Archive for the ‘The Site’ Category

Read letters from blind children to Santa 2012

Read letters from blind children to Santa

Read letters from blind children to Santa

If you, like me, are a soppy git, you may just enjoy this. Each year we help spread the word in our Free Santa Letters guide that the RNIB has special elves, which help the giant with the white beard reply in Braille and other visually impaired-friendly ways.

As a thank-you, the RNIB has given its kind permission to share some of these beautiful notes with you again (read Letters to Santa 2011). It’s real evidence of the great work this much-needed charity does.

Names and minor details have been changed for privacy.

Warning: Some of you, like me, may find you’re allergic to these letters – the prime symptom of which is watery eyes.

Dear Father Christmas,

My name is Madison and my Granny is helping me to send a letter on her computer. If you can write to me in large print I would be very pleased. I am 8-years-old and have a twin sister called Samantha.

We are very excited because we are going to a cottage for Christmas in Cornwall. On Thursdays I go horse riding at a Riding for Disabled centre. We get a letter from you every year and you always tell us amazing stories about what you’ve been doing during the last year, but I have never sent a letter to you on the internet. 

Your letters always make us laugh and we would love to visit you to be able to see the place you always describe to us. We send all our love to you and your wife and all the elves. All the reindeers too."


To Santa,

My name is Luke. I hope you are ok and the reindeers are not getting too fat. I would like for Xmas a Manchester United scooter, football socks and a wrestling game. Thank you.

(Note from Martin – I came very close to editing this out for child cruelty with regards to the MU-branded items, but on balance have left it in.)

I will leave a mince pie for you and some milk and a carrot for the reindeers.

(I am Luke’s mum, he is 8 years old and has uveitis disease, has auto immune disease and has problems with his bones. He’s had two operations and has a rough time but never complains and is extremely brave. He’s on chemo and lots of other nasty medication so a letter saying how brave he is would really be appreciated.

Thank you very much, Luke’s mum.)"  


Dear Santa,

I have been a really brave boy this year having lots of hospital appointments following congenital cataracts and now a recent operation for an iris cyst. I would really like a new bike for Christmas with a shiny red bell. Please can you make this possible?"


Dear Santa,

I am visually impaired and I’m in mainstream school. I have been very good this year. I have been helping my mum with my new baby brother. I go swimming every month. I have been helping with the housework. I want a 3DS and a new set of clothes, most of all I want a letter from Santa."


Dear Santa Claus,

Could you please send an audio CD to my grandson Benjamin who has been a very good boy this year? He is five years old and he spent the first three and a half years in hospital and so Christmases at home are very special. We will be buying him a garden swing as he loves the motion. Many thanks."


Hi there, we have a little blind girl at our school called Debbie, she will soon be 8-years-old and she has brailled a letter to Santa.

Her letter says:

Dear Santa, Please could you bring me a little trolly. Please could you bring me a xylophone? I would also like some chime bars. Thank you very much from Debbie.

We will take Debbie to the post office and post the letter.

Thank you very much."


Dear Santa,

I am writing for my granddaughter Kerry. She is 4-years-old and went blind at the age of two due to a brain tumour. Her mummy doesn’t know I’m writing, I would like this to be a surprise for Kerry and her mummy.

If you could send a letter on audio CD that would be lovely please. She is off to Great Ormond Street hospital for brain surgery in December so a letter from Santa would be lovely. Kerry likes doing puzzles with shapes and textures.

She loves keys and key rings and also dollies (babies) and anything educational. She really loves music and dancing.

Thank you so much in advance."


Dear Father Christmas,

I have been learning a lot of braille contractions and really enjoy having the knack of learning braille. I find it very fun and if I’m asked to do anything to do with braille, I will get on with it at the immediate time.

I appreciate that I am now fully blind so that I can have much joy with braille and no-one can stop me from taking pride in all of my braille work, so thanks for reading."


Dear Santa,

I hope you are well. My mummy is helping me by typing this letter as I am not very good at typing. My name is Daniel. As well as being blind I also have a condition called autism. I love Christmas and I am already very excited about it. This year I would like a musical drum and burping dinosaur as well as lots of chocolate!

I have been a good boy all year and mummy says she is especially proud of me for working so hard on learning braille. I promise to leave you a mince pie and a carrot for Rudolph. Thanks so much."


Dear Santa
I am writing this email for my son, Simon who is seven and has cerebral palsy. Simon can’t read or write and is visually impaired.

However, he is very excited about Santa and can’t wait for you to come to our house on Christmas Eve. As Simon can’t read it would be fantastic to have a reply on an audio CD.

We have just finished converting an area of our house to be suitable for Simon and his needs. What Simon would really like from Santa is some nice things for his new bedroom. Some sensory equipment would be lovely but anything at all would be fantastic.

Simon thinks he should avoid a lump of coal this year……….fingers crossed he is right! Many thanks Santa. Hope to hear from you soon."


Dear Santa Claus and his elves,

I would like to order a Christmas message on audio CD in English for my son.

He is 23 but has a learning disability as well as severe visual impairment and he would love to receive a special message from Santa. He especially likes going swimming and playing with balloons and is looking forward to spending Christmas at home with all the family. 

He is having an operation this week to try to repair a detached retina so will have even less sight than normal for a little while and a special Christmas message would really cheer him up. Many thanks."


Dear Santa,

Please could you send a CD letter to our grandson Barry. He is two and a half years old, suffers from severe cerebral palsy and epilepsy and is almost completely blind. Despite his problems he brings lots of joy to his Mummy and Daddy who work very hard to look after him.

We don’t see him very often so we aren’t sure what he would like for Christmas but I am sure he must have given you some clues when he visited you in Harrods recently! His Christmas list is sure to include pyjamas and pretty lights! Thank you, Nanny and Granddad."


Dear Santa,

My name is Jacob and my Daddy has ‘broken eyes’. I have been very good this year and am now in Year 1! I have been learning to read and write, so I can help my Daddy more. I am busy practicing for the School Play. I am playing Joseph this year. I would love to have a table football for Christmas. Thank you."


Dear Santa,

I am writing this for my brother Isaac who is nearly 4 and has difficulty with his sight. I wrote to you last year too. Isaac is going to draw a picture for you. For Christmas he wants a hamster. I had a hamster called Jet and it died. Now Isaac wants one of his own.

I hope you are getting things sorted for Christmas Eve. I still like Lego by the way. Isaac (and I) would love to hear a reply by audio please. Thank you."


Dear Santa,

I have been very good all year. I have been doing my physio in the morning and every night before sleep. I have been cleaning my teeth nicely. I was a good boy at the doctors having my flu jab today.

Please can you leave some of my presents in the games room? I will leave you a glass of milk, two mince pies (one for you to take home for Mrs Claus) and carrots for your reindeer.

Please can you ask your reindeer not to poo in our front room because they did last year and my dad had to clean it up! Please can you bring me a new computer as my computer keeps breaking down.

I like to play my games, go on YouTube and talk to my friends on Facebook. I have lots of photos to look at close up. I zoom faces in so I can see them.

Please can you bring me some music CDs, DVDs and singing toys? I would like another laughing Elmo and singing lion, hippo, monkey toys. Like the ones you gave me last year so I can play them altogether and give mum and dad a headache!

Mum will be in my bed, hiding under the covers when you visit as I get a bit scared when you come in my room. I did laugh last year when I heard you trip over my toys and when you flushed the toilet.

I know you are busy but if you get time, please can you play a quick game on my pool table? I will leave the balls out ready. You might hear me laughing if I’m awake and I hear you. Please send my love to Mrs Claus.

Can you please thank her for my Christmas tea towel she gave me last year. I am still using it when I have my dinner. Please send my love to Arthur and all the other little Elves. Say hello to the reindeer for me.

Love you."

25,000 helped out of debt crisis via one agency alone

25,000 helped out of debt crisis via one agency alone

25,000 helped out of debt crisis via one agency alone celebrated its 10th birthday on Friday. We received many kind tributes to the work we’ve done, but I was especially delighted to read this open letter from StepChange (CCCS as it used to be known).

Congratulations on’s 10th birthday!

It’s great to hear that the site, a British institution, has been running for a whole decade now. And in the same year that StepChange Debt Charity celebrates its 20th anniversary!

You’ve been at the vanguard of helping Britons save money on their credit, utilities, insurance and travel, among others. You’ve also been instrumental in a number of very important campaigns, most recently with reclaiming payment protection insurance (PPI) for free and getting financial education on the school curriculum.

But most importantly for StepChange Debt Charity, you’ve provided great help to many people in debt by signposting them to us to get the help they need for free. We’ve worked out that over the last 10 years has referred over 25,000 people, giving us the opportunity to recover their situations and transform their futures. We’re proud to have helped you and your visitors, and long may it continue.

Here’s to the next 10 years and all of the future subjects and campaigns will take the lead on. We’ll use some of the discount vouchers on the website and buy some (cheap) bubbly to help celebrate!

Best wishes…..

Gordon Bell

StepChange Debt Charity"

PS. If you’re struggling with debt, see our full Debt Crisis Help guide. was born 10 years ago today

It’s our birthday. On 22 February 2003, the switch was turned on for and its forum. There were 400 people on my Martin’s Money Tips email list back then, and I was just about to get my big break on ITV’s This Morning.

A bit like the Queen, this is our official birthday. But the very first incarnation of MSE was in late July 2002 (click the image to visit the old site). version 1 version 1

But that was nothing more than a homepage, although it did get some traffic, especially due to my email (read the history of the email), so I decided to turn it into something proper.

By the time it was built, it was February, and it even had the first version of the forum – a Yabb bulletin board – and off we went (click the image to visit the old site). version 2 version 2

The take-up was huge. The email list exploded. By April there were 10,000 on the email list. By the end of the year, 44,000. Now, there are 7.8 million. 

Even then though, when working in my bedroom/living room on the site as a sideline for my broadcast and print Money Saving Expert work (which I first started back in 2000), I think I would’ve gawped if you’d shown me this picture of the team today: team team

The site has come a long way and I’d be very disappointed if the amount people have saved or reclaimed wasn’t in the tens of billions of pounds. 

We’re getting on for 50 talented members of the team, have overtaken M&S in the trusted brand league tables, and have become a firm part of the consumer landscape – consulted by politicians, charities, and most especially, consumers.

I’m sorry I couldn’t give everyone a piece of the cake (we celebrated in the office yesterday afternoon as I’m out filming today).

Birthday cake

Birthday cake

Yet if you get a moment this weekend, do raise a glass to this website – the millions of people who’ve contributed to it in our forum, the great team and those it’s helped.  

With or without me (I’m not going anywhere, but I now gratefully believe the site could still thrive even if I did) may still be thriving and fighting people’s corner in 10 years’ time.


“I tricked my daughter into downshifting”

For years, I’ve banged on about the Downshift Challenge – trying one brand level lower of everything you buy to see if you can tell the difference. If you can’t, then you stick with the cheaper version.

One of the most powerful areas for this is in non-food items like cleaning products, shampoos, bath products, etc. After all, you’re not tasting them.

Yet whenever I’ve done programmes on this, it’s always been the teens who object the most – after all, branding is always boosted by peer pressure. 

So I love the email and photo Nicola W just sent me (she’s given permission for me to reproduce it).

My 16-year-old daughter insists I buy her Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner.

"The last two times she needed new ones, I bought Morrisons own brand at a fraction of the cost and refilled her bottles. Has she noticed? Not a chance."

"I tricked my daughter into downshifting"

"I tricked my daughter into downshifting"

Update: I’ve been thinking about this a bit more and reading the feedback, which suggests many people do this. In which case, is it not worth revealing this to your kids? Explaining they didn’t notice the difference and talking through branding with them?

You could explain how one reason branded goods are more expensive, is because of the huge promotion and cost of brand-building. Teach kids to be independent-minded in their purchases and test them to do this, rather than believing the hype. This way, hopefully you get to keep saving money, but also give a valuable bit of financial education.

Not even a mention, Mr Gove? Plus breaking the quiet carriage rules due to Financial Education tip off

Not even a mention, Mr Gove? Plus breaking the quiet carriage rules due to Financial Education tip off

Not even a mention, Mr Gove? Plus breaking the quiet carriage rules due to financial education tip off

I still can’t quite believe it. Financial education is going to be part of the national curriculum (see the MSE News story). I found out sitting on a London to Manchester train at 9.58am yesterday – 90 minutes before it happened.

I must admit I broke the quiet carriage rules with an involuntary "yessss", to receive a suitably stern look from the Spanish lady sitting opposite me.

The Department for Education gave me a call to say there’d be an announcement in the House at 11.30am (partly as it was my e-petition last year that forced the debate). 

I kept calm and asked for a statement to see what it really was. I was expecting a damp squib mention. Yet what I saw was getting on for a huge chunk of what we asked for in the APPG report (which, I’m very proud that MSE funded – not what was said, but paying for the facilities). It was at this point I yessssed.

Financial education is to be a core part of citizenship, which crucially is a compulsory part of the national curriculum – therefore every maintained school must teach it. Exactly what we’ve wanted.

Not even a mention, Mr Gove?

By the time I arrived at Radio 5 Live before my regular Thursday Consumer Panel slot, the Education Secretary Michael Gove was making his announcement in the Commons – it was all about the much-vaunted change of mind over GCSE scrapping. 

Sadly he didn’t even mention financial education. While the fact it’s happening at all is wonderful and the most important thing; it’s slightly frustrating for those of us who’ve been campaigning for so long that the change came without even a Hansard footnote. (Strange really – it’s a no-brainer, a hugely popular change – I’m surprised he didn’t lead with it and take political capital from it.)

On the back of the announcement, sadly the media coverage has been less than I’d hoped (barring me pushing to get it out) – nothing on any main TV news bulletin, a shame for the 118,000 who signed the petition and made this happen.

So we made a quick call back to the Department to check it hadn’t changed its decision, then press-released it – to try to start the news flow.  

This will change maths too

It was while on air at Radio 5 that I found out we’d also made a dent in Maths too – which had been part of our two-pronged focus.

Now, for the first time, the term "financial mathematics" appears in key stages 3 and 4 of the maths curriculum. 

This means there is genuine recognition of the need for people to be able to calculate APRs and percentages and understand them (exactly what we pushed Education Minister Liz Truss for last week – thank you for listening).

I think that will not only be a boon for financial education, but also for maths itself – helping out with basic numerical problems. While theoretical maths puts many off the subject, talk to them about the cash in their pockets and they get it. So taught well, I hope this will make maths more appealing.

Of course this is still at proposal stage, and we’ll be submitting to that, but we’re pretty confident that now it’s in the proposal, it’ll be tough to get it out.

An important PS
. In my blog a few weeks ago on What’s happening to my Β£10m donation? I wrote that I wanted a chunk of the money to go towards helping financial education. This announcement has changed the game somewhat, so we need to act quicker. 

As such, I’m going to donate Β£100,000 of it to the charity Pfeg. I haven’t told the chief exec of the charity yet, as I know she’ll read this blog and the naughty boy in me quite likes the idea of her finding out, as she reads a PS.