Money Saving Expert

I’ve been signed up on the Money Saving Expert mailing list for a while, but looking back, I don’t think I’ve ever recommended it here.

The site is run by Martin Lewis, who turns up on all sorts of magazine programmes talking about money. Amongst other things he has been influential in campaigns to get people to reclaim unfair bank charges, and more recently in getting people to check and appeal their council tax banding – something we’ve done successfully in the past.

Perhaps what he is most influential for now is his website Money Saving Expert, where his stated aim is to redress the balance between the consumer and the big corporations. As he says in his introduction to the site, we live in an adversarial consumer society, where the primary purpose of the companies out there is to make as much money from us the consumer as possible. Indeed companies will spend large amounts of money on flashy advertising campaigns to get us to by their products, ensure they have highly trained salespeople in order to sell us stuff we don’t want, and yet what do we as consumers have?

The site is a gold-mine of useful information – in the past I’ve used the tips on the site to find the cheapest telephone service for calling Canada, found cheap flights, and so on. It has won several awards, and indeed has been cited on a couple of occasions in parliament for it’s influence. Essentially the site brings together tips from Martin and many other users, all geared towards doing exactly what it says on the tin – saving money.

There is also the mailing list I mentioned at the top, which sends out details of special offers and deals, and keeps you updated when recommendations change. There is a real mix of stuff from simple two-for-one offers, to more specialist tips which would probably only be of interest to a small number of the more than a million subscribers to the list – in that vein we actually applied for another credit card at the weekend primarily due to a tip on the list, as by using the new card for a couple of months we can get 20,000 free miles for my BMI Diamond Club card – a good chunk of a free trip to Canada.

You’re not going to take advantage of every offer, indeed probably not most of them, but there are always one or two that can save you either a little, or a lot of cash, and certainly it is well worth heading over to the site and signing up for the e-mail.

2 thoughts on “Money Saving Expert”

  1. To your knowledge has there been any change to the rules regarding gift aid. Martin discussed this in his column in the Saga magazine a few months ago, I am specifically interested in claiming back tax on tickets sold to tax payers for events run by churches.
    This was perfectly legitimate, and we have had refunds, but have been told this refund cannot now be claimed. Have we been wrongly advised?

  2. We’ve run into this. We have in the past been able to claim for things like this, but more recently things have been tightened. It’s not so much that the rules have been changed, more that they are now being more carefully applied.

    Gift Aid has always been tax back on gifts, so it used to be quite common that charities selling tickets for things would give you a ‘free’ ticket in return for a donation that could be gift aided. I’ve seen a number of places doing it, churches as in your example, but often charities whose main source of income was from entrance fees rather than donations such as the Kew Bridge Pumping Engines and on one visit we made even Windsor Castle was doing the same thing.

    However a few years back they tightened up on this, their argument being that in the places wouldn’t give you the ticket if you didn’t give a donation, therefore it wasn’t really a gift. For example Windsor Castle wouldn’t allow you in for free, you had to give a donation of a certain amount, equivalent to what a normal ticket cost. As a result they have cracked down on this and now don’t allow tax to be reclaimed on tickets like this, and certainly they seem to be a lot more scrupulous about what they will and won’t allow you to reclaim against in general.

    As a general rule of thumb, if the person is getting something in return for their money, then you can’t claim tax back, so you can’t for example claim tax back on raffle tickets, event tickets, or bids in a silent auction to name a few. Gift aid is only available on straight donations.

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