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Martin Q&A about his work and the site

edited 9 July 2021 at 1:28PM in Martin's blogs & appearances & MoneySavingExpert in the news
71 replies 155.9K views
MSE_MartinMSE_Martin Money Saving ExpertMoneySaving Expert
8.3K Posts
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.


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 :o)

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! ;)
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




    What has been your most memorable TV appearance. And what has been your most memorable post on MSE Forums?

    My first appearance on This Morning, simply as it was such a huge step in my career and I knew if it went well there was a job as regular expert. Thankfully it did and that really was when things started to take off. Even though I'd been doing the job a long time before then - this was my first major regular TV job.

    As for the most memorable post on here, to be honest I simply can't answer that, I really can't think of any specific one. Sorry to be pants.

    Have you ever been in debt yourself?

    Pre-university I took a year off and worked which helped me save for Uni. When I was there those savings helped me through, though I took out a student loan - so that was my first time in debt. I then worked for two years in financial PR before I went to do my postgrad.

    During the last year of that, I knew I was going to do the postgrad, so I deliberately put aside half my disposable income to save for the 9 months of the course. While on the course I'd taken a career development loan, but actually never needed it and just stoozed the cash.

    After my postgrad I was lucky enough to get a job (at the BBC) which started on the Monday after the course'd finished on the Friday (from memory). I think that was the only time I ever went genuinely into overdraft for that month until I got my first pay.

    Do you ever think that the site will kill "Golden Geese", e.g. will we see the death of rate tarting and stoozing because of too many people on the band wagon?

    Loopholes are always closed. It's the nature of them. Rate tarting has already been hit by the growing savviness of consumers. I do think the volume of MoneySavers will and does impact the marketplace, yet it’s still on the periphery. It's my great hope that we increase financial and debt literacy so that card and other companies need to change their offers. Though I wouldn't call this killing the golden goose, I'd call it laying a golden egg.

    What is your vision of the future for the site? What are your goals?

    Well the big change to come is a redesign - so people can find the info better. I want the site to be really easy to use so people can find the info at speed and easily. I want more tools on the site (one or two are underway) and to keep building the articles to an ever wider subject range.

    As for growth, I'm addicted to my "email numbers" which details how many people get the email. I have a graph on my computer I update daily, with lots of rolling averages of the numbers. It's a really sad nerdy thing... but it’s a huge ambition of mine to reach more people, and stop them having companies take money out of their pockets.

    Currently there are 665,000 people on the email, a million would be incredible, so that's my next target.

    Do you have any thoughts on how to balance shopping ethically and saving money, and whether this is likely to lead to a problem for ethically-minded MSE-ers in the future?

    It's my belief that environmental change takes two elements.... the first is government and regulatory change.... the second is personal action. Yet I think for those who are financially uncomfortable, making the effort to be green is very tough, and thus in many ways simply showing people how to be better MoneySavers enables them to make more green choices.

    When it comes to the environmental impact of MoneySaving itself, this is a difficult one. Of course cheaper can sometimes mean other factors such as environmental impact are forgotten. Yet I don't believe there's necessarily a conflict.

    E.g. showing people how to get a cheap flight could mean they fly more. It can also mean they fly the same number of times but pay less. I have recently thought perhaps of including details of carbon emission offsetting in the article and may do so at next main rewrite.

    Yet the techniques of MoneySaving don't preclude being environmental. It is simply a criterion that people must include in their search for the perfect product. E.g. I want the cheapest energy becomes I want the cheapest green energy.

    Do you remember your very first money-saving/enterprising activity? Mine for example was waking up at 6am and collecting seafood, then selling it at a local market when I was around 9...

    Also, I know it's cheeky but I've spotted spellos in the weekly e-mails, if you don't have a proof-reader - can I be one!

    Actually in a way I question whether your example is MoneySaving or entrepreneurial. It's not a criticism, more of a definition. For me MoneySaving is about being a better consumer. Entreprise while not conflicting, is for me something different - it's MoneyMaking.

    My first MoneySaving memory would be realising that it was cheaper to get the sweets I liked when I went with my Dad to the cash & carry/Makro and take them into school with me, rather than buying them at the tuck shop. Can't remember how old I was though....

    As for proof readers... I have them, as my spelling is notoriously poor.... and their wrists should be slapped for such errors ;)

    (Without naming names) Have any of the "big boy" companies tried to lean on your website and apply pressure to try to protect their extensive profit margins?

    Amalgamated with

    Do you get hate mail from the big companies? And do they refuse your business when they find out who you are?

    When I write, I do so as a journalist and am diligent to check out that I am within the law. The companies accept me, I think, as a necessary evil, so have never put pressure on. They used to call a lot to try and 'sell me the merits of their product', but these days after loosing my tongue, they tend only to do that if it's something plausibly decent that I would be interested in.

    As a customer I tend to get better rather than worse service if the press office are aware of who I am, as self-evidently I have a direct line to negative publicity. In fact I'd rarely ever write on my own story. If there's a problem, I'd call up a journalist I know and tell them the story - and when it’s written, depending on what it is ask for it to be anonymous.

    The real time they put pressure on is about things in the forum. Stories of poor service, or voucher codes. Often they come in hard with legal threats and this is one of the most difficult things to deal with. Sometimes I fight; sometimes I consider the issue isn't big enough.

    Unfortunately part of the deal when I don’t is usually that the posts come down and nothing further is written. Posters can then get upset that their post has been deleted without explanation. Without realising the site is under threat from a legal suit about something minor or some rude words.

    Yet sometimes, where I feel it is in the consumer interest, and the consumer is right, I spend money on my own lawyers and tell them to bog off! Please don't ask for any details about the above, by the nature of it I can't say much.

    Only once have I ever been genuinely scared by legal threats, it was truly hideous and brought me to my knees, but in the end I believed I was doing the right thing and took the decision to fight. It was all ok in the end. Unfortunately I can't tell you any more about that!

    Do you have a good relationship with your bank, and have they ever said anything to you about you supporting us (ConsumerActionGroup) in helping people recover unlawful bank charges?

    I bank online, so I have no relationship with it and nothing's ever been said about the CAG.

    Are you asked more frequently for your autograph now?

    I'm very very rarely asked for autographs, maybe 10 times in my life. However I am stopped and spoken to much more freely now. In London it usually happens five or six times a week. If I'm outside London it's much more frequent - a number of times a day.

    People are usually very friendly and say a variety of "it's you isn't it?", "you're the money man?", "you're off the telly aren't you?", "I just want to thank you for saving me money", "I love your website I get the email", "would you mind if I asked you a quick question about my mortgage/credit card etc?"

    People are usually very nice and I don't mind. Occasionally it can be a bit difficult. E.g. 9.30pm after doing a 14 hours day, in the supermarket to pick up dinner as I've been away filming for four days, and a women starts to cry as she sees me saying "you have to help me, please" and wanting a full money makeover to save her and her kids. It's a very difficult moment.

    And in a similar vein, what impact does your fame/infamy have on your life? apart from invites to all the right parties, what other perks does it bring?
    Infamy!!! ;)Not that much to be honest. Many of my friends are journalists - so it makes no difference to them. I don't get that many party invites, when I do they're fun, but not really. There really aren't that many more perks - occasionally I now get first class travel paid for by whomever I'm working for, but not too much more.

    I suspect you have to be a lot more famous than me for that to happen. There are some negatives though - it makes you very self conscious whenever you're out - aware of the impression you're giving.

    You must have met a few MPs by now and realised that despite having floated to the top, they aren't necessarily super-human. They need all the assistance they can get, so when are you going to write a budget for the Chancellor to plagiarise?

    I wouldn't have a clue where to start. I often get asked this question and actually that's such a different discipline. Where I do speak to politicians, when I get the chance, and some of the things I would love to rewrite are legislation involving debts, and financial services issues....

    I direct people here on a weekly if not daily basis and have done since joining in March, but the more I send here the more people with financial problems that by far out do my own I find. Don't you ever find it disheartening that MSE don't reach the same amount of people that those dreaded loan adds (boo hiss) on telly do?

    Yes terribly, and I've often thought I'd love to do an ad for the CAB, CCCS and National Debtline. I'd more than happily give my time, but funding the ad budget is the problem - it'd cost millions and those agencies (nor I) have it!

    We're getting there though... slowly, thankfully. The more people who tell others about the site, the better we do.

    Do you cut coupons and use them even if you do not buy the product, on the basis that someone else will buy it and not use a coupon?

    Occasionally. If they're acceptable. This is one of those areas where these days I’m a bit weary. It's a bit like when I walk in a shop and the person behind the counter says, "ah its you, I bet you're going to try and haggle with me, not here you won't!”

    So did you take your early job at Brunswick expressly to learn the power of the corporate "dark side”? Or did the power of the dark side you saw at Brunswick shock you into changing tack?

    I wish I’d been clever enough to pre-think it. I went to Brunswick because I was offered the job and it sounded interesting. Sir Peter Parker was the Chairman of the LSE Court of Governors which I sat on when I was President (General Secretary) of the Students Union. I won a big debate there about student representation on the standing committee of the Uni - students had lost for the previous twenty odd years and I managed, somehow, to turn it round.

    After that meeting he said to me "I think you should meet my son - he could use someone like you." His son turned out to be Alan Parker who owns Brunswick and I was offered a job. It was an amazing opportunity as I was very young to go straight in there as an exec after Uni - so I jumped at it.

    While I was there I learned a lot, and was doing reasonably well, but realised it wasn't what I was about - I was on the wrong side of the debate for me and thus decided that I needed to get out.

    Can I ask, does your long-term plan/vision hope to include a solution to the lack of any one-on-one non-profit debt help and guidance?

    It's something that’s often on my mind, but I've not yet found an easy and do-able solution!

    What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

    Well, my grandma was always very keen to ensure I wore clean underwear and that's never done me wrong!

    However I think perhaps the one I remember most was a piece of career advice. When I was doing my sabbatical year as president of my Uni, the Director (would be Vice Chancellor anywhere else) was a chap called Dr. John Ashworth. We always personally got on well, even though disagreed on policy over many things.

    Towards the end of my year (before the job offer above) I was speaking to him about careers and asked what on earth I should do. He'd had (and has since) an illustrious range of jobs e.g. Chief Govt Science Officer, Chair of the British Library, Director of Sainsbury and Granada and his answer was "don't worry about jobs and careers, try to grab skills where ever you are".

    I always remembered this and it was later that I found that skills learned from being Uni President, working for Brunswick, doing stand-up, journalistic training, working on summer camp in the USA, being a caravan awning salesman, being a Beeb reporter/producer have all massively helped what I do now. I would never have thought it - but often refer back to skills acquired in this variety of things in my current work.



    SouthScouser's Original Question

    I posted this on the other thread so ignore that one! :D

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

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

    And do you use Quidco? :D
  • 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?

    What's the most expensive thing you've ever bought yourself?
  • NileNile Forumite
    14.9K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper Photogenic
    I know that you're very proud of the MSE site. It's grown so much and helped so many people.:T

    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?:o :D
    Hi, I'm the Board Guide on the In my home (includes DIY) and the I wanna buy-it or do-it boards which means I volunteer to help get your forum questions answered and keep the forum running smoothly. However, do remember that Board Guides don't read every post. If you spot an inappropriate or illegal post then please report it to [email protected]. It is not part of my role to deal with reportable posts. Any views are mine and are not the official line of

    10 Dec 2007 - Led Zeppelin - I was there. :j :cool2: I wear my 50 (gold/red/white) blood donations pin badge with pride. Give blood, save a life.
  • Oooh I've got another one! Shall I sit at the front of the class? ;) (that wasn't the question btw :rolleyes: )

    Can you tell us a bit more about The MSE Charity Fund you are setting up? What are the reasons and thinking behind it? :D
  • heres one martin

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


    ps thats the first scrabble question not the second one!
  • divadeedivadee Forumite
    10.6K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    Nile wrote:
    IMy 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?:o :D

    ooo good question nile, they were good old days wernt they? i miss the sin bin :D
  • emilytemilyt Forumite
    2.1K Posts
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    My question to you is who inspired you to be good with money. Did you start at an early age. Was you always encouraged to be a money saver.

    Also i do hope your realise how addictive your site is.
    Thankyou Martin.
    When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile :D
  • pinpin Forumite
    4.3K Posts
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    Can I ask a question to Martin, "what has been your best ever money saving tip?"
    "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind" - Mahatma Gandhi
  • joannasmumjoannasmum Forumite
    1.1K Posts
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    My question is. Is there anybody you have worked with on TV who is really irritating or has really not "got" moneysaving. Obviously you dont have to name name's unless you really want to. ;)
    Sorting my life out one day at a time
  • MSE_MartinMSE_Martin Money Saving Expert MoneySaving Expert
    8.3K Posts
    second Lot Of Questions Now Done

    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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