April is on the horizon and though we might be able to turn the heating down soon (hopefully), thanks to a combination of inflation, higher costs and energy prices, a lot of bills are going to go up.
Don’t panic though. Here’s my quick guide to cutting your costs.
Broadband and mobile phone contracts
Now is the time to take a look at your broadband and mobile phone contracts as almost all service providers in both sectors are considering increases to your bills mid-contract of around 14% or more.
If you are one of the 7.4 million people ‘out of contract’ then you could halve your monthly payments by going to another business, or alternatively negotiating with your existing provider to get a better deal.
If you are stuck mid-contract, you’ll need to get a bit more creative. Exit fees to escape contracts mid-term are often outrageous. But if you can demonstrate that the firm isn’t providing the service you were promised, then you might be able to escape without paying one. Turn detective and take regular broadband speed or mobile phone reception screenshots to prove the firm isn’t delivering. Oh and comparison site U-switch tells me that nearly 7 million Virgin and Sky broadband customers could leave without fee as there is a 30-day notice period on their contracts. That timescale is running out through so hurry!
Council tax is usually billed over ten months, with two free months at the end of the term. However, if money is tight, why not ask the council to spread the money over 12 months instead? If your home now or in the past was in the wrong band, you could potentially claim a rebate (check with each council).
Make sure you are claiming your discounts too. If you live alone then you can get a 25% discount on your bill. There’s also a big list of exemptions and discounts to the tax. Are you on the list? Find out more here.
We can’t jump ship with water companies, sadly. As I mentioned in last week’s column, on average, water bills are going up on average 7.5%. Water meters can help reduce bills if you have a low-occupancy household, but check online first to see if you would benefit or are likely to pay more if you switch.
Alternatively, claim your freebies! Water companies offer some nifty gadgets to help you with your water consumption. These can include things like shower nozzles that help reduce flow (the same for taps and hoses too). Type ‘water saving’ into your water provider’s website. Alternatively, there are lots of tips online about how you can reduce your water consumption.
Insurance and subscriptions
Don’t miss your window of opportunity to change things like your insurance company. Insurance firms must give you four weeks’ notice that your current deal is due to expire. This matters, because though the loyalty charge – where insurance businesses charge loyal customers more each year – has been banned, this is only for home and car insurance.
Check your contract and pop the date your policy ends in your diary a month earlier so you’ve got time to shop around for the best deal and save. You can use free apps like Little Birdie to do this for you if you can’t face trawling through the bank account statements!
I’ve also written a lot recently about how cancelling your forgotten subscriptions can save you a fortune. In short, go through your accounts and cancel anything you don’t need through your bank or card provider – and claim back anything you haven’t authorised.
Finally some good news, of sorts. The Government’s Energy Price Guarantee has been frozen at £2,500 for three months instead of rising to £3,000. You could still see a price bump as the Government’s Energy Support Scheme finishes. But with prices dropping on the wholesale markets, we might finally see bills going down, and a return to switching to save money.
Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.