This April, whether we’re in, out or, most likely, just shaken all about, one thing is certain… it’s the time of annual public service price rises. While you can’t prevent the rises, there are often other ways to cut these bills. I want to show how you can steal a March (sorry) on April’s hikes.
- Stock up on stamps
On Monday 25 March, the price of a 1st class standard letter rises to 70p, 2nd class to 61p. Large letters rise by even more. Stamps don’t have an expiry date, so if you’ll use them in future (eg, if you post lots of Christmas cards), stock up now.
- You’re likely due a BIG hidden pay rise, but it’ll cost you
Every UK worker aged 22 or more, earning £10,000+, is automatically enrolled to pay into a pension alongside your employer.
From 6 April, the total that must be contributed increases from 5% to 8% of your salary, and the minimum your employer must contribute rises from 2% to 3%.
That means if your employer is only putting in the minimum your contribution will rise from 3% to 5% (so £100 per £5,000 of salary).
Though, as it’s from pre-tax income each £100 you contribute only reduces your take-home pay by £80 as a basic rate taxpayer and £60 at the higher rate.
You can opt-out of this, but I strongly suggest you don’t. While it does reduce your pay packet, if you contribute, your employer does too. So not doing so is giving up a pay rise – as it’s giving you money you wouldn’t have otherwise got (even though it’s not immediately usable). For far more help see www.mse.me/payrisepaycut.
- TV licence fee to rise– but do you need one?
The colour licence increases by £4 to £154.50 from 1 April. So renew now if you’ve forgotten to, do it at www.tvlicensing.co.uk.
You need a licence if you watch or record TV as it’s being broadcast, or use specifically the BBC iPlayer. If you ONLY watch catch-up content on for example the ITV Hub or NetFlix, you don’t need one.
Plus if someone aged 75+ lives in your home, licences should be free. If not and you’ve been paying unnecessarily, you can reclaim it (a whopping £38m was refunded to over-75s from 2015-2018). Full help on that at www.mse.me/TVlicence.
- Council taxes up an average £75 a year – are you due £1,000s back?
The average council tax rise from 1 April in England (some a lot more) is to be 4.5%, equivalent to £75 on a typical band D property. Rises are expected in Wales and Scotland too.
However up to 400,000 households in England and Scotland are in the wrong band. In 2007, I came up with the council tax check and challenge system, which allows you to safely check if yours is too high (don’t just speculatively challenge, or your band could be increased).
We’ve had 10,000s successes since, which doesn’t just get your band lowered, you get a backdated refund too, as Susan emailed: “Refunded approx £3,000 and downgraded, so my monthly payments remain lower to this day. Thanks so much. This put us back in the black.”
Free tools to do this are at www.mse.me/counciltax which also includes help on bill reductions for certain households:
*Do you have or live with someone with a severe mental impairment (SMI), eg, dementia or severe learning difficulties? This likely affects up to 100,000, but it is scarcely known about. Anyone with a qualifying SMI can be ‘disregarded’ for council tax purposes, meaning a 25% or even 100% bill reduction.
*Moved since 1993? You could be owed £100+ in overpayments. More than £230m of credit should have been paid back
– Live alone? You may qualify for the 25% single person discount.
- English prescriptions up to £9 – 800,000 miss out on £50 a year by not using prepay certificate
Those who pay for prescriptions in England will see a 20p price rise on 1 April (they’re free in the rest of the UK).
Yet you can get a prescription season ticket (officially called an NHS prepayment prescription certificate) where for a one-off £29.10 for 3 months or £104 a year it covers all your prescriptions – so use one a month and it wins.
More than 800,000 people missed out on savings averaging £50 a year by not having one. To get it go to www.nhs.uk or ask your pharmacist.
- Energy prices rise 10% due to price cap increase
The energy price cap on standard tariffs is rising from £1,137 a year for someone with typical usage to £1,254 a year from 1 April. As over half the country are on these default tariffs, that means a chunky 10% rise for most.
Cut costs by £300+ by switching to the cheapest supplier. It only takes five minutes via my www.cheapenergyclub.com (which also gives you cashback) or any www.ofgem.gov.uk approved site.
- Water bills are UP on average by 2% – some save £500 a year on a meter.
Rises from 1 April vary by region (a few, such as South Staffordshire, will fall). You can’t switch supplier, yet in England and Wales most can switch to a water meter for free. My rule of thumb on this is… if you’ve more or the same number of bedrooms in your home as people, it’s worth checking out. Use the calculator at www.ccwater.org.uk.
8. Dental checks rising – book an appointment now
Basic NHS check-ups are up £1.10 to £22.70 in England and 30p to £14.30 in Wales from 1 April. Some other charges rise too. Try to get an appointment before then. There’s no change in Scotland or NI.