Householders are facing a raft of increases to their monthly bills that could stretch budgets even further.
With new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealing a fall in disposable income for the first time since 2011, it’s vital to make sure you are making savings where you can.
Which? takes a look at the bills that are getting more expensive and steps you can take to ensure you’re not paying more than you need to.
It’s widely anticipated that the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee will vote to raise the base rate next month – and this could be bad news for mortgage borrowers who aren’t on fixed rates.
Mortgage rates are closely linked to the base rate, which currently sits at 0.5%.
When the base rate is low it’s inexpensive for banks to borrow money so they can lend cheaply. But when the base rate creeps up it gets more expensive to get funding, and that increased cost is passed onto borrowers.
- Find out more: Bank of England base rate and your mortgage
The decision will be revealed on 10 May but some of the biggest lenders – including Santander, NatWest, Lloyds, Halifax and Barclays – have increased mortgage rates in the past week in anticipation of a rise.
So if you’re planning to apply for a mortgage, or are on a variable-rate deal and want to avoid being hit by rate hikes, it’s worth talking to a mortgage adviser as soon as possible.
Make sure you choose a whole-of-market broker such as Which? Mortgage Advisers, who can give impartial advice on the cheapest deal for you. Contact them now on 0800 197 8461 or fill out the form below for a free call back.
Two of the ‘big six’ energy companies have announced price rises that will impact households on standard variable tariffs (SVT).
British Gas will increase the cost of gas and electricity by 5.5% from 29 May, adding an average £60 a year to the bills of more than 4 million customers.
EDF meanwhile plans to raise the cost of electricity by 1.4% on 7 June, which amounts to a £16-a-year rise for the average household on the SVT.
It’s likely that the four other big energy companies will follow suit, so if you’re on a standard variable tariff you should act now to avoid the rises.
Which? research conducted earlier this month found that you could save £359 a year by switching to the cheapest energy deals on the market. You can use Which? Switch to compare the best gas and electricity deals online or you can ring 0800 410 1149 or 01259 220235 to go through the options over the phone.
- Find out more: top five cheapest energy deals for April 2018
Happily, the cost of car insurance has fallen for the first time since 2014, according to data from confused.com. This is thanks to reforms on whiplash pay-outs and changes to the way compensation is paid to victims of accidents.
However, some other costs of running your car could catch you out.
The cost of breakdown cover has hit the headlines this week, with the AA slammed for hiking prices by up to 124% after customers’ first year. People who take out the firm’s top-level policy pay £179 initially, but this rises to £401 in the second year.
The money is taken via a continuous payment authority, which means you could find a huge black hole in your bank balance if you don’t remember to check your renewal price and try to haggle for a better deal or switch to avoid the cost.
Meanwhile car tax rates changed on 1 April, meaning owners of new diesel cars that do not meet RDE2 emission levels will be charged as much as £520 more.
- Find out more: car tax changes 2018: how much will you pay?
Another change to be aware of is that the MOT test in England, Scotland and Wales is changing from 20 May to comply with a European Directive called the EU Roadworthiness Package.
It will categorise defects as minor, major or dangerous and impose tougher limits on emissions from certain diesel cars, which could make it harder for your vehicle to pass and mean you have to pay out to make it roadworthy again.
Driving a car without an MOT can result in a fine of up to £2,500 and three points on your licence. To ensure your car is in good shape before the test, read our guide: how to pass an MOT check.
Council tax bills
Changes to the way council tax is capped means that some local authorities have been able to increase bills by up to 5.99%, and 18 have raised the bill by much more.
- Not sure what your 2018/19 bill is? Use our council tax calculator.
Council tax is one of the largest bills we have to pay after a mortgage or rent so it’s vital to understand if you’re paying the right amount.
You may be able to reduce your council tax bill by getting your property banding changed, claiming a single-person discount or, in some cases, if you have a holiday home.
- Find out more: reducing your council tax bill
Mobile phone contracts
This year a number of mobile networks have announced price rises linked to the retail prices index (RPI).
EE pay-monthly mobile customers were hit with a 4.1% price rise on 30 March.
O2 mobile users have just been dealt a 4% price hike and Vodafone customers a 3.6% increase on their April bills.
Three, meanwhile, will increase the bills of pay-monthly customers by 4% from May.
If your bill has gone up or is about to, it’s worth checking whether you can cancel fee-free and switch to something cheaper.
- Find out more: how to haggle for the best mobile phone deals
Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.
Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited.