Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

30 September 2020

Over 50 ways to save, incl... £5k home improve grants, £16/mth fibre, furlough replaced, Amzn secret, mortgage help, 1.1% savings, new self employ grant, 2 specs £15

This info may be out of date. Read this week's emails
Plus... 1.1% savings, new self employ grant, 2 specs £15


Martin's 8 NEW coronavirus need-to-knows
Free £5,000 Green Homes Grants begin & Chancellor launches major new help measures
Furlough replaced | New self-employment grants | Bounce back loans & tax repayments extended | Working from home tax back | What it all means for the EXCLUDED

Last week the Chancellor's Budget was biffed for his 'Winter Economy Plan' - basically a watered-down, less generous extension of prior coronavirus help schemes. In other words, instead of the planned complete shut-off of the financial help tap, Rishi Sunak just stemmed the flow.

As always, all the latest info goes in our constantly updated, detailed, in-depth Covid help guides on... TravelEmployees | Self-employed & ltd companies | Finance & bills | Benefits | Lockdown lifeYet let me run you through the new big need-to-knows...

1) 'Free £5,000' green home renovation vouchers launch today (Wed) in England for insulation, double glazing and more. Not part of the Chancellor's latest announcement, but as so many of you have asked for an update on the scheme the Govt announced in July, I wanted to give you a heads-up. The Govt will reveal full details incl how to apply this morning, Wed 30 Sep.

The MSE team will be fast at updating our Green Homes Grant guide as soon as we hear. Though as some will get this email late Tuesday evening, if you click the link then, it's still full of what we know so far. Of course, as always with these schemes, what will count is the interaction between what the Govt gives and whether installers try to charge a premium for those accessing the scheme.

2) On 1 Nov, furlough (the Job Retention Scheme) will be replaced by a new Job Support Scheme. The new version lasts 6mths and it'll allow companies to put employees who were on the PAYE payroll on 23 Sep 2020 on it, if the employer chooses to. All firms can qualify, even if they didn't use furlough, though large firms must prove they've been financially hit by coronavirus.

Full help including for those on zero-hours contracts, and pension/national insurance rights, in our Job Support Scheme help, incl my video explanation. In short...

Employees must work a minimum of 1/3 of normal hours, paid by the employer at their normal rate. For their 'normal hours' they're not working, the best way I can explain how it works is to think of it as the cost being split three ways.

a) Employer contributes 1/3 towards wages.
b) State contributes 1/3 towards wages - capped at £700/mth.
c) Employee contributes 1/3 as unpaid wages. 

Therefore someone working the min 1/3 of hours would receive 77% of their normal pay (unless you earn enough so you hit the Govt's contribution cap). Though the scheme likely works best for employers whose staff are closer to full hours, eg, 80% (when the employee would receive 93% of salary), as otherwise, sadly mercenary logic says unless jobs are needed long-term, they're better to cull two staff members and keep one full-time.

3) New 3rd and 4th Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grants. The 1st grant closed in Aug, and the 2nd grant is open for another 3wks, so if you're eligible and your work's been affected by Covid (even if only partially), URGENTLY click our link for full help and to see how to apply. For the future though, two more grants have been announced.

The 3rd applies to those financially hit by Covid between 1 Nov 2020 and 31 Jan 2021, with eligibility criteria identical to the earlier grants (so if you weren't eligible then, sadly you won't be for this). But it has a far lower payout, a one-off 20% (before it was 70%+) of profits for 3mths, capped at £1,875 in total.

The 4th grant is for 1 Feb 2021 to 30 Apr 2021, but no details of the amount or eligibility terms yet. Full info in new self-employment grants.

4) Bounce back loans can now be repaid over 10yrs. As explained in our updated Bounce Back Loans guide, these allow small biz owners to borrow £2,000 to £50,000, which is interest and repayment-free for the first year.

We don't normally cover small business loans but because these can (in some cases) be used to replace lost personal income, we've been including them in our help guides.

The Chancellor's announcement included three changes to these loans, which are available at a range of mainstream banks - full details on all of them are in the guide linked above, but again in short...

- Applications have now been extended to 30 Nov.
- New & existing borrowers can now repay over 10yrs (was 6yrs), spreading the cost to reduce repayments (but upping the total repayment).
- A range of payment holidays after the first year are now allowed.

5) Self-assessment taxpayers can spread costs over 2021. The first coronavirus tax help announced was permission to defer the 'on account' self-assessment tax payment due in July 2020 to Jan 2021. Now tax payments up to £30,000 due in Jan next year (including those July deferrals) can be paid over 12mths during 2021 via HM Revenue & Customs' Time to Pay tool (once you've submitted 2019/20 tax returns), though you will pay 2.6% interest. Similar is true on VAT repayments. Full info in tax deferrals.

6) Redundancy help, if you think it's possible. The new Job Support Scheme will likely forestall some redundancies in November once furlough ends, but as it's far less generous than furlough, many firms will still be letting people go. If you think - or know - that may happen to you, do tool up on your rights in our Redundancy Help guide. 

7) What does all this mean for the excluded? From early on in the pandemic I've been involved in calling for more help for the possibly millions excluded from the main support schemes, even persuading the Govt to make a few small tweaks. In the main, though, little has been done, and I doubt there will now be any retrospective restitution - as some campaigners call for. But this new announcement does change things slightly...

- The new Job Support Scheme is a fresh start from furlough, and many who were excluded from furlough will be eligible to take part. However, as it is at an employer's discretion, and they can opt not to.

- For the self-employed, the 3rd grant's eligibility criteria are unchanged (which many excluded people tell me feels like a slap in the face). My suspicion is this is because it was hastily resurrected after recently tightened societal restrictions meant more economic sloth.

Yet for the 4th grant, the Chancellor says "eligibility and value may be adjusted". I read this as giving himself wiggle room, to hopefully widen the grant's reach in future - cold comfort for many excluded and still struggling now, but at least it holds out a small candle of hope.

8) It's 'work from home if you can' but at least there's a tax break. The guidance is now firmly "work from home if you can". So just a reminder, if you are required to work from home, there's a tax break to claim, and you can do it retrospectively - see my Claim a work-from-home £6/wk tax allowance blog.

PS: The free NHS Covid-19 app is now available in England & Wales. For how to download, what it does & details of the Scot & NI apps, which have been out there a while, see Covid-tracking apps.

The Martin Lewis Money Show LIVE, 8.30pm Thu, ITV

This week, my big briefing is on, er, well, probably the new free £5,000 green homes vouchers, assuming what we learn is interesting. Yet the proof we're live is I won't make that call until the day, so the show's right on the money (so to speak). So rest assured, watch and you'll be fully briefed on everything you need to maximise the pound in your pocket.

And as we're live, you can tweet suggested questions to @MartinSLewis but you must use the show's hashtag #MartinLewis. Do tune in or set the VHS recorder. 


DON'T believe the fake 'Martin Lewis' or 'MSE' ads
Lots of scam ads litter social media and even newspaper websites - some of these lie that we or Martin promote Bitcoin, binary trading etc. See Fake ads warning.



New. Cheap fibre b'band & line '£16/mth'

A host of blisteringly cheap deals mean many can upgrade to fibre & pay LESS THAN HALF their current price

This is a vital moment for anyone with broadband as a rash of hot deals have launched, but they won't last long. What's incredible with these offers is that many of the 9m out of contract who may be on slower speeds can switch to fibre (which is a faster and more consistent type of b'band) for less than half the price they pay now. So check now if you can save, as these prices are close to the cheapest for fibre we've ever seen. Note: They're for newbies to each firm only. 

Top broadband (& usually line) dealS FOR NEWBIEs
Links go via our b'band comparison, which shows personal postcode eligibility
What most pay now...
(On BT, Sky, TalkTalk etc's standard 10Mb)
£27-£45/mth Terrible value. Over 9m people are out of contract and could slash costs. Even if you don't want to switch, use the prices below to haggle with your existing provider.
Ends Mon (5 Oct)
Shell Energy
35Mb fibre (fast) b'band & line
MSE Blagged
Cheapest FIBRE b'band & line. Apply via this Shell link and it's £23.99/mth, plus you get an AUTO £100 bill credit within 3mths. So it's a total £187.88 outlay over the 1yr contract, equiv to £15.66/mth. It's available to 95% of homes.
Ends Tue (6 Oct)
10Mb (basic b'band & line)
MSE Blagged
Cheapest STANDARD b'band & line but only a fraction cheaper. Apply via this Plusnet link and it's £18.99/mth over the 18mth contract, plus you get an AUTO £75 prepaid Mastercard within 45 days - almost as good as cash. Factor it in and it's equiv to £14.83/mth. It's available to 98% of homes. We've not put this top, as we think the fast fibre deal above is better value, for less than £1/mth more.
Ends this Thu (1 Oct)
Virgin Media
54Mb fibre (fast) b'band & line
MSE Blagged
Cheap FASTER fibre b'band & line (avail to 52% of homes). Apply via this Virgin link and it's £23.95/mth, plus you get an AUTO £100 bill credit on your first bill. So it's a total £331.10 over the 18mth contract, equiv to £18.40/mth. While pricier than Shell, you get faster speeds.
Ends 11.59pm TODAY (Wed 30 Sep)
Virgin Media
108Mb fibre (mega-fast) b'band only
BROADBAND ONLY, so no phone line
Cheapest MEGA-FAST b'band only (avail to 52% of homes). If b'band alone is fine and you want serious speed, apply via this Virgin link and it's £24/mth over an 18mth contract. You can then CLAIM a £75 Amazon vch, so if you do that and would've spent it anyway, it's equiv to £19.84/mth.
If you've not been a customer for 1yr+, you qualify for these, but if you've been one more recently, rules vary by firm, so check. (1) To compare, we use 'equivalent costs' - adding all fixed costs, deducting promo cash or vchs and averaging over the contract.

  • Advertised speeds are more reliable than in past years. Rules have been tightened so now more than 50% of custs must get the advertised speed at peak times. Plus most firms - incl those above - tell you the estimated max you're likely to get before applying. Virgin and Plusnet also allow you to cancel penalty-free if your speed doesn't live up to this for three consecutive days, and then isn't resolved in 30 days. Shell won't, but says it'll try to sort any issues. See how to check your current speed and 8 speed-boosters.

  • About 60% of switchers to Virgin (ie, cable) definitely don't need an engineer to visit their home - others won't find out before applying. You'll be told before you sign up if you're in the 60% of custs who won't need an engineer. For the rest, Virgin will send someone but not all need to enter people's homes, as work can sometimes be completed by the roadside. Yet that group won't be told what'll happen in advance, so note the risk.

  • Usually there's no need for engineers for other switchers (apart from some ditching Virgin). Most other firms require you to have a BT Openreach line, which is the underlying tech for most non-cable b'band that millions already have. Though if you're leaving Virgin, an engineer may need to come round to install a line.

  • Switching often means 2hrs-ish of downtime. You're told the switch time in advance and it's often quick. Occasionally the outage is longer, so consider the risk, but hopefully your mobile data can cover any gap.


1,000s sign up to our new, free, easy MSE energy auto-compare-and-switch tool to save £200+ EVERY YEAR. Last week we launched MSE Autoswitch, and it's perfect for those who want to stay on a top tariff, without any effort, and many joined in their droves. Tell it your priorities (eg, price, service, name you know, green, fixed, exit penalties) and it then compares and picks YOUR top whole-of-the-market tariff based on that. Then annually, with just a one-click verification, it autoswitches you to YOUR new top deal, based on those preferences. HAVE A 2-MIN PLAY WITH IT... DON'T WORRY, IT'S TOTALLY FREE, AND YOU'RE NOT COMMITTED UNTIL YOU CONFIRM. 

Secret Amazon discounts on returned (often unused) items, eg, £30 off a Nespresso machine, £250 off an HP laptop. There's a hidden part of the giant retailer's site many haven't heard of called Amazon Warehouse, which can be a bargain hunter's dream. See MSE Becky's Amazon Warehouse explainer.

Tesco & Morrisons bring back rationing on toilet roll, cleaning products etc - what can you buy there & elsewhere? With lockdown rules tightening, the duo have added restrictions on some items, and that's on top of long-standing limits at other stores. See supermarket-by-supermarket limits + online delivery rules.

Top interest-free credit card for spending - M&S Bank's 20mths 0%. If you NEED to borrow for a planned, affordable buy (eg, a new fridge), a 0% spending card is the cheapest way as there's no interest - but it's no excuse to overspend. The top deal is M&S Bank's 20mths 0% as it's the joint-longest 0%, all accepted get the full 0% period, plus you also get points for spending. Always pay at least the min monthly payment, clear or transfer the debt before the 0% ends and don't bust your credit limit. Full help and more deals in 0% Spending Cards (APR Examples).  

TWO pairs of prescription specs for £15. MSE Blagged. Code also gets free delivery. Spec-tacular


The BIG mortgage squeeze: Ever bigger deposits now needed to secure a first home or remortgage, for many 15% is the min. What can you do?

In July, the Chancellor announced a stamp duty holiday, to kick-start the spluttering property market. It worked - demand exploded. Yet mortgage lenders have struggled to cope. Combine that with tightening criteria due to the pandemic and mortgages for those with high loan-to-values (ie, small deposits or little equity) have disappeared. 

In Feb, there were 386 mortgages with a 5% deposit - now there's just ONE standard mortgage at 5% (ie, any others available have stringent conditions, eg, parents as guarantors). There were 751 at 10% - now there are just 57. So for many, 15% is the new floor, and even above that, rates are creeping up: the cheapest 2yr fix was 1.09% in July (with a 40% deposit), now it's 1.24%. 

There are no foolproof solutions. In some cases, it's a matter of accepting you can't afford to buy now, and wait and save up, but here are a few brief tips...

1. First tool up on how it works. Our free PDF downloads - the First-Time Buyers' Guide 2020 and Remortgage Guide 2020 - take you through it.  

2. First-time buyers - are you saving the right way? To build a deposit quicker, read our Lifetime ISA (LISA) guide. With a LISA you get a 25% bonus each year (up to £1,000) towards your first home, though you need to hold it a year before you can get the bonus. Similar is true for those who opened a Help to Buy ISA while they were still on offer. 

3. First-time buyers - check out specialist mortgages and scrape a little more. At each 5% level until you've 40% of the home's value, things get easier and cheaper. So if you have a 14% deposit, see if you can push to 15%, when a world of choice and cheaper deals open up. Use our mortgage comparison to check out what's around.

But do also make yourself aware of guarantor mortgages, Help to Buy equity loans and shared ownership schemes - more information on these in tips and help for first-time buyers in the deposit crunch.

4. How to find the cheapest deals. If you have an existing lender, check what it will offer. Then use our mortgage comparison tool to benchmark what's out there for your situation. Acceptance is dependent on your property type, credit history and lenders' affordability checks.

These can be tough, which is why finding a mortgage broker can work for many - as they have info that's not publicly available about which lenders are likely to accept you, and they can answer questions too.

5. Use our range of calculators to do the numbers for you. These can help you work out most things you need: Basic mortgage cost calc | Compare two mortgages | Compare fixed-rate mortgages | Ditch your fix? | How much can I borrow? | Overpayment calc


47 MoneySaving tips if you have a baby, incl free babygrows & how to breastfeed in clothes you already own. As Sept is the most popular month for births, we've rounded up 47 Baby MoneySaving Tips.

ALL GONE Two months' free access to 5,000+ online magazines & FREE £15 Amazon voucher. MSE Blagged. For new users to Readly - an app that lets you read mags. As it's an introductory trial you need to cancel if you don't want it after. Only 2,500 avail. Read all about it

Boots 'Star Gifts' are back - incl £34ish Benefit trio mascara set (norm £66ish indiv). That's the standout of 14 deals available from this week. MoneySavers may notice they've been released earlier than usual this year - normally they appear in the Christmas run-up. See Boots Star Gifts.

Ends today (Wed). Cheapest 8GB Sim we've seen - '£6.33/mth' from Three. MSE Blagged. With this 1yr deal, go via reseller Fonehouse before 11.59pm on Wed and Three newbies* get 8GB/mth data + unltd calls & texts. It's £8/mth, but you get an automatic £20 cashback within 3mths making it equiv to £6.33/mth. 8GB is more than enough data for most people, who typically use less than 3GB/mth. Full help and more deals in Top Sims.


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Longest 0%: TSB up to 29mths 0%, 2.95% fee* (19.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: 
Santander 18mths 0% (check eligibility / apply*) (18.9% rep APR)

Market's cheapest: Utility Point 1yr fix, save £198/yr
Cheapest Big 6: E.on 1yr fix, save £197/yr
Want us to help you pick a tariff and switch you yearly? Try MSE Autoswitch

Savings incl £25 MSE cashback if avail. Assumes typical use vs price cap. Links go via Cheap Energy Club.

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

  1. MoneySupermarket*
  3. Compare The Market*
  4. Gocompare*

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Tesco Bank (check eligibility / apply*), 3.4% rep APR (1-3yrs)
Cheapest for £7.5k-£15k:
Cahoot (check eligibility / apply*) or TSB (check eligibility / apply*), both 2.8% rep APR

Standard b'band & line rent: Plusnet equiv £14.83/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell Energy equiv £15.66/mth
Superfast fibre b'band only (no line): Virgin Media equiv £19.84/mth

Free £125 for switching: HSBC Advance
£100 to switch + £3/mth: 
RBS Reward


Last week, we told you about the new best buys after NS&I said it'd wield the axe to its rates from 24 Nov - with many chopped essentially to nothing (well, 0.01%). We also told you of our concern it'd have a downwards pull on other savings. Sadly that's happened. For example, previous table-topper Marcus said it's slashing its easy-access rate again, this time by 0.35 percentage points. We've also seen some banks reprice twice in a day, as they find themselves topping the best buys and, as others cut rates, they don't want to be deluged.

Important: Rates are moving fast. All the product links below go via our Top Savings guide - which is updated many times a day - in case they change between us sending this email and you receiving it (so if the 'top deal' isn't the one you clicked, that's because it's changed). All accounts below and in our guides have up to £85,000 UK savings protection.

  • Firstly, have you got debts or a mortgage? Overpaying often beats saving. For many, rather than saving, the best thing to do right now is clear debts. With costly debts such as cards or loans, this is a no-brainer - see our Repay debts or save? guide. However, with savings rates so low, many would be better off overpaying their mortgage with savings too - the links have a full explanation and include calculators you can play with.

  • Want certainty? Lock into top fixed rate savings ASAP. If you're worried about rates dropping, locking money away on a fixed rate now gives protection (though there's always a chance, however slim, that rates could rise instead). App-only Atom Bank's 1yr fix pays 1.18% AER (min £50 deposit), Charter Savings Bank's 2yr fix pays 1.31% (min £1,000), while UBL UK's 3yr fix pays 1.4% (min £2,000). Click the links for more deals at those fixed lengths.

  • Need access? Top 'easy-access' savings at 1.05% - but rates are variable, so could drop at any time. Here you can take money out when you want, but the best deal has some restrictions. Coventry BS pays 1.05% AER variable (min £1) and allows two penalty-free withdrawals a year. For true easy access, Yorkshire BS pays 0.95% (min £10,000), though you can beat this rate with Cynergy Bank's cash ISA at 1% (min £1). See easy-access savings for more.

  • Can you UP the interest? A few things to check...
    - Low income? Get a 50% savings bonus. Check the Help to Save scheme to see if you qualify.
    - First-time buyer? Get a 25% boost on savings via a Lifetime ISA.
    - Get up to 3% interest by saving monthly. See Regular Savings.
    - Pay tax on savings? See if a cash ISA is more suitable.
    - Earn 2.02% on up to £1,000. See interest-paying bank accounts.
    - Not sure how much to put away? An array of autosaving apps can decide for you.

"Just got my auto-renewals for car insurance and home insurance - £1,272. Didn't settle for this. Following your guidance, and one large spreadsheet later, I've saved nearly £400."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)



Call for Government to pay 10,000s of women the pension they could be owed. Ex-Pensions Minister Steve Webb is campaigning on behalf of widowed and older married women who could be receiving too little state pension due to admin errors. He reports that payments of about £10,000 are common for those who have missed out, and is calling for those affected to be identified, contacted and given any money due. To show your support, sign the 'Review state pension entitlements' petition asking for a parliamentary debate. Plus check our news story to see if you might be affected.



When did you last switch your bank account? The current account switching market is heating up, with some banks once again offering cash bonuses for switching. So whether you want better service, interest on your savings or just free cash, changing your main day-to-day bank account can be well worth doing. But when did you last switch?

Giffgaff tops our mobile network service and coverage poll. In last week's poll, Giffgaff came top among providers with 75+ votes, with 73% of its customers rating it 'great' for customer service and 70% rating it 'great' for network coverage. O2 was best of the biggies, with 47% of customers saying its customer service is 'great' and 51% rating its coverage 'great', while Virgin Mobile took the wooden spoon overall - 25% of its customers said the service was 'poor' and 37% said its coverage was 'poor'. See full mobile service poll results.



Should I keep my overpaid final salary? I left my job in July and when I got my final payslip it was double the usual amount, as HR wrongly seemed to think I had holiday owing. I contacted HR and they said they'd sort it, so I put the extra money into my savings account until then. It's now two months later and I still haven't heard anything. Should I contact them or keep quiet? Enter the Money Moral Maze: Should I keep my overpaid final salary? | Suggest an MMD | View past MMDs


Amazon Warehouse - Discounts for returned or warehouse items
Glasses Direct - Two pairs of prescriptions specs for £15
Boots - Star Gifts are back, incl £34ish Benefit mascara trio
Readly - 2mths' free magazine trial & free £15 Amazon vch
Three  - 8GB Sim, unlimited calls & texts for equiv £6.33/mth

Bella Italia - 25% off mains, ends Wed
Café Rouge - 25% off food, ends Thu
Deliveroo - £5 off orders of £20 or more, ends Wed
Iceland - £5 off £40 spend for students
Leon - FREE baked criss-cross fries, ends Fri

Asos - 'Up to 60% off' sale
Dusk - 20% off posh bedding code
eBay - 'Up to 70% off' fashion outlets
Oxford University Press - 25% off university textbooks
Reebok - 30% off full-price and 15% off outlet code

Storage tricks to help onions last. OnionSavingExpert
Stop white cabbage going to waste. CabbageSavingExpert
Set a target and slash your grocery bill. MoneySavingExpert



Thu 1 Oct - This Morning, phone-in, ITV, 10.55am
Thu 1 Oct - The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, 8.30pm
Mon 5 Oct - Ask Martin Lewis, BBC Radio 5 Live, 12.20pm


Thu 1 Oct - BBC Radio Leicester, Mid-morning with Ben Jackson, from 11.35am. With MSE's Guy Anker, on savings
Mon 5 Oct - BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 2.25pm
Tue 6 Oct - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Lunchtime Live with Jeremy Sallis, from 12.25pm



That's all for this week, but before we go... we've long given tips on selling your old stuff for cash, but after an 11-year-old Mars Delight bar was sold for £50, you shared the oldest things you've flogged, via our social channels. A bottle of 1998 Veuve Clicquot champagne was sold for £485, a 24-pack of original recipe Irn-Bru went for £54, with Polly Pocket lip gloss selling for £50, despite being over 20 years old. Let us know the oldest item you've sold in our Facebook post and if you need inspiration, see our Flog your rubbish for cash guide. 

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