Published Monday, 24 March 2014
This Morning's money-Saving Expert Martin Lewis. (© Ken McKay)
April is price hike month, as official bodies do their annual hikes and tax changes too, some like dental bills are unavoidable, but others you can beat by acting now. Here's how...
1. Stamp prices UP
The price of a letter sized first class stamp will rise 2p to 62p and second class by 3p to 53p on 31 March. Yet you can stock up now and beat the price hike - as long as stamps say "1st" or "2nd" rather than a price, they remain valid afterwards. So if you send a lot at Christmas, need them for you business or perhaps have a wedding coming, buy them now!
2. Water bills UP
Water bills are set to rise by an average 2% (some up to 5%) in England and Wales from 1 April. Yet many people can save serious cash on water bills but don't. My rule of thumb is simple if you've more or the same number of bedrooms in your home than people, then consider switching to a water meter.
The savings here can be huge as Chris Bland31 tweeted me: "We got a meter fitted and our bill went from £62 to £16 per month. £550/yr saved."
Use the Consumer Council For Water's calculator to see if you can save with a meter, or if you already have a meter, how you can reduce your daily water usage.
Scottish bills are up 1.6% too, but as water meters aren't free to fit there, its usually not worth it. Northern Ireland doesn't' have water bills in the same way.
3. English prescriptions UP
Prescriptions are free throughout UK except England, where (unless you're exempt) the charge is up 20p to £8.05 from 1 April.
However, the price of prescription season tickets, officially called prescription payment certificates (PCs) - are frozen. For someone who regularly gets prescriptions these can be a huge saving - a 3 month certificate is £29.10 and a year's £104. As a rough rule of thumb if you use more than one prescription a month on average, this is a saving.
4. Council tax UP
Some English councils are upping bills 2% on 1 April some not at all while the Welsh may see increases of 5%. Yet it varies from council to council check your council's proposals (Eng only).
Yet there are ways to save on your council tax bill. The most important thing to understand is in England & Scotland (not Wales) the amount you pay now still depends for most people on a '2nd gear valuation' done way back in 1991. In others worth valuers just drove past with a checklist and allocated bands from A to H.
That was flawed for many people, which means it's thought up to up to 400,000 homes may be in the wrong council tax band. If yours is too high follow my check and challenge system that can get it lowered and a backdated payout as far back as 1993 - some people get
Step 1: Neighbours Check. See if you're in a higher band than neighbours in identical properties (you can see their band via the VOA in England & Wales, and the SSA in Scotland).
Step 2. Valuation Check. Then work out what your house price was in 1991 - when council tax bands were defined - as a belt and braces check. Martin's full council tax rebinding help includes a calculator that takes you through how to do this
If BOTH of these stack up then its worth asking for them to check if you're in the right band. Yet don't just 'have a go' as when you ask then could put your band up as well as down.
It's also worth noting if you live alone you're due a 25% council tax reduction, and students don't count for council tax (so an all student house doesn't pay it, a student with a non student counts as one person - so gets the single person discount)
5. State pension UP
The full, basic state single pension rises from £110.15/week to £113.10/week from 1 April. Yet sadly millions of pensions on lower incomes miss out on a top up that could boost the amount you get. It's called pension credit and it can be worth £30 a week or more to some, it tops you up to a minimum income and more in certain circumstances, to find out more call 0800 99 1234
6. Even time is going up!
Just a warning this Sunday the 30th March the clock's go forward, so at 1am it suddenly becomes 2am. You lose an hour of sleep.
© UTV News