Archive: MoneySavingExpert's Money Tips Email

27 January 2021

Over 50 ways to save, incl... Martin's Money Makeover, 9p crisps, self-employ news, Pow of Att refunds END, 10 takeaway tips, cheap Brit Gas, Nectar Avios, top 0%, free postcard, Barclaycard alert

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Martin's Money Makeover Masterclass
21 pain-free ways to slash your spending and save (or gain) £1,000s in 2021
Tax, apps, savings, prescriptions, debt, utilities, TV and more

I'm feeling inspired... by Lee-Anne, a struggling Stoke mum, who last week on my ITV show told how she turned her finances around, kindly crediting my tips, explaining how she saved enough to clear £30,000 in debt (video).

So, as it's the last week in Jan, the week many bills hit inboxes and doormats, and before the traditional start-of-year MoneySaving fervour ends, I want to zip you through a pain-free MoneySaving makeover (ie, cutting bills, not cutting back).

Here's my checklist of big and easy savings to ensure your finances are lean and fit for 2021 - do all you've not done yet...

  1. Pay energy by monthly direct debit? Your energy provider may owe you £100s. Often energy firms sit on too much of your cash. If so, get it back. My updated Reclaim £100s from energy firms blog shows how. After a quick mention on my show, I was swamped with successes, such as Neal who tweeted: "@MartinSLewis I got a £900 rebate from British Gas after overpaying for 11 months; paid to me within four days."

  2. Halve broadband costs to £15/mth. Typical savings £150/yr. Many pay £30-£45/mth for the slowest speeds, but you can slice costs by grabbing incentives providers add to short-lived promos. Find which are available in your area via our Broadband Unbundled tool. The top picks right now include:

    - 10Mb broadband & line: Plusnet '£14.83/mth'
    - 35Mb broadband & line: Shell Energy '£17.25/mth'
    - 63Mb broadband & line (ENDS FRI): Shell Energy '£19.44/mth'

    I've averaged the prices over the contract, including incentives - click the link for a full explanation. PS: Similar's possible with mobiles - use our Cheap Mobile Finder to check.

  3. By law, it's YOUR job to check your tax code's right, not HMRC's. Millions are wrong - are you owed £1,000s? This is a job employees should do each year. Our Tax Code Calculator will help you through, and can result in big successes, like Liz who emailed: "Martin often says 'check your tax code'. Last week I did and I realised I'd been paying tax twice on taxable benefits for THREE YEARS. Called HMRC and got a rebate of £573."  Also, our Income Tax Calc shows what your take-home pay should be.

  4. Can't afford to clear your credit card debt? Then you can't afford not to check if you can shift it to 0%. Savings range from £100s to £1,000s. A balance transfer is where you get a new card that clears debts on existing cards for you, so you owe it instead, but at 0%. That means more of your repayment clears the actual debt, rather than just paying the interest.

    Getting accepted is the tricky bit, so use our tool to check which cards you'll likely be accepted for (unlike applying, it won't impact your future creditworthiness). If you've a decent choice of cards, pick the one with the lowest fee in the time you're sure you can repay. Eg, if you can repay quick, get 18mths 0% no-fee. If you need longer, go for 29mths 0%, with a 3% fee. Full help in Top Balance Transfers.

  5. Required to work from home, even for A DAY, since 6 Apr? Claim a YEAR's tax relief. Rebate worth £60 or £125 - takes less than 2mins. Join the 1.76m that have claimed since we started pushing this. See my Working-from-home tax back blog.

  6. Got a mortgage? Take 2mins to see if you can take advantage of near all-time low rates. Typical savings £1,000s or £10,000s. Rates are rock-bottom. To do a quick check-up, take 2mins on our Mortgage Best-Buy Comparison to find your top rate. Then use the Mortgage Calc to see the scale of savings.

    If it looks like this will pay, then the real work starts, as the challenge is getting accepted - read the Remortgage Guide for detailed help. It's worth a look, as someone on a 4% standard rate, borrowing £150,000 over 25yrs, could save £2,000 a year switching to the cheapest deal.

  7. Beware a hidden trio that snaffle money from your account while you sleep... When did you last check what direct debits, standing orders and, worst of all, recurring payments (permission to regularly take money from your plastic) you have set up? This hidden trio often conveniently and cheaply pay necessary bills, but without a regular 'do I still need it?' check, it can be costly.

    It may be you're paying for subscriptions that you rarely use or, worse, for things you didn't even know. Carol tweeted: "@MartinSLewis I thought I'd signed up to a one-off wine delivery, but they'd set up a monthly payment that wasn't obvious on my bank statement. I complained and got £500 back." Check - our Direct Debit Audit guide gives you step-by-step help.

  8. Most savings interest rates are crap. Check what yours pay and max every penny - anything under 0.5% needs action.  
    Don't just let savings sit earning nothing. First consider using them to clear expensive debts, including your mortgage (our Should I pay off my mortgage with savings? guide takes you through it). And move other money to where it pays most....

    - Top normal savings: 
    Easy-access 0.5% | Top easy-access ISA 0.55% | 1yr fix 0.65% | 2yr fix 0.82%.
    - Alternative options: 3% regular savers (on monthly savings) and 2% current account savings (but only on smaller amounts).
    - Premium Bonds: See Are Premium Bonds at 1% worth it? The answer, in a nutshell, is they're currently a decent option if you've £5,000+, or pay tax on savings.
    - Specialist big payers: Help to Save 50% boost (for those on low incomes), Lifetime ISAs 25% boost (for first-time buyers).

  9. Do you spend more than you earn, or earn more than you spend? Don't guess - know... The MSE Budget Planner spreadsheet, while a little old now, is based on my still rock-solid budgeting theory (if I say so myself), about accurately mapping your genuine incomings and outgoings over a year, then helping assess whether it balances. It can be one of your best time investments, as it paints an honest picture of your finances.

    Once you know where you are, the real challenge is sticking to it, so use the piggybanking technique to help enforce self-discipline.

  10. Energy price hikes of £90/yr due in Apr - spend 5mins on our whole-of-market energy comparison now. Savings range £100-£400/yr. We'll hear officially next week what's happening to the energy standard tariff direct debit price cap, but it's almost certain to rise by about £90/yr on 1 Apr (though this ISN'T factored into any comparison savings you see, so add it in your head).

    Switch to a fix now though and you won't be hit by it. Most popular option: Use the MSE Pick Me A Tariff tools, either just for now or opt to allow us to autoswitch you each year. Do it yourself: Or use our full market comparison. PS: More info on a new British Gas tariff below.

  11. Ever thought of axing the apps? Amazon, eBay, Asos etc. If you worry you're not in control of your spending, then a little friction goes a long way. Delete the apps off your phone to make impulse shopping take a little longer - delay can pay, as it gives you a bit of breathing space. And try our Demotivator tool to show how small spending cuts can make big savings.

  12. Car insurance prices are on the rise - can you slash £100s off, even if not at renewal? The cheapest time to do a price comparison is 20 to 26 days before renewal (later and you're seen as a higher risk, pushing prices up). Yet with prices rising, it's worth everyone checking; if you're midway through a policy, as long as you've not claimed, you can usually get a refund for the rest of the year minus a £50ish admin fee, which may add up.

    To check, combine as many comparison sites as you can - they don't cover the same firms, so use a few. Our current order is MoneySup*, Confused*, Compare TM* and Gocompare* (see how we rank 'em). Then add in Direct Line* as it's not on comparisons, and check our hot deals comparisons miss.

    For far more help, and ways to slash costs, including if you're struggling due to Covid-19, see our FULL car insurance cost-cutting system and young drivers' car insurance cost-cutting.

    PS: Check our cheap home insurance cost-cutting system too.

  13. Imagine if you got an annual supermarket shopping bill - it'd cost £1,000s. We don't think of our grocery shop as a utility bill, but it'd help if we did. It'd reveal why small weekly savings matter. Cut costs by £5 a week, and that's £260 a year. There are many hidden gems (and I don't mean lettuce) in our 30 Supermarket & Grocery Tips.

  14. Are you like Robbie and Zayn? In the wrong band that is... check if you can lower your council tax by £1,000s. Way back in 2007, before the first grey hairs came, I first came up with my council tax check & challenge system, but there are still likely 100,000s of homes in Eng & Scot in the wrong band.

    Successes come in all the time, such as Denise: "Thanks Martin. I successfully challenged my council tax banding and am just waiting for a £1,600 rebate to hit my account."

    Plus there are a host of council tax discounts available for those who live alone (or only with under-18s), students, those with severe mental impairments, disabilities and more. See Can I get a council tax discount?

  15. Don't just renew your TV and broadband package... HAGGLE. Many with digital TV are happy with what they get, just not the price (though auditing what channels you really use is always a good plan).

    This is where haggling comes in - if you're at the end or out of contract, call up and you can often massively cut costs. In our poll, more than 70% of those who tried with Virgin, Sky, BT and TalkTalk got discounts, like Karen who emailed: "Thanks for your advice to haggle over Sky TV. Was paying £117/mth, now £54/mth, so a saving of £756/yr and they upgraded all rooms to Sky Q."

    Yet it's all about charm, chutzpah, research and knowing what to ask for - see our top tips in TV haggling tips.

  16. Halve breakdown cover costs - full service from £58/yr. If you aren't loyal to the big firms, big savings are possible. Two firms offer cover for any car under 15yrs old that you/your spouse (or civil/common law partner) drive, including home breakdown and onward travel. Newcomer Eversure* (we've limited feedback - do let us know) at £57.50/yr has just undercut our past long-term winner AutoAid* at £59.99/yr. Similar AA cover is £150+/couple. Full help in Cheap Breakdown Cover.

    If you want to stick with AA/RAC, always HAGGLE at renewal. In our latest poll, more than 80% of those who tried succeeded, such as Audrey who emailed: "My RAC breakdown renewal was £281. I told them I couldn't afford it and, after a couple of tweaks, my renewal price came down to £81. Thank you for giving me the confidence." See Breakdown Cover Haggling.

  17. Netflix can now cost more than a TV licence - can you cut the cost? More than 15m homes in the UK now have Netflix, and with its recent hike, its premium package costs more in a year than the TV licence. So check out our 18 Netflix Hacks to see if you can cut costs, and our Do I need to pay the TV licence? guide too.

  18. Can you cut your loan's cost to 2.8%? Some with loans can get a new one to clear it and cut costs, as Sean emailed: "Two years ago, we took out an 11.9% loan. After reading your guidance, we got a new 5.9% loan to pay it off, saving £2,164 in interest. Thanks." Yet early repayment fees mean it's not just a case of getting a cheaper APR. Instead:

    a) Ask your lender for a settlement figure, ie, how much it'll cost to clear the loan, including all fees.
    b) Use our Loans Eligibility Calc to see what the cheapest loan you can get to pay that amount off is, and work out what that'll cost.
    c) Compare that to sticking with the current loan (by multiplying months left by the monthly cost). If the new loan's cheaper, switch. More help in Cut existing loan costs.

  19. It only takes a minute, girl, (boy and everyone else) to see if switching to a water meter will save you cash. Typical saving £50-£300/yr. It may not be lyrical, but MoneySaving is always poetry in my book. You can't switch supplier, but many in Eng & Wales can get a water meter free. There's a calculator to help - see water meter savings calc.

  20. Do you get prescriptions regularly? More than 1m could have saved by getting a prepay certificate. If you're in Eng and get on avg at least one prescription a month, you can likely cut the cost with prepay prescription certificates. Our freedom of info request shows more than 1m would have in the 2019/20 financial year.

  21. And finally... if you're struggling with serious debt, make an appointment with a non-profit debt counsellor ASAP. If you're in debt and it feels like a crisis, don't DIY, get help.

    This is most pertinent if your non-mortgage and non-student loan debts are bigger than a year's after-tax income OR you can't meet your minimum repayments OR you're having sleepless nights over debt.

    Go to a non-profit debt advice agency. They're always rammed at this time of year, so book an appointment ASAP. There's free, one-on-one help from Citizens Advice, National Debtline, CAP and StepChange, which also runs an online debt advice service. Full info in Debt Crisis Help.

These are just the tip of the iceberg - for far more, see the full MSE Money Makeover guide.


8.30pm Thu, ITV: Martin's Money Show Live
Cheap car & home insurance secrets revealed

In this week's show, I'll take you through the secrets to slashing home and car insurance costs - the weird counter-logical ways the industry works, which once you get it slashes £100s off your bill. Plus of course my latest News-You-Can-Use, the week's don't-miss financial briefing.

And of course, as it's live you can tweet suggested questions to @MartinSLewis, but please use the show's hashtag #MartinLewis. Do tune in or set the Betamax.


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.



Important news for the self-employed and excluded
Applications for the 3rd SEISS grant end Fri - many risk unnecessarily missing out. Plus Martin's exclusive update on grant 4

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has been a lifeline for many who are self-employed. The third grant closes its door to applications on Fri, and it's likely 100,000s of eligible people have yet to apply. Many haven't done it as they're likely nervous of signing the declaration, but for some that nervousness is misplaced. We take you through who is due what on the third grant below, but before we get to that...

At the weekend, Martin got the first Treasury confirmation that no official self-employed grant 4 announcement will come until the 3 Mar Budget - cruelly, more than a month after the grant period starts. 

For far more, watch Martin's video analysing SEISS 4 changes, and what it means for those currently excluded.

  • SEISS 3 covers 1 Nov to 31 Jan and is worth up to 80% of avg trading profits, up to £7,500. You should know if you're eligible for the grant, as sadly it's the same criteria as the first two - so if you were eligible for that (even if you didn't claim), you're eligible for this. In a nutshell, you must have filed a 2018/19 tax return, your avg trading profit must be no more than £50,000/yr, and 50%+ of your income must come from self-employment. See SEISS eligibility help.

  • To claim this time, you must declare a "significant profits reduction". This reduction must be due to either:

    - Lower demand, activity or capacity (eg, fewer customers, cancelled contracts, supply chain issues).
    - You being temporarily unable to trade (eg, lockdown, parental/caring responsibilities, instruction to shield/self-isolate except for those shielding due to return from overseas).

    NOT SURE YOU CAN MAKE THIS DECLARATION? For specific scenarios, see our Can I claim the third grant? info. And remember, the payment is binary - if you're due it, you're due the entire amount you qualify for.

  • Applications close at 11.59pm this Fri - but do it ASAP. HM Revenue & Customs says you need to have submitted your application by then to claim. You apply via the Govt claims portal - you'll need your self-assessment unique taxpayer reference (UTR), national insurance number, Govt Gateway user ID and password, and bank details. See full info on how to apply.

Ends Sun. The 1.3m still owed Power of Attorney refunds will MISS OUT unless they act now. Many in Eng & Wales are due up to £54 for each - it's easy to reclaim and takes a few mins. Check if you're owed now via our Reclaim Power of Attorney Fees guide.

Totally FREE personalised postcard. Real mail's a welcome novelty now. App newbies only, ends Sun. Free postcard

10 takeaway/delivery tips, incl how to find codes (eg, £10 off Deliveroo). With restaurants shut, the MSE Deals team have had more takeaways recently than most people have had, well, hot dinners. Now MSE Becky's compiled their top tips, incl how to grab cashback, the cheapest day to order and more. See 10 takeaway & delivery tips.

New. British Gas cheaper switchers' deal - save about £190/yr & 'free' 1yr heating insurance (norm £138/yr). For new switchers to BG, its Brit Gas Feb 2022v3 deal is fixed for a year, and matches E.on's 1yr fix (also newbies only) as the joint-cheapest big-name deal. Both are comparison site ONLY (BG only via us), so you can't call up and get them - these links take you there. Your comparison will show savings of £117/yr on typical use against the current price cap, but YOUR SAVINGS WILL BE UNDERESTIMATED as the price cap's set to jump in Apr - compared to that, you'd save £204/yr (avg saving over the next 12mths is £189). Find choosing confusing? Use our Pick Me A Tariff every year (MSE Autoswitch) or Pick Me A Tariff just for now.

Barclaycard's increasing minimum payments by up to 50% this week. While higher repayments mean you clear debt quicker and pay less interest overall, it can hit cash flow. See Barclaycard min payments rise help.

9p Walkers crisps, £4.50 Nescafé instant coffee (500g) via EXTRA 10% off code for reduced 'past best-before' food. MSE Blagged. Approved Food is a site selling cheap groceries near or past their 'best-before' date (which is just a manufacturer's view of optimum quality, so they're safe to eat - don't confuse with 'use by' on fresh meat, dairy etc, which is a health warning). Min spend £22.50, delivery £3+. Approved Food

Ends Fri. Cheapest iPhone 11 contract we've seen, incl 25GB/mth EE data. MSE Blagged. The iPhone 11's got far cheaper since the 12 launched. Until 11.59pm Fri, EE newbies (via this Affordable Mobiles link) can get a 64GB iPhone 11* with unltd mins, texts and 25GB/mth data for £79 upfront, then £26/mth. The £703 cost over the 2yr contract is £135 less than buying the handset outright with a similar data Sim. More help in Cheap iPhones. Find the cheapest handset or Sim for you: Cheap Mobile Finder.


New. Top 0% card for new spending / borrowing - 20mths' interest-free

Done right, 0% credit cards are the best way to borrow as they're free. Done wrong, they're one of the worst 

Credit cards are like fire. Used right they're a useful tool, used wrong they burn. 0% purchase cards are for new borrowing, and this week there are a couple of new best buys. Done right, they allow longer-term borrowing at no cost whatsoever. That's powerful, but only do it for a needed, planned, affordable, one-off purchase (eg, replacing a broken fridge). Never do it willy-nilly to fill gaps in your income - that can result in a vicious spiral.

Will you be accepted? Don't just apply. It's better to use our 0% purchase card eligibility calc to find which cards you've the best chance of getting without hitting your credit score. It includes the best buys below...

CARD 0% OFFER (card strengths in bold)
New. Virgin Money. 
Best to check acceptance odds first. Or apply*
- 20mths 0%, ALL accepted get full time at 0%
- 21.9% rep APR after
New. Sainsbury's Bank.
Best to check acceptance odds first. Or apply*
- Up to 20mths 0% (some accepted only get 12mths 0%)
- 21.9% rep APR after
- 750 bonus Nectar points worth £3.75 per £35+ spend at Sainsbury's in first 2mths (max 7,500 points, worth £37.50)
TSB. Apply (sadly not in our eligibility calc) - Up to 20mths 0% (some accepted only get 15mths or 10mths 0%)
- 19.9% rep APR after
Aqua. It's asked us to only send people via our eligibility calc
- 4mths 0%, aimed at poor credit scorers. See how best to use it
- A big 34.9% rep APR after, so ensure you clear it by then

  • Need to borrow to buy something but the store won't take credit card? If so, you'll need a 0% Money Transfer card; or if it's for £3,000+, see Cheap Loans.

  • Follow the 0% Card Golden Rules. Full info in 0% Credit Cards (APR Examples), but in brief...
    a) Always pay at least the set monthly minimum and stick within the credit limit, or you can lose the 0%.
    b) These cards are usually only cheap for spending - avoid cash withdrawals or shifting debt to them.
    c) Plan to clear the card (or balance-transfer away) before the 0% period ends, or rates jump to the rep APR.

Avios has joined Nectar and ditched Tesco Clubcard. Swap Nectar for Avios and vice versa. Avios news

Ends Sun. 2GB Sim with unltd mins & texts - '£4.38/mth'. MSE Blagged. Until Sun, newbies to Lebara* (uses Vodafone's network) can get 2GB data plus unltd mins & texts at £2.50/mth for 3mths, then £5/mth, on a 1mth contract - making it an equiv £4.38/mth over 12mths. In our latest data usage poll, 70% told us they use 2GB/mth or less. Compare all Sims & find cheapest handsets: Cheap Mobile Finder.

13 MoneySaving tips for cyclists, incl work-based discounts, try before you buy and DIY repairs. Cycling has grown in popularity during the pandemic, so see our updated Cycling MoneySavers.

Get £40 cashback for investing £400. 1,000 left. MSE Blagged. If you plan to 'robo-invest' - where investments are selected for you based on your attitude to risk - then after fees, this Wealthify deal is equiv to a 9.6% head start, provided you keep the full investment for a min 6-7mths. (The fact we've included it doesn't mean we recommend Wealthify - we don't do investment tips, it's just if you're going to use Wealthify anyway, you can get cashback). See Robo-investing cashback, incl info on the deal + how robo-investing works.

Self-assessment tax return deadline is 11.59pm Sun - now no fines if you miss it, but if you don't pay outstanding tax by then, interest is charged. HMRC's waiving fines for all those who miss the deadline but file by 28 Feb, though late payment penalties still apply. See Self-assessment news.


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Longest 0%: Sainsbury's Bank up to 29mths 0%, 3% or 4% fee (check eligibilityapply*) (21.9% rep APR)
No-fee 0%: 
Santander 18mths 0%, no fee (check eligibilityapply*) (18.9% rep APR)

Joint-cheapest big-name fix: British Gas 12mth fix, save £189/yr
Joint-cheapest big-name fix: E.on 12mth fix, save £189/yr
Want us to help you pick a tariff and switch you yearly? Try MSE Autoswitch

Savings include £25 MSE cashback, where available. Assumes typical use vs price cap over the next 12mths. Links go via Cheap Energy Club.

Get comparison site quotes in this order:

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

Cheapest for £5,000-£7,499: Ratesetter (check eligibility / apply*) (2.8% rep APR)
Cheapest for £7.5k-£15k: 
Cahoot (check eligibility / apply*), TSB (check eligibility / apply*) or Ratesetter (check eligibility / apply*) (2.8% rep APR)

Standard b'band & line rent: Plusnet equiv £14.83/mth
Fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell Energy equiv £17.25/mth
Superfast fibre b'band & line rent: 
Shell Energy equiv £19.44/mth

Free case of wine for switching + 2.02% interest: Virgin Money
1-3% cashback on bills: 
Santander 123 Lite


Driving licence renewals have restarted - DON'T risk a fine of up to £1,000. Drivers whose licences expired between 1 Feb 2020 and 31 Dec 2020 were given an extra 11mths to renew. So if yours expired last Feb/March (or does this Jan/Feb), renew NOW or you could be hit with a heavy fine. Full driving licence renewing help.

"Thanks so much for the student loan overpayments help - just had a refund of over £1,000. My employer put me on Plan 1 instead of Plan 2, and in a separate job I earned under the annual threshold."
(Send us yours on this or any topic.)



Have you got a summer holiday booked? While most travel is currently suspended due to coronavirus, some have started to look ahead, with a number of holiday firms reporting a rise in bookings for the summer. Have you booked a getaway?

Working-from-home tax relief is the most accessed form of coronavirus financial support among MoneySavers. Last week, we asked what financial support you'd had during the pandemic, if any, and 4,600 of you responded. The most commonly-accessed form of help was working-from-home tax relief, with 16% saying they'd claimed this. Overall, 30% said they hadn't needed help, but it was a different story for the self-employed, who were more than twice as likely as everyone else to take out a mortgage, loan or credit card repayment holiday. See full financial support poll results.



Wed 27 Jan - Ask Martin Lewis, BBC Radio 5 Live, 1pm. Listen again
Thu 28 Jan - This Morning, phone-in, ITV, 10.55am
Thu 28 Jan - The Martin Lewis Money Show Live, ITV, 8.30pm


Sun 31 Jan - BBC Radio Leicester, Mid-morning with Summaya Mughal, from 10am
Mon 1 Feb 
- BBC Radio Manchester, Drive with Phil Trow, from 2.20pm
Tue 2 Feb 
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Mid-morning with Jeremy Sallis, from 12.40pm



That's all for this week, but before we go... with many finding themselves with more time now we're all at home a lot more, a hot topic on our MSE Forum last week was around baking your own bread, after a Forumite asked if buying a breadmaker was MoneySaving. Some said it won't pay for itself on basic bread alone, but with many lockdown bakers using theirs for pizza bases, sponges and banana bread too, the savings had started to rise (sorry) for some. Let us know your top breadmaker tips - and whether you've saved any dough - in the forum.

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