Money saving tips: Free tennis classes and hotel haggling

The cost of living squeeze is biting hard with the Bank of England warning yesterday that inflation will peak beyond 11 per cent in October. 

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t simple tips and tricks to help navigate your way around it.

Each Friday, one of our expert team of personal finance journalists round-up five tips we think are worth noting that can go a little way to helping you save money, or make money in the midst of sky-high inflation and rocketing bills.

This week, it features a way to get your dog walked for free, the toys gathering dust that could be worth more than you expect and tennis classes without the price tag. 

Inspired? Ryan Peniston has been in fine form in the Queen’s Club tennis championship – you can channel your inner Henman with free lessons around the country

1. Free tennis lessons

Looking for ways to get fit this summer? Free tennis lessons could provide the perfect opportunity, especially on the eve of Wimbledon.

Tennis for Free offers group sessions at public courts across the country for no charge. 

Led by trained coaches and supported by volunteers, the charity runs sessions for all ages and abilities at 42 sites across England, Scotland and Wales.

The organisation aims to make tennis accessible and enjoyable for all, from those who simply want to try the game and to the less privileged who may otherwise not engage in tennis or sport.

It’s easy to register to for a session near you through the website which also provides details on all of its live sites and the times of individual sessions.

Sessions consist of drills and group games run in public parks.

The weekly group sessions are open to anyone over the age of 12, and some for kids 11 and under, so it could also provide a fun and healthy activity for your children.

2. Join a community running group  

If you don’t fancy tennis but still want to get fit for free, how about a weekly run in your local park with the added bonus of volunteers cheering you on?

Parkruns are free, weekly, community events that take place all around the world. 

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Saturday morning events are 5 kilometres and take place in parks and open spaces across the country. On Sunday mornings, there are 2 kilometre junior parkruns for children aged four to 14.

And if like me you’re not a natural runner (to put it mildly) there is no time limit for completing the run. 

Participants are welcome to walk, jog, sprint, whatever they prefer. Whichever you choose you’ll always get cheers as you cross the finish line from the friendly volunteers who man the course.

Registration is completely free and only needs to be done once.

There are 1,136 events around the country to choose from.

If you’re keen to know your speed or want to keep track of your times to chart your progress, volunteers click participants in and out with stopwatches so you can collect your time at the end – just don’t forget your barcode.

Even for non-runners Parkrun is an inclusive way to get outside and get fit

Even for non-runners Parkrun is an inclusive way to get outside and get fit

3. Get your dog walked for free

It’s estimated 3.2million households in Britain acquired a pet during the first year of the pandemic.

In total there are now 8.5million dogs, but as more of us return to the office getting adequate care in place for pooches can be a tricky and expensive process. 

Getting your dog taken out costs an average of £11.25 per walk, according to personal finance site NimbleFins, with the most expensive dog walkers charging a staggering £25 per outing.

App and website Borrow My Doggy connects dog owners with local people who would love to look after their dog free of charge.

Launched in 2012, dog owners can join for free, create a profile that can be found by dog borrowers and search for other local members.

If you want to message others in the network, premium membership for owners is available for £44.99 a year. The membership covers safety checks and provides access to the company’s accident and third party liability insurance and a 24/7 Vet Line.

Once you’re registered and found someone who would like to take care of your dog, for a walk, a day or even an overnight stay, you can arrange a get to know you meet-up to ensure both parties are comfortable before leaving the volunteer dog sitter unattended with your pet.

And if you aren’t a dog owner but are thinking about getting a dog, or like me, miss having a dog at home and would love an excuse to get out and go for a walk, you can register to borrow a dog for free as a basic member or £12.99 a year as a premium one. 

Premium borrower membership also includes insurance and access to a 24/7 vet line.

3.2 million households got a pet during lockdown but as we go back to the office need to find daycare and it can be pricey.

3.2 million households got a pet during lockdown but as we go back to the office need to find daycare and it can be pricey.

4. Hotel haggling

Summer holidays are fast approaching and most of us are looking for an affordable get-away. 

Across the web there are loads of holiday accommodation comparison sites, including hotels and inclusive packages.

While these are good for comparing the different options at a destination, they also provide an opportunity for getting the price down on the accommodation of your choice.

In the past I have been able to use these sites to find cheaper accommodation prices, through the discounts available, and then approach the hotel directly to see if they can match the price themselves or even undercut it.

From experience, they often do – or will throw in upgrades and other perks.  

Beanie Babies were a huge trend in the 1990s but now rare versions of the toys can sell dfor up to thousands of pounds online

Beanie Babies were a huge trend in the 1990s but now rare versions of the toys can sell dfor up to thousands of pounds online

5. Dust off and sell your old toys

Did you collect any toys or games as a kid, that are now gathering dust somewhere at home but you don’t want to let go of the nostalgia? Parting with your collection may be easier if you know you can make some money from them.

Research by Cath Kidston has found that your hidden toys could be worth more than you think.

In the 1990s the Beanie Baby craze gripped people the world over, myself included. 

If you have managed to hang on to them, your investment may have been worth it – some of soft animals were limited edition and as a result hugely valuable now.

For example, the original Peanut the Elephant is one of the most valuable Beanie Babies around because of its very limited production run. Only 2,000 of the royal blue Peanut were ever produced and now can fetch up to £4,000 online.

Barbie collectors (I’m guilty again), may also be in luck. Barbie Millennium Princess, designed in honour of the year 2000, is commanding a price of around £1,988 and Calvin Klein Barbie, a classic ’90s toy, is worth around £1,124 if you’ve kept her in good condition.

It may even be worth asking your mum if she has kept hold of any of her Barbies. Vintage dolls can be worth even more to the right collector.

Likewise, sought-after Lego sets are also in demand. The Lego Airport Shuttle set could fetch up to £2,000 while a used Star Wars Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon bundle is worth around £1,184.99 – triple its original price. Get in those lofts.