The British love of a good bargain is legendary. We're also renowned entrepreneurs - if such a term can include setting up market stalls, re-gifting, selling on tickets and vouchers and offloading unwanted items at jumble sales. Why else would pre-credit crunch TV schedules be crammed with items such as ‘Cash in the Attic', ‘Flog It!' and ‘Under the Hammer'?
Now that things are tight, London's Oxford Street has gone back to its street trader routes, with dodgy-looking geezers flogging bottles of ‘perfume' to the most gullible bystander.
But there are far more dignified ways of making a fast buck or grabbing a quick bargain. The internet presents plenty of opportunities - and not just via eBay. If you want to advertise a specialist item, you should research where likely customers of that product hang out online and put the word out there.
Don't forget the small ads either: Loot, Gumtree and the classifieds on your local newspaper's site can all reveal gems and provide a ready base of customers happy to pick up from a local seller.
If you fancy seeing whether you can beat the odds and bag a bargain at a reverse-auction or penny-auction site, you'll need to do your research. We've outlined some possible pitfalls in the following pages.
In line with these cash-strapped times, the rules can be fast and loose. You'll need to keep your wits about you and be well versed in the rules of engagement before you begin your bargain-hunting or profit-making quest.
Having spent a few days watching some of these online auctions in action, it's clear that for those involved in the bidding process it can become all-consuming. It's also clear that if you don't pay proper attention to what's happening you can end up bidding and bidding and ramping up the price, when biding your time would have been more likely to bag you a bargain.
For all this, there are good deals to be had. One of our colleagues swears by online auctions. You might not end up with the most glamorous items, but who can argue with a brand-new jumper for 99p - especially as it leaves a bit more cash left over to spend on an irresistible gadget?
Bag a bargain at Swoopo.co.uk
1. Head to swoopo.co.uk and read How It Works on the home page. The general principle is that you pay to bid but, as you'll see, there are different types of auction. For example, you can bid to win cash on a ‘free' auction - the final price will be zero but delivery costs can be hefty.
2. Hit Register to begin the sign-up process - it costs £10 to join. The T&Cs are worth a read: some are sensible safeguards but other terms are less standard. You can have only one account per household and the company reserves the right not to reimburse you if you close your account with bids left unused - it cites admin costs.