Interview with Martin Lewis by Jack Ross
Standing alongside celebrity ambassadors at the Ideal Home Show 2014 including George Clarke, Melinda Messenger, Laurence Llewelyn Bowen and Diamuid Gavin, thrifty finance expert Martin Lewis was on hand to offer fiscal advice to visitors. We got an insight into his tense relationship with the banks, how people can avoid throwing away cash, and how to avoid a dangerous cash scam…
When it comes to money, Martin Lewis doesn't mince his words. The Mancunian financial journalist who went on to create MoneySavingExpert.com has made a living on using language as currency, and the language of his financial advice website sold for £87 million in 2012. So, it's fair to say he knows what he's talking about. Talking at the opening of this year's Ideal Home Show at Earls Court, Lewis tore voraciously into our chat regarding a subject close to his heart – Do banks do enough to help people with their finances?
"A bank's job is to sell to you," he stresses. "Not to help you, not to advise you. Yes, you need to communicate with them when you encounter problems, because you have a contractual relationship with them. But the concept that a bank is there to help someone is not a good one, and if you think in those terms you will make the wrong decision. So, you have to devise your own needs, not follow its needs."
Labelled on his Wikipedia page as the "Consumer Champion", Lewis' mission has always been to give sound financial advice to the everyday British citizen. The subject of where to save money is such a broad one that a simple "where can people save money?" inquiry seems simplistic, but when it comes down to the basics, there is one outstanding area in which most people quite literally throw their money away…
"The fact that we each throw £600 worth of food away every year is just a horrendous, horrendous waste. One of the simple things is that many people don't know the difference between is the two key/crucial supermarket labels: 'Use By' and 'Best Before'. Let's remember – 'Use By' is a health notice to you. If something is beyond its 'Use By' date, you need to chuck it in the bin. 'Best Before' is the manufacturer's guide to optimum quality. All it means is, this item will be in its best-possible condition before this date. The day after a 'Best Before,' it's still perfectly legitimate to eat.
"Use your nose to smell it, use your eyes to look at it, use your sense to decide whether it's right for you. Diminishing that waste is not just good for your pocket, but good for our entire environment considering that we're shipping food from abroad, which then goes into bins!"
One of the more difficult things about modern purchases, often done online, is making sure that you are getting the most for your money and importantly, know exactly who you are buying from. Lewis explained the dangers of wandering into untrustworthy online sales.
"The point of any form of scam is to check who you're dealing with. If you're dealing with Tesco.com it's no different from dealing with Tesco the superstore. But if you're dealing with Boowacka.com, who you've never heard of, then you've got to ask the question: Who are these people? Now, it may be that you found them through somebody trusted; if you were to go to my website and we told you about a company, you will know that we have checked it out and therefore you've got an implicit trust there…
"However, beware Google. Google is dangerous. It's great if you know what you're looking for, but if you go through Google and renew a passport licence right now, for example, in those adverts at the top you'll find mostly copycat websites which will charge you extra money that you don't need to pay for getting your passport. They're often not the official passport office.
"So, always know who you are going to and don't assume that because it's on Google that it's legitimate!"
The online expert may be in the thick of a complex financial world, but his overall message is simple: common sense can save you money.
We spoke to Martin Lewis at the Ideal Home Show, London. The Ideal Home Show Scotland takes place 23 May – 26 May , SEC Glasgow. Tickets are available from http://www.idealhomeshowscotland.co.uk/