You cannot afford to miss this!

 Hello everyone!

Changes of plans all over the place this week. I was going to record this blog post as a podcast episode (I said as much both in last week’s post and in last week’s podcast) but things have altered and I might have a guest for this week’s podcast, which is very exciting and dynamic… so the would-be audio episode is now a blog post.

But I think it’s going to work out better this way - I can provide images of the things I’m talking about.

There is also a video on the way - I need to film the B-roll (and the A-roll, who am I kidding?) but hopefully, that will be along before the end of the week (... maybe. Considering it's Thursday evening now, I wouldn't hold my breath!) so I can at least keep one of my promises!

So, last week in the bog, I sent out some of my favourite super-cheap, super-quick-and-easy recipes because we all have to eat. But that only covered food. What about entertainment, savings, shopping and treats? We need to save money on those things too, right?

I’ve got you covered. 

Here are some of my favourite (shudder) cheap thrills!

Let’s start with TV because, at the end of the day, it is nice to come home and slump on the sofa for a bit.

In the UK, an annual Netflix subscription will cost you £6.99 every month. That’s £83.88 every year. There are ways to reduce this, if you live with someone, you could consider sharing the bill, but this cheapest tier only allows one screen at a time, so unless you can guarantee that you will all be settling down to watch /Love is Blind/ at the same time, it’s not really a solution. Plus, Netflix is looking at ways to verify that the account is only being shared /within the same household/, so sharing/stealing from your parents is not going to be an option for much longer.

Disney+ will set you back £79.90 if you pay for an annual subscription. Amazon Prime is another £79; NowTV is £119.88 for the TV channels, or a staggering £239,76 if you add the films!). In the UK, a TV licence is £159 for the year… all of these can add up (£641.54 if you have them all).

What if I told you that there are loads of TV channels out there for free? Let’s start with some that you might already be familiar with.

All 4, Channel 4’s streaming service is completely free to use. You need to sign up for an account and you will have to put up with adverts but it is a small price to pay. There are full movies (61 at the moment, a bit hit-and-miss, but they are there), entire box sets (281), some of which are also on Netflix, so you won’t be missing out! And, if you don’t mind being a day behind, you can watch everything that was on TV (you can’t watch it on the day, despite the ‘Live TV’ tab - I’ll explain why in a minute).

And it’s completely free. 

Speaking of ‘regular’ TV, have you looked at Freeview?

This is more of a hub than an actual TV package but if you like to watch your terrestrial TV like you did when you were at home, this is the way to do it. All UK channels are there (yup, all five of them! Also, UKTV and STV) if you install the relevant apps.

The service works by allowing you to search for anything that has been on TV in the UK and providing a link to the app where you can watch it. It’s seamless. You just click on the show and it opens in the correct app (a bit like the new Chromecast with Google TV). The only caveat is that, if you are looking to watch anything, absolutely anything, from the BBC, you will have to pay for a TV licence, which is the most expensive option of all the streaming services. 

A simple way to avoid this is to not install the iPlayer app; that way Freeview will prompt you to install it and you can just say, ‘no thank-you’ and look for something else.

But wait! There is another absolute gem of an app that is completely, totally, legally free. You may have seen it on the side of buses and ignored it because to be fair, it is mostly advertising old episodes of Baywatch at the moment. But it’s so much more.

PlutoTV is free and streams TV episodes and movies 24 hours a day. Now, I’m not going to lie to you, the content is a little… eclectic. You’re not going to find anything current (there’s a reason it’s free) but they have an entire channel devoted to nothing but Homes Under the Hammer! If you’re ever brave enough to take a sick day, tell me this is not worth considering!

They also have a pretty decent range of films to watch on-demand (again, this is totally free). Are they the latest blockbusters? No. Are there some pretty fringe offerings? Yes. Are they interrupted by advert breaks? Yes. But again, this is all totally free content and, if you’re looking to kill a couple of hours while you decompress after a long day teaching, how much attention do you need to pay to Geordie Shore?

By the way, if niche moves are your thing, you might want to check out the apps Old Movies, Film Noir Movies and Filmzie. While you won’t find Doctor Strange 2 on there, you will find plenty of rainy-day movies… or maybe not. I guess it depends on your taste. I’ve seen a couple of good things on there - there is a very charming film called The Case of Mr 880, which I think is worth a watch. 

But hey, the joy of it is, download it; have a look around; if you don’t see anything you like, uninstall it. It’ll only cost you some time.

Before we move away from the TV, a word about the BBC

At the moment, if you want to watch any TV at the time of broadcasting, you must have a TV Licence. It does not matter if you only watch non-BBC channels, if you are watching ‘live’, this means, at the time of broadcast, you have to have paid your £159. There is no monthly option. And no, it doesn’t matter if the thing you are watching ‘live’ is actually a repeat.

However, if you are happy to watch things on-demand, even an hour later (potentially, only five minutes later, it’s not ‘live’ but you might find it difficult to argue that it isn’t ‘at the time of broadcasting’), and you’re not at all bothered about BBC programming, then any of the options listed above are available for free.

I won’t get into my opinion of the BBC’s position on broadcasting in the UK, it’s a very personal thing and I know people who pay their licence fee quite happily. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life… but I am here to help you save money and £159 a year is a lot. There are currently talks within the UK government to scrap the licence fee and remove public money from the BBC but, if that goes ahead, it won’t be until 2027.

A couple more things about the BBC and TV Licencing.

While you can be fined for watching live content, or any BBC content without a licence, you have to be caught doing so. They actually have to see you watching. Your IP address is circumstantial (between 55 and 80% reliability score). Owning a TV is not a crime. Besides, if some random person comes around claiming to be from TV Licensing, that’s all they are - a random person. Don’t let them into your house. Even if they are insistent, tell them, forcefully but politely, that you have been advised not to let strangers into your house without a prior appointment. It doesn’t matter who they say they are, or what authority they claim to have, they cannot force themselves into your house.

If you find yourself in this situation and things being to feel a little heated, grab your phone and start recording. Inform them that you are going to record the interaction because you’re beginning to feel uncomfortable with the intimidatory tactics being used. They’ll back off.

To be clear, I am not suggesting you watch BBC content without a licence; I’m just letting you know that the threatening letters are just that. Hollow, impotent, bullying threats.

What if you don’t want to watch TV though? What then?

How about a nice book?

If you pay council tax then you can get a local library membership. If you have a library membership, you will want to download these next two apps… FOR FREE!

The first is Borrow Box. This is the library’s own app and, once you’ve logged in with your library account details, you have access to a wealth of ebooks and audiobooks… FOR FREE!

And this isn’t like some of the film channels from earlier, these are genuine, Audible-quality audiobooks that you can download and borrow for free. I’ve used the audiobooks when I ran out of podcasts (I was cycling a /lot/ a few months back) and the ebooks have made my Kindle kind of redundant. 

You can borrow up to 15 of each in one month; they download right to your device of choice and, since the service is account-based, you can install the app on multiple devices (I have it on my phone, tablet and laptop). So you can start on your phone and finish up on a slightly bigger screen in bed.

What’s more, from a teaching point of view, you have access to the children’s books, so you can keep up to date with the latest releases for your class! For free! I used this service when I was reviewing David Walliams’s books in a previous post. I saved myself £24 by reading the required books through Borrow Box. I got through Midnight Sun, the original Twilight novel from Edward’s point of view, by listening to the audiobook. £30 on Audible, free through Borrow Box!

And there’s more…

If you have a library account, you can also download Pressreader.

Pressreader is like Borrow Box but for newspapers and magazines. From all countries. In all languages. From The Wallstreet Journal to The Daily Mail, from Popular Science to Us Weekly. There is so much here, I can’t even tell you; you’ll just have to download it and see for yourself.

I’m not much into newspapers but once a month, I’ll check out T3, a tech magazine that costs £4.99 in the shops, Total Film and Empire magazines, a combined price of £9.24, and I used to use this to read the TES magazine but that is now, sadly online only and locked behind a paywall (or is it? Keep reading to find out…)  

There is a bit of a teacher-y bonus as well. This wonderful, free app gives you access to The Week: Junior, which, for those of you who don’t know, is a bit like The Economist for kids (or like The Week).  It’s a great way to keep up to date on current events and be able to discuss them at your class’s level. And it’s free!


Now, if you’re like me, you get most of your news online through something like Google or Apple news? You get the headline then click on the article. You get one paragraph in and BAM to continue reading, take out a subscription…

Annoying, no?

What if I told you that there are a couple of ways around this? The first is to copy and paste the headline into a search engine and see if the article comes up anywhere for free. This is a hassle though. There is another way (if you have an Android phone, sorry Apple people).

Open the Chrome app on your phone and type “chrome://flags” in the address bar. Hit Enter and then search for “Reader Mode” in the text box at the top. Enable the flag titled “Enable Reader Mode” then restart the app (literally close it down and reopen it. You will now have a small pop-up notification that invites you to view simplified page. Clicking ‘view’ opens up the article in a stripped-down reader view. It removes the ads, it sometimes removes any pictures, it often circumnavigates any paywalls.

It’s not 100%, some publications have embedded their blocker pretty well and you’ll end up with a stripped-down request to purchase a subscription; however, in my experience, it works more often than not.

But that’s not the only way…

Some sites allow you one or two free articles a day (TES, for example), after which, you are paywalled out. Incognito mode is your unlikely friend in this situation. You are still limited to a set number of articles per day… but you are suddenly several different people, each reading their one free article. Like I say, I know this works on TES and there are a couple of other sites I won’t bore you with (because they were mainly for researching blog posts) on which the same trick worked. Is it entirely ethical? I’ll leave that up to you.

Speaking of research, if you find yourself needing access to a peer-reviewed paper but no longer have access through your university, there are a couple of things you can do.

One is to see if you have an alumni account with your institution. This will be enough to sign in through your old USO. It’s a little hit-and-miss but it can work. Another alternative, if you know exactly what paper you would like to read, is to email the author directly. These people do not receive any kind of royalties from the journals, so they’re not losing out if you ask them for a pdf copy. 

I’ve done this a couple of times, accompanied with a brief explanation of why I want to read their paper (be polite and give praise where it is due) and I’ve ended up with not only the paper but some extra insight - deleted scenes, I guess - and even some exclusive little tidbits of opinion or information that wouldn’t make it into the peer-reviewed paper. It’s a little more niche than some of the other tips but it is definitely worth it.

Incidentally, if your university provides you with an alumni email address, then you can still register with discount apps like Student Beans and Unidays, giving you the benefits of student discounts for a few more years!

One final thing; a sort of honourable mention. Since becoming a father, I have found myself in need of physical 6x4 photographs. Turns out there are quite a few apps out there that will give you free prints every month. The one I’m currently using is Snap Fish but I know that Free Prints does the same thing. You only get 10 free pictures every month and you have to pay £1.50 for postage, which, in all honesty, isn’t much of a saving on going to a supermarket and printing them there; however, this has the convenience of being delivered to your door.

I’ll leave it there, I’ve covered Films, TV, Books and Magazines, and on top of last week’s post about cheap, easy and time-saving meals, I think we’re doing well. Next week, I’ll tell you how you can get a new laptop for free, how to avoid wasting money and how you can be a millionaire by the time you’re fifty.


Tell your friends!

Until next time, remember, you can do this: You’re awesome.

Carl Headley-Morris

Email me!              Tweet me!              Visit my website!          Listen to the Podcast!