Earlier this year ‘National Price Hike Day’ saw millions of UK households hit with price increases on a wide range of bills. Around 11 million households on standard variable tariffs saw their bills go up by an average of £117. Such increases and price fluctuations are not uncommon and can happen regularly. Be it from your energy provider, the DVLA or on council tax, the last thing you need when you’re struggling to make ends meet is a bill increase. The good news however, is that although bill increases are inevitable: they are not unavoidable. With some strategic thinking and a bit of research, you may be able to beat them – making some savings and easing the pressure on your finances. How you say? Read on for 6 pro tips, hacks and tools to help you do just that:
1. Find the dates for your diary
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail -planning is everything. First and foremost it’s crucial that you know when you can expect a bill increase and who with. April 1st marks the start of a new financial year and many companies and government departments will introduce price increases in line with annual inflation on this date. So, this is the main date for your diary. On top of this though, a lot of energy and service providers send out a lot of spam mail in the post, be sure to at least skim through all correspondence and keep an eye out for any notifications about a price increase. Each time you do see one, take a note of the date and provide so you can plan to beat the price hike well in advance.
2. Identify saving areas and shop around
Some increases like council tax, water bills and vehicle tax are harder to avoid, so it’s important to focus on the costs that you can control. There are an abundance of these and plenty of savings to make. Customers who have been with the same provider for energy, TV and broadband networks and mobile phone contract providers for years are almost certainly paying too much. There are hundreds of great deals out there if you shop around. Our previous blog on money-saving apps listed various apps with built-in comparison services, such as Emma and Money Supermarket that will do the hard work for you and find the best deals for your circumstances.
3. Start with your phone – ask for a better deal
There’s a good chance that you’re reading this article on your phone and that’s exactly where you should start. In April: EE increased their prices by 2.7% whilst O2 and Three raised theirs by 2.5%. This has led to an average increase of £9.72 a year. Phone contracts and service provision is a highly competitive market, and under new Ofcom rules, you can cancel your contract with a free text, and ask your new provider to switch you within one working day. This can be very convenient, but we still advise that you get on the phone and haggle the old-fashioned way. Find a quote online for a contract and service similar to yours with another operator and call your provider. Ask for the disconnections department and relay the details to them. In truth, ‘disconnections’ is actually the customer retention department. Faced with losing a customer, their operators are trained to pull out all of the stops to keep you with them. From here, if you are even close to the expiry of your contract and seem serious about changing providers, they will likely offer you an improved deal.
4. Compare Energy Suppliers
Next, you should turn your attention to your energy provider. The UK’s main energy providers have raised prices by at least 10%. As such this is probably the area where you are overpaying most and where you could make the biggest savings. For starters, try This is Money’s comparison tool, or the Cheap Energy Club tool – compare the results you get with your last bill. A lot of smaller providers have not decided to raise prices this year and there is a good chance, especially if you have been with your provider for years, that they could offer a better tariff. As a little motivation: should you find a new provider, the cheapest deals for typical users are around £835 per year, meanwhile those on a standard tariff typically pay around £1,083 (UK Average). That’s an average of £21 more that could be in your pocket every month!
5. Satellite TV Packages
Old habits die hard and Sky TV has been a household essential in the UK over 20 years. An average rise of 5.1% in prices, averaging out at £3.50 a month is, therefore, most unwelcome. But times appear to be changing, and there are a lot of viable alternatives out there now, hence the turn to cheaper, on-demand services like Netflix. TV packages are much like phone contracts – the marketplace is highly competitive and providers, therefore, place a lot of emphasis on customer retention. As a starting point, you should compare broadband and TV prices online and grab a quote for Amazon Prime or Now TV, following the same haggling process we detailed above.
6. Road Tax and Car Insurance
Short of switching to an electric car, road tax increases are pretty unavoidable, unfortunately. The good news though, is that there are still some savings to make with regards to your car insurance. You should never auto-renew your car insurance. Loyalty is expensive: car insurance companies take advantage of the fact that most customers would like to avoid the effort changing insurer, and so they charge a higher premium every year. If your renewal is coming up, consult all of the main price comparison sites: Compare the Market; Go Compare; Confused.com; and Money Super Market. As ever, it is more than worth your time to get on the phone to your current insurer and haggle. You could also look into multi-car deals, adding responsible drivers, reconsidering add-ons and more.
Pro tip: Money Saving Expert has pinpointed the exact day on which you should buy car insurance. They analysed over 18 million quotes and found that thousands of customers lose money by buying a policy too far in advance, and ‘last-minute losers’ pay well over the odds for waiting too long. By renewing your insurance exactly 21 days (three weeks) before your current policy expires, you could make savings of up to £600. Read their full report here.
We’re Here to Help
If you’re struggling to make ends meet and pay your bills, we can help. We’ve helped over 16,000 people struggling with debt and know first hand how small expenses like these can add up over time – making it easy to lose control.
If this applies to you, our team of friendly, expert advisors, are waiting for your call. We are an FCA approved Not for Profit, Community Interest Company specialising in debt advice for the people of Scotland. We are here for you if you are in an unmanageable financial position and can talk you through your options completely free of charge. You could join the thousands of Scottish residents who we’ve helped get debt-free.