How wombling saves money on shopping
Fancy a freebie that's available year-round, gives you a discount on your supermarket shop and could earn you entirely free meals? Welcome to wombling.
One man's trash is another man's treasure, as the saying goes. And with wombling, this treasure comes in the form of dumped receipts – yes really!
If you fancy bagging yourself some extra cash while doing your weekly shop, just keep your eyes peeled for discarded receipts.
It might seem like a strange way to make money, but these unassuming pieces of paper are actually your key to discounted food, free meals and unlimited loyalty points. In this guide, we'll show you how to womble like a pro...
What's in this guide?
What is wombling?
Womblers are receipt hunters who collect loyalty points and other rewards from other people's shopping.
You might have heard of The Wombles TV show from your parents' era, featuring a bunch of fluffy aardvark things burrowing around Wimbledon Common. It had a pretty banging theme tune which included the lyrics:
Making good use of the things that we find, things that the everyday folks leave behind.
As the lyrics suggest, 'wombling' is basically making use of what others have discarded. In the real-world money-saving sense, this means claiming unused loyalty points and bonuses that other shoppers have forgotten (or don't care) about.
Where can you womble?
Almost anywhere that has a loyalty card scheme can be used as a potential wombling target – most places will let you add missed points onto your card if you present them with a valid receipt. But with wombling, that receipt won't be yours, of course.
Supermarkets are prime wombling hotspots, including:
At Tesco, if you find a receipt with a barcode at the bottom for a purchase of £1 or more you can claim the Clubcard points.
You're permitted to take up to two receipts per day to the customer service desk to get the points added to your own card manually. The receipts must be less than 14 days old.
You used to be able to womble price matches through Tesco's Brand Guarantee scheme too but, unfortunately, this doesn't work anymore.
If you find a Sainsbury's receipt with "You could have earned xx Nectar points today" written at the bottom you can get those added to your own card within 14 days at the customer service desk.
Asda used to be the most popular shop to womble from. However, the Asda Price Guarantee programme was shut down in 2018 and you can now no longer pay for your shopping with other people's receipts.
It's a real shame, as it was possible to earn hundreds of pounds in free Asda vouchers through wombling. We'll update this article if they bring it back, or if any other supermarket starts a similar comparison scheme you could take advantage of in the same way.
Health and Beauty
Both Boots and Superdrug have loyalty schemes, but only one is really 'womble-able'.
If you see a Superdrug receipt with unclaimed Health & Beautycard points you can claim them for yourself.
Their official policy states:
Just contact our customer team and give them the details below from your receipt and they will add the points for you once they've verified your purchase including: Receipt number, Store number, Till number, Total paid, Date.
At Boots you can only womble receipts that have been 'validated' – i.e the customer has said that they do have an Advantage card, but they've left it at home. And, unfortunately, it's pretty unlikely you'll pick up one of those.
Cafes and restaurants
Food and drink loyalty schemes are often among the wombler favourites, including:
You can womble receipts at Costa and get yourself some free coffee!
If you find a receipt, you can ask the barista to add it to your account.
The best time of year to womble at McDonald's is during their Monopoly promotion. It usually runs for six weeks, starting in September, and there are prize stickers on most products.
In 2022, 165 McDonald's Monopoly prizes were won every minute. And if you collect a lot of stickers you could win some of the bigger rewards on offer by completing a 'set' (e.g. all three red properties).
You used to be able to find hot drink cups in McDonald's to collect the stickers that came on them, but since they moved this reward system to their app, you can no longer use this strategy to get free coffee.
Subway and Nando's
At Subway, your receipt has to have been 'validated' before you can add the points to your account.
And at Nando's, you'll need to ask for a 'Forgotten Card Code' to add points to your account later.
Sadly, the chances of finding receipts like these at either restaurant are very low.
Other ways to womble receipts
There are a few apps out there that give you free Amazon vouchers for scanning receipts from pretty much any shop.
With Storewards, for instance, you can collect coins for scanning receipts. Once you reach a certain number of coins, you can cash out for Amazon vouchers (or keep saving coins for a higher-value voucher).
How much money can wombling save you?
When you truly know how to womble you can get whole hauls of shopping for pennies, but this will depend on the amount of time and effort you're willing to dedicate to finding receipts.
You'll likely only get a few pence or a handful of loyalty points from each receipt, so if you're looking for fast cash, this is not the way to go. However, it does all stack up, and some have claimed to make hundreds of pounds a month by wombling.
Some extreme womblers spend hours trawling supermarket car parks for treasures, but a lot of people just nab receipts if they come across them while shopping, or ask their friends and family for them. This wombling Facebook group has thousands of members who share tips and best practices on their wombling endeavours.
Dedicated wombler Stephen Auker has previously claimed to make £200 a month from the practice. A haul from one receipt was £14.48 from Asda. Speaking to The Telegraph, he said:
You get out of wombling exactly what you put in. For example, yesterday was a very windy day so I sat in a car park for seven hours waiting for the receipts to blow towards me.
Is wombling legal?
Wombling is very much a grey area. Some shops have specific policies on wombling, while others won't even know what it is.
The general rule among womblers is to be discrete about what you're doing. Only take your receipts from outside the store, from places where they're clearly discarded like the floor or in empty trolleys – but NOT bins. Apparently, this is classed as stealing.
If you love freebies then our ultimate list of free stuff will be right up your street.