Jasmine Birtles: saving money and getting value with groups

Date Posted: 11/11/2015

Money saving expert Jasmine Birtles delivered a seminar at The Group Leisure & Travel Show that gave groups a few tips on budgeting for breaks. We chatted to Jasmine after her session to find out more…

So how did you get into reporting and talking about money?

I had been doing a bit of feature and news journalism for film on four and the person who was running that moved on to business work and asked me to join in. The day before I went I was thinking what am I doing this for? But I loved it from the moment I got there. I was fascinated by it.   

Have you always been good with money?

I don’t have a maths or economics background. I did English at university and I was a bit of a lovie. I liked words, not so much numbers. I was in debt when I started. But I learnt as I went. I soon discovered that it wasn’t hard, this money thing.

Then I started to wonder why I was in debt. And I realised it was because no one had taught me. I got little pieces of advice from my parents but that’s it. So I thought, right, I’m going to make it my aim to demystify money and explain it.

I had always been interested in getting a deal, though. When I was at university I found lots of ways of making a bit of cash and getting things for free. I got into making my own clothes and then I made ball gowns. I found out about a public speaking competition and found I could make £60 out of that. I also found out about psychology testing in the psychology department and found I could make some money from that.

There’s quite a taboo around talking about money in this country. How do you get around that when you’re reporting or researching?

It’s not easy. People are happier to talk about sex than what they’ve got in their bank accounts. Sometimes you have to talk generally and you have to have a certain tack.

Budgeting is a big part of group travel. Do you have any tips for GTOs planning a trip?

Taking cash abroad is a good start for budgeting. I’d take a credit card just in case but don’t use it unless you’re buying something really big or it’s an emergency. Or a pre-paid card. They’re a bit like pay as you go. You can load them up with say 100 euros and use them in shops. As soon as the money is gone, it’s gone. Companies like Ukash and Caxton FX and Halifax do them and you can use them in the UK, too.

Anything else?

There’s insurance. That’s a whole world of pain. But you have to shop around. The average annual travel insurance is £35 and the average medical bill for accidents on holiday is £1,000, so it’s important. There are special insurance companies for over 60s. Saga, Age UK and Marks & Spencer are all in that market.

What about phone charges, any advice about that?

The obvious advice is to keep roaming off as soon as you get on a plane. I’m a big fan of sim cards. I have a second mobile phone that I take away with me and if I think I’m going to need a phone home quite a lot I’ll buy an international sim card. Or there’s always Skype. As long as you can pick up wifi, you can use that.

Do you have an Achilles heel when it comes to breaking your own rules?

I have a horrible tendency when I go to America to get in the mind-set that it’s all cheap. I go to Marshalls malls, out of town. I have a 50/50 success rate there. For example I was there last time and I really wanted a leather jacket. There was one at a really good rate but it was bit big. But I bought it. I’ve had to put it on eBay since then.

Do you have any other money saving tips?

Instead of buying guide books, go to your library or use trip advisor.

Jasmine has written an e-book to follow up on the talk she gave at the Group Leisure & Travel Show 2015. You can download this from her website. And don’t forget to get the date in your diary for next year’s show, which will take place at the NEC on Thursday 20th October 2016. For more information visit www.leisureshow.com.

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