Help & Advice - Consumer
The national Citizens Advice website contains up to date information about a range of consumer issues. To access the site, click here.
Tips from the Money Advice Service
Car insurance premiums are up by an average of 8% in the last 12 months, according to the latest figures from the Association of British Insurers. if you’re renewing your car policy now, you’re probably trying to figure out why it’s so much more than last year – and what you can do about it.
The main cause of the higher prices is an increase to the Insurance Premium Tax last September. Many types of insurance suddenly got more expensive as a result.
But car premiums weren’t helped by the growing number of personal injury claims, which led to the UK being named whiplash capital of the world last week by insurers Aviva.
How to get cheaper car insurance
So what can you do to battle the rising prices? Here are 19 ways to lower your premium.
1. Add a second, low-risk, driver – though young or newly qualified drivers can put the price up.
2. Pay annually rather than monthly – the latter costs more as you’re charged interest to pay by instalments.
3. Read the policy wording so you know what you’re paying for – find things you can cut out to lower the premium.
4. Work out how many miles you’re likely to drive in the year - don’t over insure yourself.
5. Get a telematics “Black box” to prove you’re a safe driver.
6. Don’t speed – points on your licence will up what you pay.
7. Ask if there’s a discount for having a no claims bonus.
8. Use a comparison site, best buy table or broker to shop around for a better quote.
9. Take an advanced driving test – you might get a discount.
10. Add a voluntary excess to the insurance – though this means you’ll receive less if you need to claim.
11. Park in a garage or on a drive – your car will be more secure than on the street.
12. See if getting breakdown cover separately is cheaper – you might even have it included with your bank.
13. Try different job titles such as nurse, community nurse and staff nurse. Each could produce a different quote – though make sure they are accurate for what you do.
14. Do you need a courtesy car if your car is being repaired? If not, see if a policy without brings the price down.
15. See if there’s cashback available if you switch provider.
16. Drive a popular car – this’ll lower your premium as they’re easier to repair.
17. Protect your no claims bonus by only claiming when you need to.
18. Fit an alarm or immobiliser- and make sure security devices are Thatcham approved.
19. Ask your existing insurer for a discount – they might match, or even beat, the best quote you find.
These won’t all make a difference for you, but whatever you do to lower your premium, make sure you don’t underinsure you or your car.
Tips from the Money Advice Service
It’s easy to underestimate things – the calories in a slice of cake, or how long your journey will take for example. But not considering the full amount of your household bills could end up costing you much more than you think.
Bill payers estimate their annual household bill costs to be £2,528, but in reality they spent an average of £3,987 according to research from Santander Current Accounts. This is a difference of £1,459 a year. Would you know where you could find this money if you did misjudge your costs by this much?
The largest discrepancy were for TV, phone and broadband outgoings, with households estimating annual spend to be 53% lower than actual costs.
One in four (25%) admit to borrowing money or raiding their savings in order to pay their bills, and 6% claim they often do not have enough or never have enough to pay their bills.
Although these figures may sound worrying, there are some simple things you can do to make sure you don’t end up short.
Make paying for bills easier
Budgeting and knowing how much money you have is key to making sure you have enough to cover yourself.
The research showed three in ten (30%) of bill payers admitted they do not read their bank statements thoroughly, while one in 20 (5%) do not even open their statements.
It’s easy to get into the habit of not checking your statement. Get yourself organised and keep track of when your bills need to be paid, and check them regularly – this makes it easier to spot mistakes, and any trends with when you tend to be spending more.
Once you know how much money you need to pay your bills with, you can set this money aside. If you’re finding it hard to find this money, using our Budget Planner can help you see where you could cut back.
Think about how you’re paying your bills
You should also think about your method of payment. Direct Debit is often the cheapest and easiest way to pay, but there are other options, such as by cheque or at the Post Office.
If your bills are getting on top of you, don’t bury your head in the sand. It is always worth talking to the people you owe money to – you may be able to pay smaller repayments until your financial position improves, for example. There are also many free, confidential places you can go for debt advice if you need to.
Pay less on your bills
It is also always worth setting aside some time to see if you could be paying less for your bills.
There are ways you can cut a range of your bills, including Council Tax and utilities. Check you’re in the right Council Tax banding and are not inadvertently overpaying. Switching energy suppliers could also be a good idea to put money back into your pocket.
See more tips and tricks for cutting your household bills
Energy bill gone down? See how to shave hundreds more off
There has been a buzz around some energy providers dropping their prices recently. But although this may put some money back into your pocket, there is a better way to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible for you.
Scottish Power, SSE and E.ON have all cut, or announced plans to cut gas prices on their standard tariffs by just over 5%. Despite this many industry experts are unimpressed with the reductions, which will save the average home just £30 a year.
The truth is, that despite the cuts, picking a fixed price energy plan is usually a much cheaper option. According to energy regulator Ofgem, switching from a standard to a fixed plan could save you close to £200 per year.
Variable vs. fixed price energy tariffs
There are two types of energy tariff available: variable (also known as standard) and fixed.
Sign up to a fixed energy tariff and you’ll pay the same rates for the duration of the contract. That means that if you pick a one year deal, during that time the price you pay for energy units won’t change. However, that doesn’t mean your bill will stay the same no matter how much energy you use!
Standard, or variable tariffs, don’t have fixed unit rates. You’ll pay whatever your energy supplier has worked out as the market price. That means the unit price will rise and fall, in line with international energy markets. These plans usually work out much more expensive than the cheapest fixed price deals.
One of the reasons the recent price cuts have failed to impress is that they are far from matching some of the most competitive fixed price deals on the market.
So how much will switching save me?
It’s easy to find out how much you can save by switching energy provider.
This will depend on the type of product of service you have purchased. Citizens Advice has a dedicated consumer section on their website which covers many popular products & services. See here
This page tells you what your options may be if you’ve changed your mind about something you bought or ordered from a shop.