Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

08 April 2020

Over 50 ways to save, incl… homeworkers’ tax back, all overdrafts 0%?, CHEAP energy, 2020/21 tax calc, 1.6% savings, FREE photo card, 30mths 0%

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Martin's coronavirus update

16 NEW need-to-knows, incl all overdrafts 0%, work-from-home tax back, furlough hope for some & help for others, BT Sport, school meal vouchers, travel ban, gym refunds & more

Over the last fortnight, via MSE, social media or my TV show, I've had 50,000+ questions. Clearly I've not read them all. Yet a theme is coalescing. The first wave of financial confusion and worry has passed, and many understand the help they'll get.

What's now surfacing are the holes in the support system. Gaps where people aren't being helped. I've cried more than once, reading such desperation, frustrated that while my role has always been to have answers, in some cases I can't give an answer, as there isn't one.

So some of my focus today is on those gaps, trying to close them where we can, and expose them where we can't. Admittedly a few are missing, as they're still on the to-do list. The team and I are working flat out - EVERYTHING we learn goes into one of our four full coronavirus guides, which are updated several times each working day:

- Coronavirus finance & bills help, incl overdrafts, energy, TV
- Coronavirus life-in-lockdown help, incl MOTs, food, entertainment

While we strive for 100% accuracy, the situation continues to be fast-moving, so we can't promise perfection - please give us some wiggle room.


This week's NEW coronavirus money need-to-knows

1) Working from home? Claim tax back on additional home expenses. If your employer requires you to work from home, and that means you've had increased costs, eg, heating & electricity, you're entitled to claim something back for them. Clearly, right now millions are required to work from home, but in practice, apportioning the cost is tough, so instead you can opt for what's effectively a £6/wk flat rate.

With talk of working from home lasting up to 6mths, this is worth knowing. Full help in my NEW claim tax back for working from home blog, but in brief, either...

- You can ask your employer to pay you the £6/wk extra, free of tax. Yet right now, with many firms struggling, asking may be bad timing, so...

- If not, you can claim tax relief on £6 of income, which for basic 20% taxpayers is £1.20/wk (about £60/yr), and 40% taxpayers £2.40/wk (about £120/yr).

(Apologies if you're getting deja vu. This tip was included in some early sends of last week's email - then I pulled it after receiving conflicting info over a point. Now it's all double-checked - even HMRC has read it.)

2) From Thu. The first £500 of all authorised overdrafts can be interest-free. Back in Feb, though it feels like ancient history, I explained that from Mon 6 Apr, regulation changes to make banks ditch daily overdraft fees and just charge interest meant almost all would charge 40% AER - nearly double a high street credit card, making overdrafts the new danger debt.

We didn't know then quite how terrible that timing would be. Now the regulator, the FCA, has proposed emergency measures, via a lightning-quick consultation. That's due to be ratified tomorrow, Thu, (I'd be gobsmacked if it wasn't), then over the next week or so banks should put in place...

- That for those struggling due to coronavirus who ask, the first £500 of authorised overdrafts can be interest-free for 3mths (for overdrafts under £500, the entire balance will be interest-free).
- Those with accounts that have an overdraft facility, who are struggling due to coronavirus, should be able to request one of these 0% overdrafts, subject to a credit score.
- For the next 3mths, no one should be charged more under the new about 40% interest rates than they were under the old system. 

To be fair, many banks were offering some easing anyway, but this deletes the 'lottery' element. After all, no one chose a bank based on how well they'd behave in this never-imagined crisis. See bank-by-bank overdraft help & updates for info on what yours is doing.

3) From Thu. All credit cards, store cards, personal loans and catalogues must offer payment holidays. The same FCA consultation as for overdrafts (above) also proposes that all lenders will be expected to move towards offering payment holidays of up to 3mths on personal loans, credit cards and catalogue debts - so if you can't pay, you won't need to.

Don't just stop payment though - you need to agree it with them. Once done, these payments aren't allowed to hurt your creditworthiness, nor can there be any penalties or charges if you do it (in our consultation response, we suggested you can't lose a 0% deal either - we wait to hear back). See full lender-by-lender credit and store card help & updates.

- Is it worth taking a payment holiday? Yes if you have an emergency cash flow need, no if not. That's especially true if the interest rate is high, as it'll still rack up during the payment holiday, and as you're not making repayments it can be hefty. So only do this if you need it.

- Does this apply to car finance, payday loans & other short-term credit too? No, although I hear at least with car finance, the regulator is likely to make an announcement soon, though lenders are already required to show forbearance to customers. See car finance help.

4) Employer unsure about furloughing you? New cheat sheet, including template letter to make it easy for employers. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme makes employers the gatekeepers to crucial state support. For those without work or who can't work, it lets them put their employment on hold and the state pays 80% of salary, up to £2,500/mth max.

Sadly though, many employers are instead putting staff on slashed hours, unpaid leave or making them redundant. There are many reasons for this, but I suspect one - especially for small firms - is simply due to confusion or difficulty. To help, I've drafted a cheat sheet:

The idea is to use it as a jump-off point for a discussion with an employer - give them a sheet too (more detailed info in our full Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme guide). We hope the info helps.

Plus as furloughing sometimes involves both parties agreeing a contractual change, employment specialist ACAS kindly sped up drafting its furloughing template letter for employers so we could include it. It's an easy legal way to furlough someone.

5) The Govt's CHANGED its guidance - firms can now rehire and furlough staff who left after 28 Feb to go to work elsewhere. As explained above, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme lets firms put staff on furlough. The official guidance has always said employers can rehire and furlough staff they'd made redundant after 28 Feb.

Last week, I managed to get confirmation that nowt prevented the same happening for staff who'd left voluntarily, and whose future plans were then derailed due to coronavirus. Yet without seeing this in black and white from officials, many employers still said it couldn't be done.

So thankfully I managed to persuade the Govt to put it in black and white. It updated the guidance last weekend. Full info and links to the official Govt guidance in rehiring and furloughing help. Best of all, it's already helped some - here's one (lovely, lovely) employer on Twitter who says he's rehired a few people to furlough after seeing our info.

But while this may help 1,000s, it still leaves possibly 100,000s who started jobs after 28 Feb in real dire straits. I asked the Chancellor Rishi Sunak if he'd consider making the crucial 28 Feb date later, or look at other solutions - you can watch the Chancellor's new starter furlough response, but in a nutshell, sadly there are no planned changes. This is one hole that desperately needs plugging.

6) Employers CAN furlough those who can't work due to looking after children or as shielding themselves in line with health guidance. There's much confusion over this. Employers have discretion to choose to furlough someone via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, but some are wrongly turning down requests thinking they're not allowed.

Nothing in the guidance prevents furloughing in these cases, yet as employers are nervous, to help on Thu I tweeted the Chancellor for clarification, and got back an official statement.

My written question: "Can you please publicly clarify that furloughing the vulnerable who must self-isolate for 12wks, or those who can't work as they need to look after children, doesn't breach the furlough rules?"

The Chancellor's response from his Treasury team: "Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get statutory sick pay, but can be furloughed after this. Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough.

"Childcare: Yes, if because of coronavirus closing schools you are unable to work and at risk of redundancy, your employer can furlough you."

7) Newly self-employed? Sadly the Chancellor said no to including you this tax year. Under the Self-employment Income Support Scheme, the state will pay 80% of average profits up to £2,500/mth (provided total annual profits are under £50,000).

The average profit is based on earnings in the three tax years up to 5 Apr 2019. This leaves those who started a business after that in the lurch. Even some who started the year before may fall foul, as to qualify, over 50% of annual income needs to be from self-employment.

Many have contacted us, asking what they can do. To help, I asked the Chancellor Rishi Sunak if he'd change the guidance to include profits of those who submit speedy tax returns for the most recent tax year, the one that ended on Sun. In his video answer, sadly he said no. Another gaping hole that needs fixing.

8) Limited company directors' tips, to come. I've had a few ideas to help one (wo)man bands who work as limited companies - perhaps the biggest hole in support of all - yet I'm waiting for official confirmation they're doable. I'm afraid this is only about tweaks, not big changes, so don't hold out too much hope. Hopefully it'll be in next week's email, or if I get it earlier, we'll add it to the limited company help, and I'll tweet it. Just didn't want you to think we'd forgotten you.

9) Nine things the Chancellor could tweak to help people through this (and HIS ANSWERS to five of them). The Chancellor has rewritten decades' worth of state-support policies in days - and the new employed and self-employed help schemes will provide crucial, much-needed support for millions.

But as I keep saying, there are holes, so I collated nine things the Chancellor could tweak, including furlough, the vulnerable, childcare, self-employment, umbrella workers, limited companies and more. And as he was doing an #AskRishi on Twitter last week, I managed to get his answers on some of them (a few of which I've included here).

10) Three tips if you're struggling with universal credit ID checks. The UC system is swamped, with 10x the normal applications (use our 10-min benefit check-up to see if you're likely eligible). Call centre staff are working flat out in unusual conditions (please be nice to them), so no surprise, I've had reports of people struggling, especially at the stage where you need to give ID. So here are three tips to help...

- Make a note in your online UC journal of the problem, it should help ensure someone gets in touch.
- UC staff will try to call you as the form is incomplete without ID. Expect a 'withheld number' or 0800 number (but beware of scams).
- You can try calling the UC helpline, but it will be busy.

To show you it's worth persevering, Jen told me on Facebook: "I honestly dreaded this process as we'd never been through it before. Tried the phone - too long a wait. Tried online - thought we hadn't successfully completed the process. Then they rang us. All done and sorted in a week. Thank you universal credit workers."

11) The Foreign Office now advises against travel 'indefinitely'. It had already advised against non-essential travel until Thu 16 Apr - now it's extended this, with no clear end date. In some ways this makes things trickier, as before this advice it was clear there was an end date. 

Yet as this is now effectively a 'no travel until we say so' and we don't know when they'll say so, it's likely you'll need to wait until close to your travel date before airlines/hotels/travel insurers agree to refunds. Though for trips before Thu 16 Apr, hopefully the prior guidance means they can do that now. Help is in the Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

12) Qualify for free school meals? You're due a food parcel or £15/wk supermarket vouchers even during the Easter holidays. The Govt's now put measures in place across Eng to ensure some form of food while your child's at home. The school should be arranging, but if in doubt, check. In Scot/Wales/NI similar-ish schemes are being set up and you should also get free meals, vouchers or money. Full info and help for all UK nations in 'free school meal' vouchers.

13) All National Express and most Megabus routes are suspended. Details and more info in coach refunds.

14) Most gyms are auto-pausing memberships. Bannatyne's, David Lloyd, DW Fitness First, Virgin Active and more are automatically stopping taking payments while gyms are closed. Some are even giving partial refunds for unused days last month. See gym-by-gym refund policies.

15) Unlimited cinema pass? Odeon is automatically pausing 'unlimited' memberships, and Cineworld will be too from Fri 17 Apr. See cinema pass help.

16) BT Sport custs can now ask for TWO months' bill credit. Last week, we told you it was allowing custs to claim 1mths' credit - now it's upped this to two, as there's no sport. Those who've already claimed will get it automatically. Remember, Sky Sports custs can also pause subscriptions.


That's this week's update. I hope it helps. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay at home if you can, and grab any opportunity to smile. Have as happy an Easter as you can, and chag sameach to those, like me, doing Passover seder's (which means no live ITV show from me this week, that's back a week tomorrow, Thu).


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Lots of scam ads that litter social media lie that we or Martin promote Bitcoin, binary trading etc. See Fake ads warning.



Oil prices have hit a 17yr low - so energy prices are rock bottom too. Now looks to be the time to LOCK IN savings of typically £300+/year

A silver lining amid the current maelstrom of clouds is that with oil prices hitting record lows, energy prices are cheap. The relationship isn't direct, as energy prices are dictated by many factors, but it does mean even now when cheap deals are being pulled in other sectors, there's a range of seriously cost-cutting deals.

Better still, with a 1yr fix you can LOCK IN today's cheap rates for a year regardless (what you pay can change with usage, but the rate is fixed). Of course, in such uncertain times there's a chance things can get even cheaper, but a bird in the hand etc. To find your cheapest, use our Cheap Energy Club as SOME TOP DEALS ARE ONLY VIA COMPARISON SITES. Here's a rundown of what's available.

Prices vary by area and use - do  a comparison to find your winner (rates based on typical use)
What MOST PEOPLE pay now on typical usage - we list savings compared with this
The average of the Big 6 standard price-capped tariffs (Brit Gas, E.on, EDF, Npower, Scot Power and SSE)
CHEAPEST 1YR FIXES (all links via MSE's Cheap Energy Club)
Cheapest, green elec. Tonik Energy. New & existing custs | Dual fuel & elec-only | 100% renewable elec | 89% 'great', 7% 'OK' cust service £756/yr
(Save £370/yr)
Ends 4pm Thu.Cheap, MSE enhanced service, green elec.Green Network Energy 1yr fix. MSE Blagged. New & existing custs | Dual fuel & elec-only | 100% renewable elec | 54% 'great', 30% 'OK' service, but if you've any issues while switching, we've a special contact to report them to - just let us know £773/yr
(Save £353/yr)
BIG name, green elec. E.on 1yr fix. New custs ONLY | Dual fuel & elec-only | 100% renewable elec | Smart meters needed - if you don't have 'em, they'll fit them once the lockdown ends | 32% 'great', 33% 'OK' service £781/yr
(Save £345/yr)
BIG name, green elec. British Gas 1yr fix. New custs ONLY | Dual-fuel only | 100% renewable elec | Smart meters needed - if you don't have 'em, they'll fit them once the lockdown ends | 40% 'great', 27% 'OK' service £787/yr
(Save £339/yr)
Rare EDF EXISTING CUSTS ONLY deal. EDF 1yr fix. Dual fuel & elec-only | Smart meters needed - if you don't have 'em, they'll fit them once the lockdown ends| 40% 'great', 34% 'OK' service £788/yr
(save £338/yr)
Prices are avg dual-fuel costs, incl £25 MSE cashback (where applicable), based on typical use. Savings based on current price cap.

  • Switching is easy - little changes apart from service and cost. Switch firm and it's the same gas, same elec and same safety, the only thing that changes is the customer service and who bills you. Your supply isn't cut off as part of the process, while no one visits your home unless you want or need smart meters (though installations are paused for now). See our switching FAQs for more help.

  • Please don't call firms unless you really, really have to. Their phone lines are clogged with vulnerable customers needing help due to coronavirus finances right now. You can do everything online, so please try to.

  • Did you spot everything's 'cheaper', you clever clogs? The price we quote here is based on regulator Ofgem's 'typical usage' levels. Last week, it reduced these for elec by around £35/yr, as homes are getting more efficient. That means our prices now look lower, so be careful when comparing to what we've listed previously.


New tax year. Find your take-home pay - Income Tax Calculator 2020/21. Our Income Tax Calc now includes the new allowances for the tax year that began on Mon. Always a useful guide, especially important now as many face an immediate drop in income. 

Missing someone? Send a totally FREE personalised photo postcard. We're mostly all connecting virtually, but there's something visceral about real post arriving. So one firm's kindly letting people send personalised photo postcards at no cost - lovely. It can be for anyone - from kids to now separated grandfolk. Free postcard

New. Top 30mth 0% (2.95% fee) debt shift card - LONGEST we've seen in over a year. If you're paying interest on credit or store card debt, this can help. A balance transfer is where a new card pays off debts on the old card(s) for you, so you owe it instead, at a cheaper rate. Many top 0% balance transfer cards have disappeared yet TSB* is bucking that trend, offering up to 30mths 0% for a one-off 2.95% fee of the debt transferred. Ensure you never miss the min repayment and clear the debt before the 0% ends or it's 19.9% rep APR. Full info, help and options in Top Balance Transfers (APR Examples).

Top 1yr fixed savings: 1.6% locked in or 1.45% early access. With fixed savings the rate is set in stone so you get certainty for the term, and the top deals pay more than the best easy-access savings. The highest-paying 1yr fix now is 1.6% AER from Vanquis Bank* (min deposit £1k). It doesn't allow access during the year, unless you're in financial difficulty. Or Goldman Sachs-backed Marcus* and Saga* pay 1.45% AER for 1yr (min £1) and let you close the account and get your money out early for a fee equiv to the first 90 days' interest. See top fixes for more. 

Ends Mon. Cheapest fibre (fast) broadband & line - '£16/mth' from Shell Energy. MSE Blagged. This 35Mb fibre deal for newbies to Shell Energy is £22.99/mth over the 1yr contract, but you get an £80 bill credit within 3mths - factor that in and it's equiv to £16.33/mth. See our Broadband Unbundled tool for lots more deals.

DIY haircut tips - dos & don'ts from the MSE team & MoneySavers. Of course, MoneySaving, not grooming, is our forte but to help in the absence of salons and barbers we've collected fun tips from those who've tried it - plus the pitfalls to avoid. Home hair-cutting tips

Grab a year's 5% easy-access savings on up to £2,500 via a Nationwide current account - before it's too late. New Nationwide FlexDirect customers currently get that deal, but from May, the rate for newbies drops to 2%. Yet apply now and you'll still get the 5% for the year. See Nationwide changes


'I saved over £1,100 on my home insurance in just one afternoon. Keep up the excellent work, MSE'

If you've been with the same home insurer for at least a year, there's a chance you are being price-walked. This is where insurers lure you in with a cheap price, then 'walk up' the cost slightly each year on renewal. But you can fight back, as Paul did. He emailed us: "My building and contents insurance went from £1,911 to £2,098. So I used your site and got a like-for-like policy for £950 - one afternoon has saved me £1,100+. They thought that by me being complacent they'd profit. Keep up the excellent work." Our Cheap Home Insurance guide has full help. Here are the foundations...

  • Step 1. NEVER just auto-renew. Instead, combine comparison sites to get 100s of quotes in minutes. They zip your details to dozens of insurers and brokers at once. Yet as they don't cover the same insurers, and can even have different prices for the same firm, use a few. Our current order's MoneySupermarket*, Confused.com*, Compare The Market* and Gocompare* (see full comparison order for why).

  • Step 2. Compare with the HOT deals comparison sites miss, eg, £55 Amazon gift card. We list special deals you won't find on comparison sites for new custs on combined buildings and contents insurance. We're not saying they win every time, but they're worth checking. Full info in our promo deals list.

  • Step 3. Check insurers NOT on comparison sites. Two biggies - Direct Line* and Aviva* - won't appear on them. They're worth checking, as they can be competitive for some.

  • Working from home because of coronavirus? You usually don't need to tell your insurer. Normally if you work from home - even for office and clerical work - you should tell your insurer, especially if you have visitors. But in the current crisis where visitors are unlikely, insurers are taking a relaxed attitude. But if you've brought expensive kit or stock home, it's worth informing 'em. See full home-working insurance help.

  • Home insurance need-to-knows. Here are more ways to save...
    - Buildings insurance is usually only for freeholders. Contents insurance is for all.
    - Many wrongly insure their home's value. Instead, use a rebuild cost calc to cover the rebuild if it was knocked down.
    - Don't underinsure contents, thinking you'll never claim it all - you may not get a full payout.
    - Comparison sites work best for those with standard circumstances - get help if struggling to get insurance.
    - Once you've found your cheapest insurer, it's worth checking if you can get cashback on it.

Live student finance class with Martin, 2pm today (Wed) - parents & teens welcome. School's out, but learning carries on. To help, today on his Facebook page, Martin will be doing a live 40-min student finance masterclass for those thinking about going to uni.

14 Audible tricks, incl 100s of free kids' audiobooks & can you pay £12 for 3mths? See Audible tips.

Dating at a distance - MSE Becky's 4-step MoneySaving plan. Online dating has been booming recently, so we've a rundown of free sites, trials and fun ideas for 'dates' - without leaving home. Lock down a date during lockdown

Free or cheap Easter kids' activities at home. Incl cheap baking recipes, free colour-in pages, homemade playdough, virtual tours and kids' movies on Freeview. Easter fun at home


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Longest 0%: TSB* up to 30mths 0%, 2.95% fee (19.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: Santander 18mths 0% (18.9% rep APR) or 20mths 0% if you're a NatWest/RBS customer (19.9% rep APR)

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

  1. MoneySupermarket*
  2. Confused.com*
  3. Compare The Market*
  4. Gocompare*

Then check insurers they miss: 
Direct Line*

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Tesco Bank 3.4% rep APR (1-3yrs)
Cheapest £7.5k-£15k: 
Cahoot 2.8% rep APR

Standard b'band & line rent: Plusnet equiv £12.99/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell equiv £16.33/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent: 
Vodafone equiv £19.83/mth

5% interest fixed for a year: Nationwide FlexDirect
1-3% cashback on bills: 
Santander 123 Lite

Top easy-access: Marcus/Saga 1.3%, min £1 (truly easy-access) or Virgin Money 1.31%, min £1 (with restrictions)
Top one-year fix: 
Vanquis Bank 1.6%, min £1,000


4,000+ mags on your phone/tablet for free, eg, Good Housekeeping, OK, Gardeners' World, Women's Health. 2mths' access for newbies to app that lets you read mags offline. Mag-nificent

"Received your MSE tips email and saw how to pause my Sky Sports subscriptionI've done that today - thank you. Wasn't highlighted in the Sky email I get."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)



Have you been furloughed? The UK's coronavirus lockdown continues, with all areas of life impacted. This week, we want to know how your WORK has been affected. Have you been furloughed?

Most MoneySavers are finding life under lockdown... as expected. Last week, we asked how you're finding life staying at home under lockdown. Over 9,000 people responded, and just over half of you said it's going 'as expected'. Those living with a partner and kids were most likely to be pleasantly surprised, with 31% saying lockdown life is better than expected, compared with just 20% of those living with non-family members. See full lockdown poll results.



Should I reduce my furloughed tenant's rent? I rent out a house to a married couple. The husband is retired and the wife works full-time, but has just been furloughed and says she will now only get £2,500/mth - 75% of her wages - due to the cap on what the state will pay. As a result, she has asked me to reduce their rent of £750/mth by 25%, yet her furloughed wages plus whatever her husband's pension is will still be considerably more than my income. Am I being mean if I don't reduce their rent? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I reduce my furloughed tenant's rent? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


- Debt-Free Wannabe chat of the week: Make £10 a day April 2020 challenge
- Competitions thread of the week: Animal Crossing & Nintendo Switch
- Old-Style board thread of the week: Eating out of the freezer and cupboards challenge
- Random Acts of Kindness and All things Positive chat: Positive MoneySaving
- Discussion of the week: Making cash from the veg plot


FreePrints Cards - FREE personalised photo postcard
Dating at a distance - Four-step MoneySaving plan
Audible - 14 tricks, incl 100s of kids' audiobooks
Easter fun at home - Incl baking, movies, virtual farm tour
Readly - 4,000+ magazines on your phone/tablet for free

Free ways to keep yourself busy

Mobile games - Incl Mario Kart Tour, Sonic, The Sims
Virtual globe-trotting - Incl Grand Canyon and Disney rides
Online quizzes - Where to find virtual pub quizzes
Keep fit at home - Incl yoga, cardio and kids' PE
Learn something new - 10+ ways to learn at home

Online codes

NextUp - Two weeks' free stand-up comedy streaming
Glasses Direct - Two pairs of designer prescription specs £29
Scholastic - 25% off selected book packs
Gruum - Hair & body wash set £12 delivered (norm £20ish)
Soulful Food - 12 ready meals for £30 delivered (norm £35)

Quick Forum Tips

'Free' Pizza Hut via Topcashback. Too Hut to handle
99p activity book download for kids. No kidding
Free Kindle/e-reader books. Single and ready to Kindle



Wed 8 Apr - This Morning, phone-in, ITV, 10.55am
Thu 9 Apr - Tonight, ITV, 7.30pm


Wed 8 AprBBC CWR, Breakfast with Phil Upton, from 8.30am, Katie Watts



That's it for this week, but before we go... with many people having more time on their hands right now, you've been sharing the philosophical questions you've been asking yourself as you walk around your home. Why do toasters not let you look in to see when the toast is ready? Why aren't clothes sizes the same across all brands? Why do washing machines have windows so you can look in, but dishwashers don't? We know it's not strictly MoneySaving, but we all need a little light relief during these tough times. Let us know the random questions you've been asking yourself in our Facebook post.

We hope you save some money, stay safe,
The MSE team