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Unbelievable! A news presenter just admitted on air ‘I don’t understand a thing about politics!’

Unbelievable! A news presenter just admitted on air ‘I don’t understand a thing about politics!’

I was just listening to the radio. A news presenter had just had a point about economics explained (rather well) by the in-house correspondent. Yet he replied, with an almost audible shrug of his shoulders and a laughing lilt in his voice, by saying: "I don’t understand a thing about finance." 

Now, apologies for deliberately mistitling this blog. But had I headlined it with "finance" instead of "politics", would it still have piqued your interest? That’s the problem! No presenter would ever say that about a politics or crime story, so why is it acceptable even for the supposed bastions of incisive journalism to joke about their own financial illiteracy?

This has happened to me a good number of times in my career. I’ve had interviewers look down the camera, in a way seemingly complicit with the viewer, and say: "I hope you understood that, as I never really got ISAs." Now apart from the professional discourtesy of this – saying that in effect my explanation didn’t make sense – it plays into the hands of the idea that the world of money is some type of ghetto that "normal people" don’t get. What rubbish.

If you don’t get ISAs, then learn! As a news presenter it’s your job to at least understand the basics of consumer finance, business and economics. If you’re not capable of it, perhaps look for a different profession.

In fact, invariably the reason the presenter doesn’t understand is because they haven’t listened – they’ve zoned out, or someone has spoken to them in their ear piece and they cover it with a gag about their lack of money interest. Yet again I ask – would they make the same gag about politics?

It’s time this changed. Perhaps the last great taboo in the UK is to talk about money – let alone show any interest in it. Those of us who do are mocked as "knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing" as if being educated and interested in money matters means you can’t have an emotional IQ as well.


PS: I’ve changed a few of the words and facts here to keep it anonymised as my aim in writing this blog isn’t to shame an individual, but rather to expose a common attitude.

Top 10 blogs 2014 – from a ‘Zara trick’ to ‘My five rules for a happy relationship’ and ‘Erudio sell out’

Here are my top 10 blogs by numbers of readers from 2014

No spiel, no chatter – just in true nerd style a list. Here are my top 10 blogs by numbers of readers from 2014. 

1. Does the Santander 123 3% interest beat the top cash ISA?

2. Buy Zara clothes at a fraction of the cost, and get a flight thrown in

3. The trick to access every network’s signal from your mobile

4. The UK’s mortgage ticking time bomb… Mr Osborne will you help?

5. Get 5% interest on your ISA money

6. Don’t shorten your mortgage term if you can overpay

7. My five rules for a happy relationship

8. The Chancellor’s pension changes are both wonderful and horrid

9. The Government has sold people out over Erudio student loans

10. The real reason why companies offer ‘a month’s free trial’

Can you believe what the bank tells you?

Can you believe what the bank tells you?

Can you believe what the bank tells you?

Rushing between filming and meetings last week, I got into a cab to be greeted by a driver who’d got both PPI and bank charges back after reading guides on this site. He told me he had a very simple question to ask: "Can you believe what the bank tells you?"

In light of the number of scandals, including the PPI scandal – where more than £20 billion was mis-sold, sometimes by deliberately lying and misleading customers, encouraged from the very top – it’s easy to say no.

However, I think the answer these days is a little bit less straightforward.

In a nutshell I would suggest you can trust a bank on a matter of fact, but should be more wary on matters of opinion.

So ask a bank "what is my balance?", "how much does a CHAPS payment cost?", "do the records show I ever had a credit card with you?" – in general you’ll get an answer you should believe. 

Of course as with every profession, people make mistakes, so I’m not suggesting it’s infallible. Yet for these type of questions I don’t think that in the current regulatory regime (and even to give some credit to the fact the sector itself has changed) there will be an aim to give you an incorrect answer.

Yet if you ask something subjective, be careful. Bank scripts and structures are still set up to give opinions that benefit them.

Ask "was I mis-sold?" – and while some will play fair, others will still sometimes answer "no", even in lucid knowledge that if you took your case to the Financial Ombudsman, you’d get a "yes". 

Equally, when discussing whether a product its flogging is worth it for you, necessary or cheap – like all sales institutions, don’t expect to always get a reply which is solely in your interest.

Am I being too cynical, or not cynical enough? I’d love your views and experiences below.

MoneySavingExpert voted one of the UK’s top 10 ‘brands’

MoneySavingExpert voted one of the UK’s top 10 brands

MoneySavingExpert voted one of the UK’s top 10 'brands'

We’ve had some good news in MSE Towers this week – again we’ve been voted one of the UK’s top 10 ‘brands’ in the YouGov Brand Buzz Index.

We’ve actually been in the top 10 a couple of times before (see MoneySavingExpert: a stronger brand than iTunes) but not for one or two years, (bouncing around the periphery I suspect) so it’s great to have re-entered the charts. 

These brands were rated using the YouGov Brand Index ‘Buzz score’, which asks respondents: "If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?"

The Buzz Rankings chart shows the brands with the highest average Buzz scores between January and December 2014 and these scores are representative of the general population.

And our entry

(10) (new entry)
As Britain continues to emerge from economic difficulty, the rate at which this reaches the pockets of ordinary people is less clear. The desire to acquire the best deal still remains and the website is a great outlet for consumers to identify one. Martin Lewis, the face of the company, is very visible on television, helping to boost the website’s profile.

The results from the 2014 Buzz Index are as follows:

UK Top Buzz Rankings

Rank Brand 2014 Score
1 Aldi 26.3
2 Lidl 20.3
3 John Lewis 18.3
4 BBC iPlayer 18.0
5 Dyson 14.0
6 Waitrose 13.1
7 11.6
8 Netflix 11.3
9 Marks and Spencer 11.3
10 11

What is really interesting to see is that MSE is considerably smaller in terms of workforce compared to the other entities mentioned, with just under 90 employees rather than the 1,000s or 10,000s which I suspect the others employ. We don’t have a ‘brand manager’ – actually we don’t really think about ourselves as a ‘brand’ at all – we just focus all of our efforts on our main goal of saving people money.

I’m delighted that we hit this having just hit more than 10 million people on our weekly email list – rock on Tommy!

12 important questions I have for Peppa Pig

A dozen important questions I have for Peppa Pig

A dozen important questions I have for Peppa Pig

In the last six months Peppa Pig has become an important part of my life. Baby MSE is only allowed to watch TV (max 15 mins a day) when we watch it with her, so it’s a social activity – and its Daddy’s job to do so. That means as she loves the little pink girl, I’m getting close-to-PhD level knowledge in piggery.

Now, while I may be accused of somewhat overanalysing what is a pre-school TV show, I believe there are some things we have the right to know.

  1. Why isn’t George called Paul?
  2. In every single other case in the children’s series, names are alliterative – Rebecca Rabbit, Candy Cat, Pedro Pony. Even Mrs Zebra has daughter Zoe and twins Zuzu and Zaza. Yet uniquely, Peppa’s brother is George Pig.

  3. Why can only the mammals speak?
  4. The sheep, pigs, ponies, gazelle, squirrels and more are all anthropomorphised, talking away and living in homes. Even the random Mr Potato can talk. Yet ducks, parrots, spiders and others are simple animal life. Why such discrimination?

  5. Why don’t the rabbit family live in a house?
  6. The fox lives in a house, the pigs, sheep and more. Yet the anomalous (or more accurately animalous) rabbits for some reason live in a burrow.

  7. Why do Peppa’s cousins refer to their parents as Uncle and Aunt Pig?
  8. When Peppa’s cousins come and visit, their parents are referred to as Uncle and Aunty Pig. Surely this is outrageously Peppa-centric. Those children have a right to a mummy and daddy too.

  9. Is Miss Rabbit in a union?
  10. This poor doe seems to do every single job going; she pilots the helicopter, works the supermarket checkout, drives the train and is ticket clerk at every venue from the ice rink to the aquarium and more.

    Frankly it’s a labour relations disgrace – her work ethic is being abused – and certainly she falls foul of the Working Time Directive (never mind the fact that surely there are huge pay ranges in those jobs, shouldn’t she be focusing on just a few?).

    No surprise she’s still single…

  11. Can Miss Rabbit ever become a mummy?
  12. Her twin sister is Mummy Rabbit and she has four children. Unlike Peppa (see above) they refer to their aunt as Miss Rabbit not Aunty Rabbit.

    I do fear greatly for her – what happens if she meets a hunky buck (or doe)? I suspect she is incapable of having a family of her own because her twin sister already has the title. 

  13. Is the darker side of animals’ predatory nature truly hidden just beneath the surface?
  14. When Grandpa Pig is putting the chickens away in the hen house, who should amble along to say goodnight? No one but Mr Fox. He exchanges pleasantries with Daddy Pig, who sends him off with a firm goodnight.

    In the aquarium episode, who should the pig family meet there? Yes it’s the cat family who repeatedly tell us "we like fish" with a wicked glint in their eyes – little pussies!

  15. Where are Daddy Pig’s parents?
  16. Grampy and Grandma Pig are Mummy Pig’s parents. We never hear reference to Daddy Pig’s family. Have they been apple sauced?

  17. Is Daddy Pig channelling Lauren Bacall’s seduction?
  18. While teaching Peppa to whistle, Daddy Pig tells her to "Put her lips together and blow". Nuff said.

  19. Are some of the animals taking growth repressants?
  20. All the animals are the same size – elephant, pig, donkey, sheep, rabbit. Surely this is a perversion of nature?

  21. Why isn’t the Queen called Queen Human?
  22. In this animalistic world, bizarrely, our own Queen still appears. There is no reference of her humanity though she clearly is a human being. Surely she should be Queen Human. Does our species not merit a mention like the others?

  23. Where did Grampy Rabbit’s cheese fetish come from?
  24. Without doubt my favourite character is Grampy Rabbit. His song "Woke up this morning, the sea was still there, and so was the sky. The sea. The sky. The sea. The sky" should be up there among the Stock, Aitken, Waterman classics for catchiness – plus his literally blessed voice.

    He has a huge penchant for cheese, but why? All the other rabbits are solely carrot focused. At one meal they had carrot soup to start, carrots for main and of course carrot cake for dessert. So where on earth has Grampy Rabbit’s cheese fetish (or fetaish) come from?

I shall stop there, without asking why all the houses are on hills or even what the rules are to the rather boring looking Happy Chicken game. Peppa is a much loved character, in my view the lack of drama and hum-drum normality is what truly appeals to little ones – but even so, I demand answers.

Your thoughts below please…