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09th Dec 2015
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09 December 2015
Martin's Briefing: The top 15 life hacks of 2015 - no.1 is £67 of shopping for 11p
Must borrow for Xmas? 27mths 0%
Used Experian? Are you due £100s?
Cheap reindeer poo & other Xmas tips
Soap & Glory gift set £30 (was £60)
Top Help to Buy ISAs 4% + £3k free
THIS THUR - cheap Easyjet seats
Thorntons 25% off EVERYTHING
£110 of Ciaté nail polish £19
The Great Energy Rip-Off: save £300+
Hot Diamonds 35% off code & 'free' £60 necklace
Ditch Santander 123 ahead of fee?
Quick: £10 West End theatre tickets
Free Wedding Show tickets
£41 photo canvas £16

Martin's Weekly Briefing: For more tips, alerts & puns, follow Martin on Twitter


No.1: £67-worth of shopping for 11p

Plus PayPal warning, cheap stolen goods, free sat nav, Easyjet refund

We've been on a mission this year to uncover clever wee tricks, twists and shortcuts to save you money (on top of our usual fare). They've been so popular we wanted to find the most-read, so here are the top 15 of 2015...

(We've excluded a few not in season. Also, in a few cases the tips are in bigger guides so we've estimated the traffic solely due to that tip.)

1. Life hacks£67-worth of shopping for 11p. (1.4m reads). Extreme couponing's been huge this year, making our two pages that cover it the clear life hack winner. Top is our 100 supermarket coupons worth £100+ page, currently with everything from FREE Barilla pasta sauce to FREE Rice Dream Milk and £2 off Persil.

Then learn how to coupon-stack with our 20 extreme couponing tips (490,000 reads). Forumite Purple Sarah's is still the best we've seen: "Got £67-worth of shopping for 11p after offers, coupons & employee discount." And as Xmas nears, you could extreme-coupon to give to a foodbank - see Find a local foodbank.
2. Watch TV and (legally) don't pay the licence fee. (1.2m reads). Many've been keen to check if they're paying to watch TV unnecessarily - see Do I qualify? (PS This isn't an anti-BBC thing, I love Auntie - it's a 'what are your rights?' thing.)
3. Warning: Beware using PayPal to pay on a credit card. (1.1m reads). You may lose valuable extra protection if you do. Full info in PayPal warning (info for debit cards too). It's worth knowing.
4. Easyjet flight refund trick - has yours dropped in price? (1.1m reads). The Easyjet refund trick shows how to get the difference back if you've booked a flight and the price falls later (excl sales). Many, like Dave, have gained: "Got £300 from Easyjet. Straightforward. Thanks @MartinSLewis."
5. Pssst. Wanna buy stolen goods on the cheap? (980,000 reads). Fancy a bag of swag or bit of bling? Don't worry, even the police are in on it. Everything is explained in Buy stolen goods.
6. Free 'Amazon delivery trick' tool. (800,000 reads). You used to get free delivery if you spent £10 but in May it upped the minimum to £20. A handy tool (cleverly developed by the former MSE developer Adam - well done, fella) provides a way around. Free Amazon Delivery Tool
7. Haggle with Sky to beat price hikes. (760,000 reads). Big traffic to these tips after it hiked TV prices in June. And it's still relevant as on 1 Dec its phone & broadband prices jumped. Our Sky haggling guide can help, as it did for Kerry: "After using your tips, I halved my monthly bill, saving £360/yr - thanks."

Related: How to haggle with BT, Plusnet, TalkTalk and Virgin.
8. Wear/wore a uniform for work? Are you due a tax rebate? (660,000 reads). If you wash it yourself, you may be due a uniform tax rebate for up to five years. As Pete tweeted: "Just got almost £120 rebate for uniform cleaning from HMRC."
9. A YEAR'S 2for1 cinema for £2 by manipulating Meerkat Movies. (620,000 reads). In April we launched our Meerkat Movies trick and the audience gave it rave reviews, with copious tweets similar to Pete's: "About to enjoy 1st Meerkat 241 cinema tickets from £2 insurance quote. Cheers."
10. Beware smileys in texts - they could cost £100s. (510,000 reads). We first broke the Beware a £200+ emoji bill story, then it was all over the news. It explains the smiley or wink trap and how to avoid it.
11. Beware huge iPhone data charges if you upgrade operating system. (500,000 reads). An upgrade to the iOS system in September meant some users were stung when Apple's new setting was automatically turned on. Check your settings now if you haven't already. See Switch off high data iPhone setting.
12. Turn your smartphone into a free sat-nav. (390,000 reads). If it's got GPS, convert it into a free sat-nav for the UK and 85 other countries. If you're going overseas, download maps before you go to avoid pricey data costs. Forumite bod1467 rates it so much, it's replaced a separate unit: "I use it often and now instead of my old TomTom."
13. Free £48+/yr for Barclays customers. (360,000 reads). An easy way to bag a little bit of extra cash. See Free £48+ from Barclays.
14. If you're married, are you due tax back? (360,000 reads). If you're married or in a civil partnership, the marriage allowance could be worth up to £212/yr to you. See Marriage allowance, do you qualify? Natalie tweeted after reading it: "That's £212 a year saved thanks to @MoneySavingExp @MartinSLewis, didn't know about the marriage allowance, thanks for the heads up."
15. Beat £120 USA roaming charges using your UK tariff there for free. (65,000 reads). The cheapest 'data' pack on O2 is £120, and the rest aren't much better. Yet my 10 USA roaming tips show how to use a UK tariff incl unlimited data there (and in 18 other countries, eg, Aus, NZ) at no extra cost. Matilda told us: "In 2013 in the US, I came back with a £600 bill. This year, following your tips, it cost £15. Thanks."

The Martin Lewis Money Show
Mon 8pm, student loan mythbusting, or watch slash energy bills again

My ITV show on Monday night was on cutting energy bills. If you've not done it, do watch online. After, I was swamped with tweets such as: "Just saved £600/yr and stayed with my same provider, it's madness. Thanks Martin." Use the Cheap Energy Club to check how much you can save.

Next Mon at 8pm on ITV is a must-watch for parents, pupils & students - I'm talking student loan mythbusting, pizza maths and much more.

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If you must borrow for Christmas, do it at 27mths 0%

Don't borrow for Xmas. Yet if it's too late, you've cash-flow struggles or other needs, make it interest-free

Christmas borrowing is usually a mistake. One day is not worth ruining the new year for. Yet if it's too late, or you've planned purchases you need, then at least do it the cheapest way. Plus the big issue for many is cash flow - Dec pay often comes early, which means a longer gap until Jan over the high spend time. Here are key tips...

  • 27mth credit cardNo need for a new credit card, if you can repay IN FULL in Jan. Almost every credit card (Lloyds Advance is the only exception we know of) is interest-free for spending (not ATM withdrawals) if you clear IN FULL the next month. So for brief respite you can spend now if you can clear in Jan.

  • Longest-EVER 27mths 0% borrowing. The Post Office* gives new cardholders 27mths 0% on spending (if used within three months) - there's no cheaper way to spread the cost. Next are Clydesdale 26mth 0%* & Sainsbury's 25mth 0%* (which also gives Nectar pts). Clear these before the 0% ends or they jump to 18.9% rep APR, though if the borrowing's specifically for Xmas, aim to clear it far sooner, so you're not in the same boat next year.

  • Take 2 mins to see if you'll get these. Don't just apply in hope, that hits your credit file. Our 0% eligibility calc shows your odds of getting top cards (& poor credit deals) so you can home in where acceptance is most likely.

  • 0% borrowing Golden Rules. It's not just about the top card, full help in top 0% cards, APR examples. In brief...

    a) Never borrow unless it's needed, minimised and you've budgeted and planned for affordable repayments.
    b) Never miss the min monthly repayment or you can lose the 0% deal and pay far more.
    c) Clear the card or balance-transfer again before the 0% ends, or the rate rockets to the rep APR.
    d) Don't withdraw cash on these. It usually isn't at the cheap rate & cash withdrawals hit your credit file.

Struggling with existing debt? See: 40mth 0% balance transfer, debt crisis help, danger minimum repayments.


BOOM! Soap & Glory 'Whole She-bang' gift-set £30 (norm £60). From Fri. Lots of you have been in a lather about it, nagging us when it'll launch. Our Xmas deals predictor said it'd be this Fri, and (phew) it is. Soap & Glory

Top Help to Buy ISAs 4% + up to £3,000 free. Launched last week, they're a no-brainer for anyone considering buying their first home in the next decade or more. You can save with tax-free interest and if you then use it as a deposit for a home, the state adds a 25% bonus on top (max £3,000). Full FAQs & best buys in Top Help to Buy ISAs.

This Thur - the CHEAPEST time to book millions of Easyjet seats? Only happens 4x/yr. Easyjet tricks

Flash 25% off EVERYTHING Thorntons code, eg, £70 bundle £30. MSE Blagged. 9am Wed - 9am Fri. Incl existing offers such as on-sale bundles/hampers - a £70 Continental Tasting bundle is £30 after code. Thorntons



- 25% off everything at Thorntons 9am Wed - 9am Fri

- £110 of nail polish in £19 advent calendar Ends Thu

- Hot Diamonds 35% off Ends Wed 16 Dec

- £41 photo canvas £15.50 delivered Ends Sun 31 Jan

- Three audiobooks £3 Ends Sun


- Cheapest loan 3.4% - but are rates about to rocket?

- Free parcel delivery code

- Hidden RETROSPECTIVE hike of millions of student loans

- 5 fast cash-for-Christmas tips

- £19/yr winter travel insurance


Ever paid for Experian's CreditExpert? Can you RECLAIM £100s?

'£225 cheque arrived today. Thanks MSE.' We asked for reclaim pioneers, we got them. They've won - can you?

We believe many who paid Experian £15/mth for CreditExpert were unfairly sold part of it - our CreditExpert reclaim guide asked for volunteers to try reclaiming. The successes have rolled in, incl Kris who emailed: "Reclaimed £222 from Experian using MSE's guide."

  • Experian CreditExpert reclaiming - the basics. CreditExpert is Experian's credit monitoring service. From Jan 2011 to July 2014 it added ID fraud expenses insurance, hiking the already-costly £8/mth to an outrageous £15/mth (£180/yr). We believe if you paid this THEN, you may be due a chunk back (it no longer offers this insurance element).

  • What was the problem with its ID fraud insurance? This ID fraud expenses cover meant it'd pay for problems if you're defrauded, eg, legal costs (not the fraud itself), but we think it's nearly worthless as banks often sort this at no cost. Plus, insurance must be optional, yet Experian auto-included cover and only buried in the T&Cs that after signing up you could cancel - those who tried then got £5/mth back. We're suggesting everyone who paid it asks for it back now.

  • How to reclaim. We introduced our free CreditExpert reclaim tool as part of our collaboration with complaining site Resolver. It auto-drafts a letter based on our template letter, tells you when it's got a response and escalates it to the Financial Ombudsman if necessary. As our forumite Debt-SYD said: "Read your article and used the free Resolver tool - £225 cheque arrived today." If you prefer, you can use our free template letters.

Related: PPI reclaiming, mis-sold package bank account reclaiming, AI scheme reclaiming, bank charges reclaiming.


£110 nail polish in £19 Ciaté advent calendar. MSE Blagged. Forget it for advent - just buy for its constituent parts. ALSO: £30 Ciaté gel nail kit (normally £99). Limited stock on both so go quick if you want 'em. Ciaté

Give something you KNOW will be valued - top charity gifts. Forget tit-for-tat giving - most people end up with unwanted tat. Instead, give a gift to charity in someone's name, eg, 100 polio vaccines £12, Xmas dinner for homeless £5. Top Charity Gifts

Fight the Great Energy Rip-Off: take five mins to check if you can save £300+. Seven in 10 people are on a Big Six standard tariff - if so, you're being ripped off typically £300+ a year. Take five mins on Cheap Energy Club to see if you can switch & save. It could be far more than you think, as Vicki tweeted: "I've just saved £745. Thank you."

Hot Diamonds 35% off code incl up to 70% off sale + spend £75, get 'free' £60 necklace. MSE Blagged. Discount on women's jewellery site. Eg, shooting stars earrings £23 (were £35), silver pendant £59 (was £91). Ends Wed 16 Dec. Hot Diamonds

Should I ditch Santander 123 ahead of next mth's fee hike? It's currently reminding customers that its fee will increase from £2/mth to £5/mth on 11 January. To find out if it's still for you, read Martin's 'Ditch 123?' analysis.


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£10 West End theatre tix, incl Guys & Dolls & Nutcracker. Jan/Feb shows. Will go fast. London theatre deals

FREE Wedding Show ticket codes: Manchester (worth £15) & Newcastle (£5). 3,000 free tickets for Manchester (Sun 21 Feb) and 1,500 for Newcastle (weekend of 16 & 17 Jan). Wedding Shows

£41 photo canvas £16. MSE Blagged. 60cm x 40cm (A2ish) personalised canvas print. Bonusprint

£1+ kids' books sale incl £1 Hello Kitty & £2 Star Wars trilogy. Starts 8am today (Wed). Min £13 spend (which incl the £3 delivery). Plus teachers' resources from £1. Stock limited. Scholastic sale


Cheap reindeer poo and 5 more Old Style Christmas tips

Merry Xmas. Snowman soup, DIY sock monkeys, gingerbread lattes and more from our thrifty MSE forumites

MoneySaving's about cutting bills, not cutting back - thrift's about spending time, not cash. Its doyens live in our Old Style Forum Board & its seasonal Thriftsmas baby. There are 100s of tips in there - here are highlights. Ta to all who post.

  • Thrify waysGive kids snowman soup & reindeer poo. Little'uns don't care what it costs. A perennial favourite's snowman soup - hot chocolate, marshmallows & some choc chips, all wrapped up in a cellophane cone. Or naughtier, there's reindeer poo. Kids go ape for easy-to-make sock monkeys too.

  • Gifts money can't buy (and isn't needed for). We've designed free Christmas cheques for you to gift a promise of your time, whether cooking Nan a meal, giving friends a night out by babysitting, or for your partner, maybe, a, ahem, 'massage' on demand.

  • Elegant chocolate slabs. You pay £7+ in fancy shops, but homemade chocolate slabs are easy and cheap to make. Every few years we run a contest for the best kids' and grown ups' sub-£5 gift ideas - see Festive Fivers for all past winners.

  • The complete Old Style Christmas dinner compendium. Enjoy tastier, not pricier, festive food with this Christmas dinner compendium, from sprucing up sprouts to the best mince pies ever. Make your own heart-warming gingerbread lattes too.

  • Thrifty cards, decorations & more. Get crafty - rustle up some decorations, cards & wrapping paper that would put Kirstie Allsopp to shame. Get kids involved too, with hand prints or potato stamps on cards/brown paper.

  • Corking DIY crackers. Prices can be, er, crackers, so create your own crackers with the innards of toilet rolls, some pretty crepe paper & pound shop finds. Coming up with your own lame gags costs nowt (just ask Martin).

PS The "Thrifty Ways for Modern Days" book is perfect for Christmas. Thrifty Ways for Modern Days is written from forumites' collective wisdom - a great gift to inspire thrift. All 'author' proceeds go to the MSE Charity Fund.


THREE audiobooks £3, incl The Martian & The Girl On The Train. MSE Blagged. 3-mth newbies' trial. Audible

SUCCESS OF THE WEEK: (Send us yours on this or any topic)
"After hours searching, I couldn't find Lego Dimensions sub £80 - then I remembered your Amazon Europe tool trick & got it for £59 via Amazon France incl delivery. Funnily, it's still coming from Dunfermline."

FREE £8ish cocktails EVERY DAY until Sat (be careful). Via Pitcher & Piano vouchers. Pls be Drinkaware.



Should payday loan ads be restricted during TV shows aimed at kids? The broadcasting watchdog, BCAP, is asking for your views. It's thinking about banning adverts between programmes aimed at under-18s, under-16s or not at all. Let us know what you think in the MSE Forum and we'll pass on your views.


Parcel delivery firms: which are the best and worst? It's time for our annual poll to sort the good guys from the cowboys... Please rate your experience with each of these firms DURING THE LAST YEAR (don't rate if you haven't experienced their services).

Amazon Logistics | APC | City Sprint | Collect Plus | DHL | DPD | DX | FedEx UK | Hermes/myHermes | Interlink | MPD

iPost Parcels | Parcelforce | Pharos | Royal Mail Parcels | TNT | UPS | UK Mail | Yodel

You want Christmas CANCELLED: 20,367 voted on whether they'd cancel it given the choice. Perhaps unsurprisingly, parents of school-age kids were most festive, with 64% of those mums and dads happy to celebrate. Of the rest of voters, 55% would choose to press the cancel Christmas button if they could. Bah humbug. See the full results.



- Top story: Savers to be shown clearer interest rate info as regulator acts to boost switching

- Hit by flooding from Storm Desmond? Here's how to claim on insurance

- Average rail fares to rise by 1.1% from January

- Insurers may soon be forced to reveal how much you paid last year in renewal letters



Should I subsidise others' meals? My sister and I are splitting the cost of Christmas dinner. She had invited 10 family members to her place for it but since has invited more. Our family doesn't have much money, and I can't afford to pay half with the increase in cost. Although I earn much more than the rest of my family, should I ask them to chip in? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I subsidise others' meals? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs

- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Plastic not so fantastic
- Old-style board thread of the week: Your tips to keep the house warm
- Game of the week: Duck Adventure
- Discussion of the week: Black Friday stonkers vs clangers


Thu 10 Dec - Good Morning Britain, ITV, Deals of the Week, 7.40am. Watch previous
Fri 11 Dec - This Morning, ITV, Martin's Quick Deals, from 10.30am. Watch previous
Mon 14 Dec - This Morning, ITV, Money Monday, from 10.30am. Watch previous
Mon 14 Dec - BBC Radio 5 Live, Lunch Money Martin, 12noon. Subscribe to podcast
Mon 14 Dec - The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8pm. Watch previous


Tue 15 Dec - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, 2.30pm.



Q: I'm going on seven months’ maternity leave and want a mortgage. When a lender works out what I can afford, will I be assessed on my maternity income or income when I return? Helen, by email.

MSE Amy's A: Firstly, congratulations. The answer depends on which lender you use. Most use your back-to-work income as your income throughout the whole period, including when you're not working. You'll need an employer's letter as proof that you’re returning. Of course, if you work fewer hours on return, it'll use that lower amount.

However, some stipulate they will only use your back-to-work income if you're due to return within three months (if so you may need to wait). If not, it will use your income during maternity (which may still be decent pay if you have a generous employer) for that period. If it's worried you'll have a shortfall it will check you have enough savings or other funds to cover it.

Do note, having children can also impact your ability to get a mortgage, as it usually increases your expenditure. If you’re getting a mortgage when on maternity, as it’s more complex it’s worth considering using a top mortgage broker. Also see our mortgage section for full help.

Please suggest a question of the week (we can't reply to individual emails).


Who can come up with the best Christmas cracker joke? (Champagne to the winner.)

That's it for this week, but before we go... Lots of people make their own crackers, so we decided to challenge you to come up with the best cracker joke. We will send out a bottle of champagne for the best (though we will check it's original). Give it your best shot in the Christmas Cracker Joke Contest forum thread. Best of luck.

We hope you save some money,
Martin & the MSE team

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