There’s no getting away from the fact that 2022 is going to be a much more expensive year for all of us. Many of the people I’ve spoken to in the last few days are still reeling from the extraordinary 54% increase in the price cap for energy bills.
While there are no easy answers to many of the questions posed by rising inflation and bill increases, there are practical things you can do to tackle them and make savings in other areas. In this column I’ll take a look at some of the price rises on the horizon – and the options available to you.
Because we can’t switch energy to save money at the moment, the best ways to save are to scrutinise your bills for errors and cut your energy use. I’ve put together a guide covering all my recent columns on energy savings, complaints, links to the schemes supporting people in financial difficulties (and more) here.
Interest rates have gone up to 0.5%, the second rise in three months. This is because inflation has hit a 30 year high. What that means in real terms is prices are increasing faster than your pay packet. By raising the interest rate, the Bank of England hopes we’ll cut our spending and start saving. However don’t wait around for your bank to raise your interest rate. Too many lenders have failed to pass on the last interest rate rise. So shop around and move your cash to get the best deal – loyalty costs.
Broadband, mobiles and streaming
Most broadband contracts have clauses allowing the businesses to increase interest rates above the rate of inflation. This might come as a shock to people on fixed term deals with a way to go before the end of their contracts. Watch out for announcements on this in the coming weeks. If you’ve come to the end of your broadband deal (and millions of us have) you are probably overpaying. The best estimates suggest that you could save at least £150 by switching. If you didn’t know that your contract could go up before it ended, make a formal complaint and see if the firm will let you leave without an exit fee.
Insurance and subscriptions
Positive news can sometimes come at a higher cost. So the banning of the loyalty charge – where businesses charge loyal customers more than new customers each year – means for many of us, the cost of insurance will go up. You have a window of opportunity to change insurance companies because they must give you four weeks’ notice of your renewal date. But rather than wait for the letter, check with the insurance company and pop the date in your diary a month earlier so you’ve got time to shop around and save.
You can also save a huge amount of cash by cancelling subscriptions you don’t want or need any more. If you missed my recent column on this, find out how to save £1,000+ here.
Things you are stuck with
You can’t get out of your council tax or water bill, even though both are likely to rise in April. However, there are still savings to be made. With council tax, for example, you can potentially spread your payments thinner, over 12 months rather than the usual 10. There are also discounts for a range of situations, including living alone, being a student or carer or being in the armed forces. People on benefits or who may be more vulnerable also get discounts.
Water bills are a bit trickier, but you are entitled to compensation for delays fixing problems. And water companies have a range of free options on their websites to help you save money and reduce your bills.
The year ahead
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the challenges facing us in the year ahead. But I’ll be doing all I can to help you save money and avoid problems. Get in touch with your questions and suggestions.
Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.