How to Beat UK Energy Price Hikes

Your options are limited when it comes to trimming down your energy bills, but you have options nonetheless…

Here’s how you could turn your fuel bill frustrations into financial savings, whether  British Gas started charging 12.5% more for your electricity in September 2017 or you’re among the 70% of UK households on expensive Standard Variable Tariffs – from the likes of EDF Energy, nPower, E.On, Scottish Power or SSE. MoneySupermarket claimed those providers are almost £300 a year more expensive than the top 20 British tariffs. And you don’t necessarily have to settle for it.

1. Switch energy supplier before winter

If you can afford to pay your outstanding bills, switching to a cheaper tariff could save you as much as £250. You could change suppliers every 28 days if you really want to. But shopping around at least once a year, on comparison websites like GoCompare, USwitch or MoneySuperMarket, will make sure you’re getting the best deal from small suppliers or companies like First Utility, Ovo or Co-op Energy. If you have 42 days or less until your current plan expires, you don’t even have to pay exit fees.

The cheapest energy plans tend to be those that are capped for your entire contract or off-peak rates – ideal when you use more energy overnight than during the day.

To switch, call your new supplier and give them your current meter reading. You’ll also need to tell them how much gas and electricity you use in kilowatt hours, as shown on your recent bill or annual energy statement. Plus, your postcode, bank details and the name of your current supplier and tariff.

2. Cool food before putting it in the fridge

Can’t switch because you have a prepayment metre and owe more than £500 for gas or electricity? Make your appliances run more efficiently to keep your energy costs down by using less energy. Position your oven and freezer away from your oven, for example. Defrost your freezer to stop ice building up and only put cold food in the fridge, so it doesn’t use more electricity to work extra hard.

3. Avoid smart meters

Smart meters show you how much you’re spending on gas and electricity in real time, by measuring your usage. Scottish Power said the cost of installing them was one of the reasons for their 7.8% price hike.

See, you don’t pay up front for your smart meter. Roughly £6 a year is added to your energy bills to cover the cost and it could take years for any energy savings to outweigh the installation costs – especially because it’s hard to change your spending habits long term.

4. Claim for Warm Home Discount if you’re eligible

Do you claim means-tested benefit such as Universal Credit or Jobseekers’ Allowance? You might be able to claim for the Warm Heating Discount – a one-off £140 discount on your energy bill in winter, taken off your bill, not paid in cash. Energy companies with 250,000 or more customers must take part in the scheme, including British Gas, Scottish Power, SSE, E.On, EDF Energy and npower.

Alternatively, you might qualify for the Winter Fuel Payment if you were born before 5th August 1953 – giving you between £100 and £300 towards your heating bill costs.

5. Dispute your bill

When you’re overcharged or your final bill doesn’t match your smart meter, call your energy supplier to try to recover your money – use these numbers to connect with customer service teams:

18 Changes to Your Finances This April 2017

You’ll win some, you’ll lose some when it comes to cash in your pocket from Saturday 1st April 2017, thanks to a slew of new laws and rules…

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Budget changed everything from your income and outgoings to your childcare and even the way you drive. From upping the National Living Wage and offering tax free childcare to hiking up your council and car taxes – find out what you and your bank balance are in for…

For Richer

From Saturday 1st April 2017:

tax-year-2017-18

1. Minimum wage workers earn more

If you’re over 25 and earning the National Living Wage, you’ll see a 4% rise in your hourly rate, increasing from £7.20 to £7.50 – giving you an extra £48 per month, if you’re working 40 hours a week. And the fun doesn’t stop there, because 18-20 year olds will now pocket a minimum of £5.60 and 21-24 year olds at least £7.05.

2. Parents can apply for tax free childcare

For every 80p you spend on childcare, the Government will contribute 20p – equivalent to the 20% tax you pay on your earnings, which is why this is called ‘tax free’. By applying today through Gov.UK, working families could receive up to £2,000 per year towards the cost of childcare for each child under 12 or up to £4,000 for children up to the age of 17.

3. Prepayment meter cap comes into effect

Using a pay as you go gas meter? Stop paying your old rate and take advantage of the temporary price cap, by topping up your meter. You could save £80 off your energy bills, say the Government’s Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, because the scheme should reduce your gas bill by around 10-15%.

Call your supplier to find out more, be that British Gas, E.On, EDF Energy or another energy company.

From Sunday 2nd April 2017:

4. Receive higher statutory family-related pay

Parents, your weekly rate of statutory maternity or paternity, adoption and shared parental pay will increase to £140.98 per week as of Sunday 2nd April 2017.

From Thursday 6th April 2017:

tax-year-2017-18

5. Earn £500 more before paying basic income tax

You can now earn up to £11,500 before you pay income tax, rather than £11,000 – leaving as many as 20 million basic rate taxpayers with an extra £100 in their pocket. Higher rate tax payers could also save £400 per year, because the 40% income tax rate will now only apply to earnings above £45,000, rather than £43,000.

Want to check you’re paying the correct rate of income tax? Call HMRC today.

6. Claim a higher rate of sick and redundancy pay

Under the weather? You’re entitled to £89.35 per week in sick pay from now on. Plus, if you’re made redundant on or after Thursday 6th April 2017, you’re entitled to £489 per week, up from £479, if you’ve worked for the company for at least two years – the final amount you get depends on your weekly pay, length of service and age.

7. Get more for your State Pension

The newer flat rate pensions are increasing by 2.5%, giving you £155.65 rather than £159.55 per week. Alternatively, you’ll see your pension rise from £119.30 to £122.30 if you’re on the old system.

Check the status of your pension or ask any questions by calling the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) today.

8. Take advantage of a new lifetime Isa

Aged between 18 and 40? Set aside up to £4,000 per year in the new lifetime Isa to save towards your first home or retirement – and the Government will give you up to £1,000 for free, in the form of a 25% bonus. You can make contributions until your 50th birthday and all the money will grow tax free.

9. Alternatively, save more in your current Isa

Did you know that you can now put £20,000 into your Isa during the next tax year, up from £15,240? Now you do.

10. Your family can inherit an extra £100,000 tax free

Those of you who are married or in a civil partnership can leave your family up to £850,000 of tax free inheritance, which is £100,000 more than last year, thanks to the new transferable main residence allowance on property within the estate.

From Monday 10th April 2017:

You’ll get an extra 2p in every pound you earn, when the Universal Credit taper is cut from 65% to 63% – don’t spend it all at once.

For Poorer

E.On customers will be charged an extra 13.8% for electricity and 3.8% for gas from Wednesday 26th April 2017. Plus, BT and BT Broadband, EE and Vodafone also are putting up prices.

But what else can you expect to hit your wallet from April 2017?

From Saturday 1st April 2017:

DVLA road tax

11. Car Tax hike

Buying a new car after Saturday 1st April 2017? You’ll be stung by higher rates of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), depending on your engine emissions, thanks to the DVLA’s rule changes – which you can get up to speed with here. For the first time ever, even eco-friendly electric cars will have to pay road tax.

12. Pay 20p more for your NHS Prescriptions

NHS prescriptions, medicines and appliances, now cost £8.60. Although, you’re exempt from paying if you’re: suffering long term conditions like cancer, epilepsy or diabetes, pregnant, a new mother, over 60, a child under 16 or on low income.

13. Spend up to 5% more on your council tax

Nine out of 10 local authorities in England are expected to increase your council tax bill by up to 5% in April – so you can expect to pay an extra £61 council tax on your Band D property, for example. Meanwhile, the average Scottish Band D household will fork out for an extra 3% or about £32.

Cast your mind back just five years ago to 2012 when 90% of local authorities froze or cut council tax, only 35 hiked the price up. However, East Hampshire is the only local authority who’ll cut council tax in 2017.

14. Pay 2% more for your average water bill

Call your supplier to see how your water bill has changed, whether that’s Thames Water or someone else.

15. Add £1.50 to the cost of your TV licence

Get your money’s worth from your £147 TV licence by watching great TV – haggle for a better deal with Sky or see what Virgin Media, BT Sport or Amazon can offer.

From Monday 3rd April 2017:

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16. Parents must look for work when youngest child turns three, not five

Changes to Universal Credit mean that parents, you’ll have to look for work when your youngest child turns three, rather than five – affecting those of you with pre-school children for the first time, at an age when childcare is the most expensive.

From Thursday 6th April 2017:

17. Four million new families lose £545 per year tax credit Family Element

Starting a family? You can’t claim the tax credit family element anymore, worth £545 per year. And that’s not all, if you plan to have a third or subsequent child after Thursday 6th April 2017, you’ll no longer receive Child Tax Credits or Universal Credit benefits either – these are now limited to your first two children only.

18. Grieving families will be £12,000 worse off

Until Thursday 6th April 2017, widowed parents could receive financial support for 20 years after a bereavement – now, you’ll get just 18 months of help. It’s a move that could save the Government £100million a year, say the Childhood Bereavement Network, but it will affect as many as 6,000 families expected to claim this year.