I’ve spent a busy week talking about the budget and what it means for us all. In other words, I was trying to make a very dull (but vital) story interesting while translating the announcements in to plain English. It was a very long week…

The problem with government budgets these days is the money we get back from tax cuts is often lost in other areas, like being dragged in to a new tax band or paying more due to inflation or increased costs in other areas.

In fact, most of the people I’ve spoken to are less concerned about 2p off National Insurance and more about the utility bills they have to pay. Yet March is the best time to tackle these unavoidable commitments. Here’s my guide to why – and how to save some money.

Mobile and broadband

According to Citizens Advice; ‘Thirty six million mobile customers and 20 million broadband customers may see bills rise by a total of more than £1.4 billion in 2024 due to price hikes’.

Every April, mobile phone and broadband suppliers take advantage of clauses in their contracts that allow them to hike prices mid-term. Last year, this got so out of control that average increases topped 14% for both mobile and broadband. That has prompted the regulator to clamp down on the practice… but not till next year. For now, your bills will go up by just under 9% on average.

The good news is between 7 and 8 million people are out of contract. This means they can vote with your feet and threaten to go to a competitor and get a much better deal in the process. I saved £50 a month by doing this last year. If you are mid-contract, check to see if you have the option to leave your current deal when you get your notification of the price rise. If not, see if you can complaint that you’ve had issues with the service that might allow you to bail without paying a hefty exit fee.

Energy

Judging by my postbag, my column on energy bills touched a nerve last week. If you’re not sure what to do about your bill, don’t panic and jump in to a fixed price deal when an offer hits your inbox. There are loads of other fixes around at the moment, so check out a comparison site to see what’s on offer. Remember the holy trinity of things to check though:

  • The duration of the contract.
  • How much you’ll pay over the full contract.
  • How much it costs to get out of the contract.

Bills you can’t avoid

Short of moving house, we are stuck with our water and council tax bills.

Water meters can help reduce bills (but only if you don’t have lots of people in your household). Check online first to see if you would benefit or are likely to pay more if you switch. You may have to pay to have a meter fitted in Scotland though, while in Northern Ireland water charges don’t apply for most customers.

If you want to try to reduce your water consumption, most of the water companies I’ve spoken to have free or cheap devices you can order, like shower heads that help reduce flow. Type ‘water saving’ into your water provider’s website.

Council tax is billed over ten months, which gives you two free months at the end of the term. It seems too obvious, but it’s true that you can ask the council to spread the money over 12 months instead. In addition, if your home is 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. Find out more here.

There are loads of other areas you can save money too. Check out my articles at my website, Martyn James Expert, for tips on how to save money on everything from insurance to subscriptions.

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.

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