Posts Tagged ‘household bills’
How much is your gas bill? Nope. Your annual Council Tax charge? Wrong again. Chances are, you’ll be way off on practically all of your main household bills to the tune of £770 a year according to new research by Santander.
Council tax was actually the least accurately estimated bill, which may be because there’s pretty much naff all you can do about the cost. Still, most people are WAY off-according to the survey, bill payers underestimated their council tax bill by a whopping £721 per year. Gas (£279) and electricity (£91) bills were also underestimated, which is no surprise, but the cost of TV/phone/broadband bills was actually £386 over-estimated.
What’s even less impressive is that we are actually getting worse at knowing how much things cost. The same survey compiled last year also saw us underestimating our bills, but we were much closer- only guessing £467 too little for the major bills, a whole £303 closer than we were this year. While costs have largely increased this year, it is unlikely this accounts for the whole difference. Perhaps things are looking up for people such that they don’t have to pay such close attention to bills anymore?
Santander head of banking Matt Hall said, helpfully: “Increases in household bills have added to the cost of living in recent years and it’s more important than ever that people check their bills thoroughly. Some can be tricky to understand, so it’s important that households keep an eye on statements and call their supplier if anything is unclear.”
However, thoroughly checking statements is not something we are necessarily great at. More than a quarter of people (26%) admit to never checking their statements, and 4% don’t even bother opening the envelope. That’s a million people not even opening their bills.
David Mann, head of money at uSwitch.com, says: “Consumers are in a lose-lose situation with everything shooting up except for their income. It’s time to start paying serious attention to managing household bills. By cutting the amount you spend on the essentials, you’ll have more money to spend on the non-essentials, which is welcome news at this time of year.”
Like a man in a fez in a souk, Which!!! is urging you to barter over your household bills when you renew your contracts – that way you can immediately save £240.
Which!!! think us Brits need to stop being so goddamn polite about everything and get stuck into some bargaining with utility companies. In just one hour, Which!!! and its consumer warriors had managed to knock off £238 by haggling with big names such as the AA, Admiral insurance, Virgin and Vodafone.
The problem is, often any deals that you’ve been coerced into at the beginning by a super slick call centre professional are just automatically renewed. They depend on your apathy/lack of interest and just stick you on contracts forever, regardless of whether you could save money elsewhere.
But with a bit of bargaining, you can get discounts on everything from broadband, phones, car insurance and breakdown services. How? Well, it seems that all you need to do is threaten to leave them and they CRAP THEMSELVES.
Which!!! said: “Whether you’re calling the AA or Orange, the message should stay the same – if you’re not getting what you want, threaten to take your business elsewhere.”
“It’s a surprisingly effective way of getting a better deal, and it’s amazing just how much more responsive a company can be if it thinks it might lose you, and more importantly, your regular payments.”
Ah, dontcha just love a bit of consumer blackmail?
The Prime Minister is desperate to cut the cost of living hence why MPs don’t have to pay their own energy bills on their second homes. But he is apparently also keen to help out the ordinary man in the street with his bills- the street being where you could end up, the rate bills are currently rising. However, tackling the energy giants seems a bit difficult for Dave, not least because the Government have just got into bed with one of the giants (EDF) but also because Ed kind of got there first.
Now Dave has seized the initiative from his competitor’s jaws. When Ed Miliband mentioned that he thought all markets should be investigated for efficiency, including water bills- “the water industry is something that should be scrutinised to make sure it is working properly for the benefit of consumers because I know concerns have been raised”, Dave spotted an easier target and has waded in before Ed can make another crowd-pleasing election pledge.
Now, Dave has decided that water is the best way to impact on household bills. Defra have already announced a £50 rebate for households living in the South West (because they pay more for beaches or something) and the new announcement of impending news is likely to benefit households in the rest of England. Which will serve those self-governing Welsh and Scots right, even assuming they actually wash or drink water*.
The actual announcement is sorely lacking in detail at the moment, but still serves to make sure Dave gets in there before Ed. “The Prime Minister wants to see household costs coming down. There will be some progress next week on water bills,” said a Downing Street spokesman, adding “The Prime Minister wants regulators to make sure they are robust and delivering what they need to deliver for customers.”
Whether this is just political posturing ahead of the election (which is still over a year away) or not, anything that brings bills down, even if it is one of the smaller ones, is bound to be welcomed- assuming we aren’t paying for the reduction elsewhere. Who knows, perhaps we could all dream of lower energy bills too…
* This is a joke. I love both Scotland and Wales. Less keen on some parts of England.
Proving them fossil fuel lovin’ Tories wrong, Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey is saying that greener measures in the home can save each householder in Britain £166 a year off their energy bills by 2020.
The DECC published a report yesterday saying that the government only had control over 11% of the average annual £1250 energy bill – once gas prices, VAT energy company profits were taken into account.
But instead of sitting around picking their feet while the world melts, new government climate change policies like tighter building controls, smart meters and better A-rated boilers could effectively reduce bills, according to Davey.
He is also championing wind power – unlike some Conservative politicians, who don’t want wind turbines to spoil their view of their swimming pools, and (wrongly) say that it will cost an extra 120bn and make household bills even higher.
‘Global gas price hikes are squeezing households,’ Davey says. ‘They are beyond any government’s control. The analysis shows that our strategy of shifting to alternatives like renewables and of being smarter with how we use energy is helping those who need it most to save money on their bill.”
The millions of people who are too poor to put the heating on are essentially already part of this greener movement, but let’s face it, it’s a little bit more progressive than Osborne’s ‘Dash for gas.’
Last one to turn down the thermostat is a sissy.
We know things are tough, and that prices are on the increase, but now someone has actually bothered to crunch the numbers and has discovered that the overall cost of running a household has increased by 25% in just five years, with some bills going up by as much as 67%.
Of course, energy bills are among the worst culprits, with gas and electricity charges going up 52% and 32% respectively, but it is comprehensive car insurance that has suffered the biggest rise, owing to increased claims and EU regulation on top of rising prices. Add fuel, with a 33% rise, and driving households are paying out way more than they used to.
New research from comparison site uSwitch.com also shows that food bills are up 17% since 2008 with the average weekly shopping bill rising from £220 to £256 a week. Over half of those surveyed (55%) say that the rising cost of living is their biggest cause for concern at the moment, compared with 29% who are most concerned about their health. Presumably no-one is that concerned about dying of malnutrition, starvation or hypothermia then.
Part of the problem comes because average salaries have not kept pace with increased costs. Despite rising inflation, wages have only risen 6% in the whole five years- from £24,900 a year in 2008 to £26,500 at the end of 2012. Once you take inflation into account, however, wages have actually gone back to 2003 levels. Just one in two consumers (52%) have had a pay rise this year; more than one in three (36%) have had their pay frozen for 12 months or more and one in eight (13%) have actually had their pay cut.
But according to uSwitch, almost 60% of consumers fear next week’s Budget will hit their already battered pockets even harder. Two thirds of consumers would support the introduction of a ‘mansion tax’ on homes worth over £2 million, and 84% are calling for the personal tax allowance to be raised beyond £10,000 despite the previously announced higher-than-inflation uplift to £9,440 for 2013/14. 85% believe that the Chancellor does not understand the financial fears of ordinary people and 71% say that their financial situation has worsened since the Coalition came to power in 2010.
Michael Ossei, personal finance expert at uSwitch.com, said: “Consumers are anticipating next week’s Budget with a mix of dread and despair. Spiralling living costs are stretching household budgets to their absolute limit and people are running out of ways to fund their ever-increasing bills. With salaries failing to deliver, many are being forced to turn to debt just to stay afloat. Unfortunately, the most accessible forms of debt are often the most dangerous.”
Talking of debt, however, having less disposable income isn’t necessarily stopping people spending. New figures from Barclaycard indicate an increase in consumer spending- jumping by 4.2% last month, which is the fastest rate in more than a year.
Nevertheless, the recent doom and gloom from the high street is not set to end just yet. The figures show that the increases are not in retails- spending on men’s clothing was down by almost 6% and even women’s clothing sales were down almost 2%. What people are spending their money credit on is on the finer things in life, with leisure and travel the big winners; spending with airlines was up 14% compared with the same period last year, and in restaurants it was up by over 11%.
Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and it may be that the people struggling to make ends meet are not the same people who are flying off to fancy restaurants. Perhaps the wealthy are going on more holidays, while the common populace wring their hands in despair? Surely that can’t have been the
Conservative Coalition Government’s plan…