was M&S that was more “luxurious".

    Others have echoed a similar sentiment when it comes to branded versus own-brand...

    I'm a lorry driver. ALL own-brand stuff you buy is made in the same factory with the branded stuff, just to a slightly different recipe.

    - Viva Cas Vegas

    Daniel also says he worked for a large premium baby food brand, and reckons there's little difference between that and own-brand baby food, other than price...

    Daniel added: "I also used to work for one of the largest premium baby food brands in the UK (they pioneered pouches for baby food in the UK). A large proportion of their infant tray meals (in other words, not fruit pouches) are made in the same factory, on the same line, as baby food for other shops such as Asda, Aldi and Lidl. As ingredients in baby food must all be of a specific quality, there is very little difference in the end product, but a big difference in price."
  3. 'Nando's Perinaise is just a mix of sauces, and kids' meals aren't that much smaller'

    Amy worked at a popular chicken chain and says there's no need to pay for one of its sauces... just add this to our other Nando's hacks, including how to save £10+ ordering off a different part of the menu.

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  4. 'B&Q and Screwfix are the same company – so check if one's cheaper than the other for DIY supplies'

    Before you buy anything, we always tell you to compare prices to make sure you're getting the best deal. Many retailers sell the same or similar products at different prices, sometimes even when they're part of the same group. Vivien says this is true of B&Q and Screwfix...

    Always compare prices before buying, especially if you're buying something a little more expensive (though it's probably not worth it for screws). Our Online shopping tips guide tells you how to do it easily online, including tools that can help.

  5. 'The difference between branded and supermarket fruit and veg is minimal or non-existent'... though more expensive ones may 'look better'

    Kate and Sheena used to pack frozen fruit and veg, and say that they're all the same, no matter which brand or supermarket you use...

    I worked in a frozen veg factory. The difference between branded and supermarket brands was minimal or non-existent.

    - Sheena

    Kate said: "Used to work in a fruit packing factory. Doesn't matter if it's Asda, Aldi or Waitrose... They are all the same fruit. Just different labels. Same with cheese (another job)."

    But both Mark and Sally say there can be a difference between brands in the quality or appearance of fruit and veg, though it may not be worth the extra cost...

    I worked in a vegetable processing plant and the cheap carrots came from the same fields and through the same cleaning and packaging line as the expensive carrots.

    But what was different was the expensive carrots had more workers looking for, and removing, unsightly or damaged carrots, so what you're paying for is more people to check your carrots before you see them. Buy big bags of cheap carrots, sort the best ones yourself and make soup with the rest.

    - Mark

    Sally said: "The same supplier makes the same item but with different qualities. With fruit, the criteria was the best went to M&S/Waitrose (biggest, prettiest, sweetest etc.), then fruit graded with the lowest quality goes to the budget supermarkets. With manufactured items, for example, salmon en croute, M&S had a minimum fish content like 80%; other supermarkets would be 50%, hence the price difference."
  6. 'Waterproof walking boots are likely worth the extra expense'

    Steph used to work for a well-known outdoors store and reckons if you want to walk away with a good deal on boots, go for ones that are waterproof...

    Steph said: "I used to work for Blacks outdoor store. Honestly, long term, if you’re buying walking boots or shoes always buy the ones that are waterproof. They may be slightly more expensive, but you can wear them all year round and they last years."
  7. '99p cleaner does exactly the same as the £3.99 stuff'

    We heard paying more for cleaning products doesn't mean a cleaner home...

    Pauline said: "I'm a cleaner. 99p cleaner does exactly the same as £3.99 per bottle stuff. You are just paying for the fancy bottles and the brand."

    And that many cleaning products aren't coming clean about how similar they are...

    Tracey said: "All these shower cleaner bottles [Astonish, Tesco, W5, Power Force shower cleaner] are made in the same chemical factory.  Many different prices in shops, same liquid in them all."

    Similarly, Nic worked in a hand soap factory, while Penny worked in a factory producing sponges, and both say the labels are the only real difference between what you're getting... and the price, of course!

    Nic said: "On Mondays we'd pump the hand soap batch into M&S bottles and then on Tuesdays into Superdrug bottles. It happened with shampoo too."
    Penny said: "The only difference between Waitrose and Tesco, Superdrug, Boots and Poundland sponges are the labels and price!"
  8. 'You don't need loads of different cleaning products for your bathroom or kitchen... just one or two will do the job'

    Jodie and Donna know what they're talking about when it comes to cleaning your home...

    Jodie said: "You literally need a multi-purpose and a disinfectant and that's it. Stop buying the million different cleaning products." Donna added: "I had a cleaning business, we all had anti-bac, white vinegar and Fairy, did all the main jobs. Don't see the reason for millions of different products."

    Cleaning your home doesn't have to be expensive. As Donna says, cheap household items can sub in for a lot of the more expensive products. See the Old Style MoneySaving board on our forum for more tips, plus Martin's Thrifty Ways for Modern Days book, which rounded up a lot of the best tips from it.

  9. 'Cheaper condoms conform to the same safety standards as the more expensive ones'

    Sexual health nurse Ruth A says protections are in place so that it's not necessary to buy expensive condoms...

    Ruth said: "I can tell you that the cheap condoms have to meet exactly the same standards as the expensive ones. You can usually get them free from your local sexual health clinic. Saves you the cost of too many children too."

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  10. 'Look at the top and bottom shelves for the cheaper items... rather than the branded items on middle shelves'

    Hopeful Soapbox advised bending down or going on tiptoes to spot the bargains...

    Yet we all know it's a supermarket's job to make us spend. Combine this tip with our 25+ supermarket shopping tools & tricks to slash your food bills.

  11. 'The food with today's date was reduced three times during the day – and was cheapest in the evening'

    Lizzie tells us Asda did three rounds of 'yellow sticker discounts' during the same day if something was about to go out of date, meaning the bargain prices were available in the evening (though of course many things may have already been bought)...

    Lizzie said: "I used to work for Asda and the food with today's date was reduced three times during the day – once in the morning, once at around lunchtime, and again at about 7pm/8pm. A lot can be frozen too."

    This is for Asda, but we've chapter and verse on when's best to bag the stickered bargains for other stores in our 'yellow sticker' reductions help.

  12. 'Buying branded medicines is a waste of money, the own-brand medicines work exactly the same'

    The idea that you may be paying extra for premium packaging rather than a premium product doesn't just apply to everyday groceries. Wayne works at a pharmacy and reiterates what we've been saying for years around branded versus own-brand medicines...

    Wayne said: "Buying brand-name medicines off the shelf is an utter waste of money. The supermarket own-brands can work exactly the same, just without the flashy marketing. The key and important similarity is if the active ingredient is the same."

    See our Cheap medicines guide for how to spot which pills are identical, or have the same active ingredient – you can often pay up to 70% less.

  13. 'Splash out for decent underlay & you can scrimp on the carpet's cost'

    Samantha messaged on Facebook to say she has a family member who worked in the carpet trade and says that it's what's on the underside that counts...

    Samantha said: "My dad worked for Allied Carpets and has always said pay for decent underlay. Don't go for the cheapest. A good quality carpet on cheap underlay won't last. A cheaper carpet on a decent underlay will last much better." Janet added: "Yep, my daughter works for Carpet Right and says the same."
  14. 'Brush morning and night with fluoride toothpaste and a basic electric brush... they don't need to be fancy'

    Dentist Sonja says tooth be told, you just need the basics...

    Sonja said: "Brush morning and night with a fluoride toothpaste and electric brush. Doesn't need to be fancy, Oral B series 2 has everything you need, nothing you don't. Get it on offer, not full-price."

    And dental hygienist Debbie says that you don't get a better clean from the pricier electric brushes...

    Top electric toothbrush is Oral B Pro 2000 for about £30 on Amazon. It's the same power and speed as top of the range models which are over £100! Don't choose an Oral B model below the '2000 model'.

    - Debbie M

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  15. 'I was a postman for 24 years, and never noticed a difference between 1st and 2nd class – all mail's treated the same'

    Of course, some sorting rooms may say different, and we can't validate it, but postie Neil messaged us on Facebook claiming a second-class stamp can get you a first-class service...

    Neil said: "As a postman of 24 years, I've never noticed any difference between first and second-class stamps. All mail is treated the same."
  16. 'All the chicken packed is the same, it's just different labels and prices'

    Merita says shopping at a cheaper supermarket doesn't mean the products are different...

    Merita said: "I used to work in a chicken processing factory years ago and can say with complete authority that all the meat packed is the same, it's just different labels and prices. As the trays of meat came off the production line we'd have labels from all the major supermarkets and would do a certain number of Tesco, of Waitrose, and so on, as per their orders. Shop cheap, it's the same."
  17. 'You can pick up a high-quality refurbished laptop for a fraction of the new price'

    Bev works in the tech industry and says it's always worth comparing the cost of brand-new with items that have been refurbished 'as new'. We know it works for mobiles – our Refurbished mobiles guide has tips on how to get a cheap handset.

  18. 'No discount from a call centre? Hang up and try again later'

    Mr Majika tweeted to say he previously worked in call centre retentions and that often the deal you're offered can change from day to day, or hour to hour...

    And Emma says don't always take a deal you're told is time-limited...

    If you're phoning up for car insurance and the agent tells you they can do a discount for you, but you have to be quick because they can only apply so much discount per day/week/month, they're lying. It's a sales tactic they're told to use.

    - Emma

    Here at MoneySavingExpert, we're seasoned hagglers. See our Top 10 firms to haggle with for info on which firms tend to be most receptive to haggling, and our tips on how to do it well.

  19. 'If flying to the US west coast, check if it's cheaper to fly to the east coast then get an internal flight'

    Katie worked with travel agents and has this tip if you're Los Angeles or San Francisco-bound...

    If booking travel, don't just wing it. See our 65+ overseas travel tips, along with how to book Cheap flights and Hotels, Overseas spending tips and Cheap travel insurance.

  20. 'Book the aisle and window seat if a couple... no one will book the middle seat'

    Sally has a tip for airline seat booking which may give couples a palatial flight experience by gaining an extra seat (though it's a gamble)...

    Obviously if the flight's full, someone will turn up for that middle seat. If you want to sit together, you'll need to ask politely if that person wouldn't mind swapping with one of you, though as most people regard the window or aisle seats as an "upgrade" on the middle seat, hopefully they'll swiftly agree.

    We've more tips to help you get the seat(s) you want, without it costing the earth in Airline seating tips.

  21. 'It's easier to pay less for a car if you time your visit for a few days before the end of the month'

    Robert worked at a car showroom and gave us his insight on how to drive (sorry!) a hard bargain...

    Robert said: "Time your visit for a few days before the end of the month as the dealership will be trying to achieve monthly targets. For even better results aim for the end of a quarter (March, June, Sept, Dec)."

    Paul backed this up...

    And car salesman Matthew adds that just being nice can equal a good price...

    See our full guide on How to buy a car the MoneySaving way.

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