Scrimp V Splash – Today’s letter is H. And the theme is spending.

Haircuts

Now don’t get me wrong, there are deals to be had in haircare, but automatically opting for the cheapest can be a recipe for disaster. There is a whole gallery of pictures of me failing to learn this lesson over the last decade but now when I find a stylist who does what I actually want, I cling to them like a barnacle. I have suffered various indignities in my search for value since living in London, culminating in me being locked in an empty salon after hours with a hairdresser who, over the course of the evening- highlights literally take forever – shared that he loved sherry and collecting Barbie dolls. Whilst we were having this heart to heart, I watched with rising panic as he poured bleach, freehand, into a hospital kidney tray and then stuffed my hair in it. Needless to say it was not the subtle ombre that I had hoped for. But reader, I was brave. This was about the fourth or fifth catastrophic disappointment I had experienced and I was so done. I told him I didn’t like it and I wanted him to fix it. I know; unprecedented. Unbritish. Unbelieveable. I didn’t pay. I duly went back and had a marginally better job done, although at that point it was clear that he did not have the skillz to pay the kidney tray billz. I styled it out – in the literal sense – for a few months then researched extensively to make sure my next salon was better. And now it is true love. When things don’t quite look like the picture in my head, probably a lot of times through my own fault for not accurately articulating it (so I want it to look really short, but still be really long and I don’t want any of the length cut off. But can it be like, completely radical? Yeah? Cool) I feed that back calmly and coolly and we work together to have the outsides match the insides of my head. And they give me loads of wine – it’s brilliant. That said, there are still ways to get cheeky discounts – when I was in my experimental phase, slutting around looking for ‘the one’ I used Treatwell, to get money off my first treatments – sometimes the only comfort when I was staring into the mirror with a judge’s wig staring back at me. Now I am happy and committed, and Facebook official with my beloved Luke Jacob, I haggle for discounts by introducing my friends and family. And because we’re in a longterm kindof thing, they cut my fringe for free, whenever I want it, and they give me wine then too.

Hotels

Vix 4 Airbnb – true love forever

Airbnb is an absolute treasure trove. We initially turned to it when we couldn’t find a reasonable hotel solution for a party of 5 but now it’s our first choice for City breaks. For awkward group sizes, they are an absolute God send, from a price and experience basis; if you have an odd number of travellers, finding accommodation to suit can be a challenge, you risk the dreaded ‘single person supplement’ or, as has happened often to me and my family, getting a room/suite supposedly for 3 that consists of a double bed and some sofa cushions for the unlucky third wheel, who then has to sleep with their head in the oven. One fateful teenage holiday, none of us was willing to be ‘left out’ of bedtime chat so three 17 year old girls ended up sharing the double bed in the bedroom out of nothing but pure, unadulterated FOMO. Airbnb didn’t exist when I was a ludicrous, irrational teenager making bad choices, it’s too late for me, but you can still save yourselves. There is something at every price point if you book early enough and you can, if you’re lucky, end up living a rich, indulgent fantasy life, from having custody of a penthouse with a wrought iron spiral staircase to pose for fake music videos on to floating around a beautiful, light flooded loft complete with a grand piano you can play (but not put any drinks on under pain of death) It’s fun, it’s quirky, for the nosy it’s a proper peak behind the curtains into someone else’s life. I love it. Viva la Airbnb.

Holidays

Is the season to run away and you may well be starting to panic that you don’t have your break lined up but be on your guard for the pitfalls of sales language if you’re tempted by the promise of a last minute break from a deals site. I nearly bought a thoroughly bog standard holiday to Thailand one year because it seemed like a bargain to my untrained eye and I needed to BUY NOW as there WERE ONLY 2 LEFT! Having calmed down (and looked at my very disappointing bank balance) it was actually a fairly standard offer for the time of year, in the rainy season, when you might have 7 days of Welsh Weather for the price of . With holidays, check the reviews extensively, know what you want but also know how to read the reviews – your idea of gastro paradise is someone else’s nightmares and reviews are subjective. In this kind of scenarios, pictures don’t lie, so have a good look at the ones that have been taken. Where possible, fact check your deals and build your holidays brick by brick. That said, services like HolidayPirates are absolutely brilliant – highlighting price glitches and sales, you can keep an eye on their offers via email or even Whatsapp. Word of warning on flight glitches, be cautious. British Airways just cancelled hundreds of flights booked during a glitch and left people out of pocket and understandably furious. If you gamble on a deal that is obviously a mistake, you need to accept the risk it might be pulled.

How to get free hotel upgrades

Admit it, you check into a hotel, you know there are better rooms than the one you paid for (and even some suites) and you want that upgrade – you just don’t want to pay for it. Well good news, here are our tried-and-tested top-tips on how to get free hotel upgrades.

  1. Special occasion – Are you staying somewhere special for a honeymoon / anniversary / birthday? Well let the hotel know. The best way to do this is by dropping them an email in advance, although just letting reception know at check in can yield some great results. Don’t expect a presidential suite, but a corner room or bigger room with robes can be a nice treat. As an aside, it’s up to you if you want make this special occasion up, I personally don’t but I know people that do (no names – you know who you are!)
  2. Spend points – Travel points are a whole article in and of themselves but, it’s fair to say, almost all of them can you used to buy premium hotel rooms in some way shape or form. Whether you’re using Amex points (which can be transferred to pretty much anything), hotel points themselves or even Avios (yup, you can use airmiles to buy hotel rooms), this is a great way to get this upgrade for free.
  3. Loyalty schemes – all major hotel brands have loyalty schemes. These are designed with two goals in mind: firstly to reward loyalty and secondly to skew people’s purchase decisions to stay at these brands. That being said, they are always free to join and hotels will usually offer some perks even to free members. What’s more, they’re more likely to look at you favourably when using any of the other tips. Finally, if you’ve booked directly, you’ll probably get points for your stay. This is free money. Why wouldn’t you do this!?
  4. Status – Not only do loyalty schemes allow you to join for free and collect points but, the more you stay, the more you work your way up the tiers – silver, gold etc (it’s a bit like the Olympics although with less sports, and it’s not every four years, and it’s not thousands of years old – ok it’s not much like the olympics). Anyway, the higher tiers in these schemes often give you room upgrades for free, sometimes guaranteed! If you don’t stay enough to earn status then there is a fantastic secret to getting status at hotel chains – this is included as a perk with several credit cards.
  5. Negotiate – ok, I’ll admit that this one isn’t technically a ‘free’ upgrade but it sure as hell can be a deal. Hotels often have premium rooms un-sold, which means they’re going to sit there unused and empty. A hotel would much rather make some money from these rooms than none, so it’s always worth asking for the upgrade price and then making an offer. In my experience, this works in over 90% of instances and we’ve secured crazy deals like a £400 per night five-star suite for only £20!
  6. Complain – specifically when or if something goes wrong. Everyone hates the dude shouting at some poor receptionist for nothing – don’t be that guy! That being said, if you’ve been looking forward to an awesome holiday or your annual trip abroad and the air conditioning doesn’t work / bathroom tap is broken / minibar is missing / there are holes in the wall (all of these things have happened to me) then tell someone. Follow our how to complain rules and be specific that you’d like to move rooms and would appreciate an upgrade
  7. Flirt – Like most things in life, rightly or wrongly, this really can work. I personally have had varying degrees of success here but I know people where this works a lot. If you’re out of option and wondering how to get that free upgrade when walking to check in, don your best fake smile and cheeky wink (or whatever your thing is)

Got your own thoughts on how to get free hotel upgrades? Do you have a secret trick up your sleeve? Let us know by getting in touch and we’ll get your top tips added to the list