Christmas is finally over and for many this means a lack of money until at least February’s pay cheque. When researching into what to write about for this issue’s ‘Money Matters’ section, I thought, ‘how could I make it different from the others?’ Additionally, I knew I would feel bad if I bombarded our readers with what they should have done straight after spending all that money during the Christmas period.!!
My passion for saving money came from watching programmes and reading articles that have the aim of teaching us how to save those extra pennies. Whilst reminiscing, I thought it would be excellent to interview renowned financial expert, journalist and TV presenter Jasmine Birtles. Read on to learn more about her creation www.moneymagpie.com, find out about Jasmine herself and what the reasons were behind her getting on top of her finances and what other ventures she has planned over the coming months.
How did your love for giving money saving tips to the public come about?
JB: It was when I was in debt myself. I’ve always been freelance and always over-optimistic about how much money I could make so in 1998 I found myself £10,000 in debt.
Coincidentally, it was at that point that the BBC Business unit asked me to do some shifts for them. I was only supposed to be there for a few days but I loved it from the first day there. I was reading articles on money management and how credit and investments work and I had a light bulb moment. I realised that money is not the difficult, complicated, worrying thing it seems. In fact, managing your money is quite straightforward and based on common sense. It’s just that the way it was explained by the banks and even in financial articles, it seemed like something big, scary and off-putting.
I decided then and there that I would make it my business to explain money in a fun and accessible way so that everyone can understand it.
You created lifestyle-based website in 2007, moneymagpie.com, which I read absolutely every day. How do you find fresh, relevant content to keep it update with the forever changing economy?
JB: Good woman! I’m so glad you read it every day because we have new articles, bargains and tips every day.
Thankfully, I have a fantastic team who help me update the site daily. It’s not easy I can tell you because there’s so much to say and we cover so many topics!
The lovely Lauren Forbes and Whitney Hurst negotiate new bargains and they put them on our Facebook page too (http://www.facebook.com/moneymagpie). Jo Robinson, Paul Prowse, Roz Sanderson and Carl Brennand work on the editorial, newsletters, eBooks and more. I really couldn’t do it without them. It’s a mammoth task, particularly as we are doing more and more video content for the site now as well.
What was the inspiration behind creating your own website?
JB: I started it because I wanted a money site that was fun, colourful and covered money-making as well as money-saving.
No one else at the time seemed to realise that we need a holistic approach to money. It’s not just about fiddling around with numbers or cutting back on your shopping, it’s also about setting goals for your life and working out how you’re going to fund those goals and also it’s about making extra cash where you can so that you can afford more in your life.
Having been freelance for a few years I knew all about making money on the side – I even wrote a book about it called ‘A Bit on the Side: 500 Ways to Boost Your Income’ (Piatkus). I think it’s something that everyone should do, particularly if they’re struggling on the income they have now.
So I set up Moneymagpie to cover all your money questions – from saving and bargains to investing and making cash on the side.
You have contributed to many shows from Working Lunch, This Morning and The Wright Stuff. How does it differ from giving practical financial advice than on your website?
JB: Mainly time. TV and radio give you about three minutes to get your message across. If you’re lucky! There’s only so much you can get in, in that time so you have to try to give the most important points and that’s all.
On the website we can write as much as we like, put in pictures, diagrams, videos and links to other pages or other websites that give more detailed help. It’s more work but it’s also more helpful.
Some may argue that saving money is so boring and people do not have the time to research products and shop around as everyday life is increasingly becoming more hectic. What are your views on this matter?
JB: Well that’s what we’re here for! We do the comparing and searching so that our readers don’t have to.
However, I think it’s still possible for people to do a bit of research here and there and a bit of hunting in their day-to-day lives. It’s just about changing our habits. It’s like people who say they’re too busy or too tired to cook when they get home. Well how much effort is it really to chop a carrot and stick a lamb chop under the grill? When you get used to it, it doesn’t seem like a problem anymore. We just need to change our habits of thought to live in a way that’s actually better for us.
Not content with presenting and running moneymagpie.com, you are also the author of 39 books. Why do you think you have been so successful in the competitive book industry, where others have failed?
JB: I think I worked out early on that it is a business like any other and that you have to think about what people really want to read and why.
I did a lot of joke books in the 90s and I realised quite quickly that people bought them as presents – often instead of a box of chocolates – so I started to think of subjects that people would give to their friends. I learnt this after I did a book of dieting jokes and it bombed. No one likes to give a present to a friend that basically says they’re fat!
Then when I wrote more money books in the ‘Naughties’, I thought about what people really needed to know for themselves and what they were asking me about. That was what gave me the ideas for those books.
What has been your biggest money saving advice for 2011?
JB: To pay off your mortgage, even though interest rates are low. Ultimately, it’s a big debt and the faster it is paid off the more you save and the earlier you get your freedom. Even if it means setting money aside in a savings account to slam into the mortgage when the very low fixed rate time ends, I have told people to do it. Once rates go up again, and they will at some point, those who have paid off their debts quickly will be laughing.
What savvy money saving tips would you give the in-spireLS readers for 2012?
The best long-term money-saving tip I can offer your readers is to get some money knowledge. With money, knowledge is power and if you just read a few articles here and there ideally read one of my books and listen to people who actually understand money you will quickly get into good habits and stop wasting your cash.
It’s like nutrition. You don’t have to be a qualified nutritionist to eat healthily but you do need some basic knowledge of food. Same with money – you don’t have to be a qualified financial adviser to be good with your money but you do need to have some basic knowledge about saving, spending, investing and where to go for good deals in order to run your money properly.
What is in the pipeline for Jasmine Birtles in the next few months?
JB: Lots more TV, radio and articles as ever! We are also launching ‘Jasmine’s World’ on Moneymagpie.com which will have an ‘Ask Jasmine’ section where you can ask me money questions and they will be answered. We will also have campaigns running in that section and a community area where readers can get more involved.
I’m also going to do more with my new business, Clevervideoproduction.tv, which makes online videos for all sorts of companies. It’s a fun business and I have lots of plans for it!
Keep up with Jasmine Birtles on TWITTER@Jasmine
Keep up with our Finance Editor LaToya Kadesha on TWITTER@Toyz305
W| Interview by LaToya Kadesha