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    MSE Martin
    Martin Q&A about his work and the site
    • #1
    • 15th Aug 06, 5:36 PM
    Martin Q&A about his work and the site 15th Aug 06 at 5:36 PM
    An interview by MoneySavers....

    Thanks for this idea go to MoneySaver Southern Scouser who asked if I'd be prepared to answer some questions (see it). Thankfully they weren't as scary as I suspected, I thought it was a good idea, so this is the 'interview me' thread. It's also now permanently linked to from my on-site Biography

    The Type of Questions

    I'm not going to get too detailed into my private life (the MSG would kill me) but am happy to answer questions about my work both on the site and on programmes etc.

    Also I'm sorry but I won't be able to answer personal MoneySaving problems.


    The Answers So Far.......
    Click reply to ask a question, I'll try and answer in batches when I can.

    ANSWERS 13 AUGUST 2006

    What is your favourite board and why?

    The one I go to most often is The This Site and Martin's Appearances Boards, primarily because that's where people contact me. My favourite, will if I’m honest is DFW - because I genuinely find it very moving. Though one should never have favourite children.

    Would you run this site at a loss if you could afford it and to what cost would you?

    For the first nine months I did - it had no revenue raising ability on it. Though once the costs got over £5,000 a year - I tried to look at ethical ways to do it. Now there are 11 staff and I like them and want to keep their jobs safe. Would I run it at a loss - I couldn't afford to - I don't come from a rich family so I've no back up. Yet hopefully I'm canny enough to keep it going and ethical and the cash flow coming in!

    Did you set this site up primarily to make money while helping people or a bit of both? Or something different?

    I set it up to help people and promote my broadcasting work (I was hoping it'd help people see what I do) and The Money Diet. I didn’t plan to have any revenue raising features on it - so in that sense it wasn't to make me money - though obviously by having it, it would help my career so there's an indirect benefit.

    What is your honest reaction when you read about the debts a lot of people have on DFW and how they racked them up? (you have to answer this one)

    I often feel sad. I'm lucky I've always been good with cash. Yet we're a nation educated into debt at university, but never educated about debt. It's a disgrace the only place you can go for official one on one non-profit help is when you're in debt crisis - its no surprise so many people are.

    How many hours do you do when researching new things (rates, offers ect.) each day?

    I used to work a 90 hour week - week in week out. These days it’s about 60 or 70. My weeks are so variable there's no set rule. Also now I have a team, part of their main task is updating. So while I write the articles and think of the logic - they're job is to keep things up to date and often do the data collection. For example MSE Dan's main job is to keep the pure money articles up to date. When he spots something that he thinks should go in an article, he brings it to me and we discuss it.

    Of course I still look and keep track myself, I would lose my expertise if I didn't - and couldn't do 'live phone-ins' which are the ultimate test. Yet having a team means I spend more time on thinking through the logic and less on gathering the info.

    Are you tight with your money?

    I don't think so. But I am a MoneySaver, I follow the rules and hate giving money away to companies unnecessarily. I'm lucky though I make a good living, so I can afford the things that I want and can give to charity (the sites charity fund) without harming my own existence.

    Have you ever had a dream about the website? (or is that just me )

    All the time! It never leaves me. I do dream about it - but worse I sometimes just can't sleep for thinking about it!

    Do the MSE team ever post as you? Because you're too busy or away? In other words could you be on a par with Royalty or politicians

    Yeah right, the nearest I get to royalty is being a Royal pain in the bum.

    They never post as me as anything opinion based. Occasionally they post the raw basics of the tip link as me - and then I come in and redo it later on. E.g. last week's Great Things to Buy In the US Hunt. MSE Andrea wrote a brief paragraph on it as me, so we had something to link to when preparing the tip - and then later on I came in and rewrote it in full detail.

    So yes they do - but only really in those circumstances. Anything where I give my view, or state an opinion or chat with posters is always always me.

    Occasionally also when I’m away people reply to my PMs - yet if that's the case it’s never signed as me - it’s signed as the person who sent it.


    I'm not creeping here! Honest! But you are a bit of an inspiration! What inspired you to do what you do, if anything?

    Flattery will get you everywhere! When I was a student I was a student politician; the more I got involved the more I saw that if you wanted to have an impact, it's about taking on Corporates, and trying to put money in peoples' pockets. I believe there's a gap between the power of consumers and companies. Yet that's a high-falluting answer. In practical terms - I'd left the BBC, where I'd been a business and personal finance producer/reporter to go and work at a small TV channel, Simply Money, as a reporter, where they offered me a one minute programme every three hours. I said I wanted to do it based on detailed analytical research into consumer finance products and they said go for it. I did. Within six months the programme was on for 8 minutes every hour.

    Also do you send off for the freebies and stuff that you include in your email?

    I'm not the biggest freebie grabber. I take the stuff that I'll use, but much of it doesn't personally relate to me.

    And do you use Quidco?

    No, I have an account at Rpoints, but actually I tend to buy things direct through this site's links anyway - which actually for me personally works out better!

    I read that you set this website up for £100 - who did this for you and did you ever think it would become as popular as it is?

    I went to a website which was called (from memory) something like ecknowledge, where I wrote a brief and it went out to tender for the developers there to pitch for it. My friend Bryan who worked on developing sites helped me pick one, a chap called Ali who was in Uzbekistan, and he did the first incarnation of the site - for £100

    What's the most expensive thing you've ever bought yourself?

    My house

    My question is, do you ever feel nostalgic about the early days of the site? I mean when you popped in more frequently, had time to chat and share a joke and send the naughty members to the Sin Bin?

    Well I am still on the site a lot, and share many a joke. Yet it's so big most people don't spot individual threads. As for the sin bin - yes Nile I remember, and you can go in again for such a personally gratuitous question

    Can you tell us a bit more about The MSE Charity Fund you are setting up? What are the reasons and thinking behind it?

    To be honest I think this is a bit of a legacy thing. I'm in a very lucky position to be able to set up a charity - my work has been very good to me. There's more on this read in the blog on it here

    'Are you ever going to answer that scrabble question?'

    Erm... I'd forgotten about that one... and the honest thing is... sometimes when I pose such questions my idea is to judge the answer... it doesn't necessarily mean I know what it is

    My question to you is who inspired you to be good with money. Did you start at an early age. Were you always encouraged to be a MoneySaver?

    I always remember having money in my wallet even as a little boy. My sister and I always got the same pocket money, but for some reason while she spent it, I kept it and held it for when I needed it. Even as a child the joke was "Mart manages to leave the house and come back with more cash than he left with." Yet actually I think the key to my interest in Money Saving is I've always been very comfortable with maths and numbers - and this meant I grasped the concept of money quite easily.

    Also I do hope you realise how addictive your site is.

    Yes, for me too - hence writing these answers at 22.40 on a Sunday night!

    Can I ask a question to Martin, "what has been your best ever money saving tip?"

    Hmmm. Difficult. Yet I still think the Barclaycard 0% balance transfer for life loophole from a few years ago takes some beating. In a nutshell Barclaycard designed a product that aimed to profit out of credit card repayment schedules. So you got 0% for life but only if you spent £1 on the card a month. They knew of course either a. people would forget or b. people would spend a lot more. All spending was at a much higher rate and was trapped in until all the cheap balance transfer debts were repaid.

    After mulling it over for a while I got the NSPCC (actually I think, it may've been the RNIB) to set up a £1 a month Direct Debit scheme (they hadn't previously done credit card Direct Debits) - thus automating the process so that for a £1 a month charity donation you got 0% for life. Later I started a £1/month Paypal subscription to the site (donated to charity) to do the same thing. Three weeks later Barclaycard closed the offer and this site and I were cited in the press as the reason why. Seven months later the OFT ruled against such marketing, yet it shows that collected consumer power reacts quicker and is more powerful than the regulator. There are still many site users enjoying their 0% for life.

    My question is. Is there anybody you have worked with on TV who is really irritating or has really not "got" moneysaving. Obviously you don’t have to name names unless you really want to.

    The most annoying person I ever met in television wasn't someone on-air (though I did once walk out after a news interviewer had been incredibly patronising and tell the programme I'd never do it again).

    It was one of the editorial team for a programme I was doing (I'll keep that to myself). I'd just been talking to someone about severe debts, it was emotional for them and for me and meant their life needed radical changes. There were tears and once we finished the chat and the camera went off, they went "wonderful, that was really great thanks."

    I was furious, it was hideously insensitive and unnecessary. It was ignorant of the fact we were dealing with someone's real life, a damn site more important than whether it was a good shot, or made a nice 15 minutes of TV.

    It got worse, later in the day we were rushed and they wanted a few more cutaway shots (filler shots) with me. Yet I wanted to spend some time on the person's finances as I didn't feel we'd resolved everything. This person said "that's not what matters, we've got a show to finish." I replied with a technical explanation of where they could put the production tapes!

    Last edited by MSE Archna; 05-09-2006 at 1:23 PM.
    Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.
    Please note, answers don't constitute financial advice, it is based on generalised journalistic research. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstance.

    Don't miss out on urgent MoneySaving, get my weekly e-mail at

    Debt-Free Wannabee Official Nerd Club: (Honorary) Members number 000
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