The internet might not be able to lend you a cup of sugar - but in its own way, it still offers some of the benefits of a local community. One example is the current gaggle of new online ideas that all aim to capitalise on collective buying power to secure discounts.
Group-buying sites such as Groupon and wowcher get much of the glory, but one can only have so many manicures and holidays. So it’s worth checking out Incahoot.com, which helps members (it’s free to join) secure money-saving deals with gas and electricity suppliers, insurers and telecoms firms.
Its top deals include home broadband from Plusnet at £4.49 a month, (it costs £6.49 a month from the company direct). That includes a speed of up to 20Mb, data allowance of 10Gb and a 12-month contract.
Incahoot’s “concierge” service will also be useful to those who can’t be bothered to switch energy provider because of the hassle involved. Moving to the best tariff could save households up to £264, and the site will do the leg-work for you.
Just send a copy of your latest bill into the site at www.incahoot.com/concierge and it will calculate how much money it is possible to save, then contact your old supplier and set up a direct debit to a new one on your behalf.
Elsewhere bulk-buying opportunities are on the horizon for energy deals. Campaign group Which?’s The Big Switch idea aims to harness collective consumer power to secure a market-leading energy deal for British households. So far more than 160,000 people have signed up but the more who enroll, the bigger the likely discounts. Sign up until 31 March, at www.whichbigswitch.co.uk and once it has negotiated a new energy deal it will let you know so you can decide whether or not to switch.