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Your Energy bills

Companies have been criticised in the past for making it confusing and difficult for consumers to compare their energy information and shop around. If you don’t switch at the right time then most companies will shift you onto a variable tariff which may well end up costing you a lot more. These companies have been asked to illustrate your annual usage on you monthly bills in order for you to now be able to shop around.

By inputting your usage information into an energy comparison website then you can compare a number of tariffs, see how much you could save compared to your current tariff and apply to switch there and then through the comparison website. USwitch.com is a popular website for this, there is also Octopus Energy https://octopus.energy/ and Simply Switch https://www.simplyswitch.com/.

The benefits of using a comparison website is that it will store your information so you don’t have to input everything from scratch every year and you are able to set a reminder with them for when your renewal date is due. Also, they can quite often offer exclusive tariffs that are unavailable elsewhere.

NB: Before switching be aware of your switching fees and make sure that if any fees apply to leave your current supplier that the saving you would make by switching would outweigh these penalties.

If you are too busy, or find the whole process of switching again and again daunting, there are new companies emerging in the energy market that are happy to do all this on your behalf. Such auto-switching sites are still a small part of the market, with a little over 100,000 people signed up. Some are free, while others charge. Some, operate on the conventional commission-based model of price comparison sites, taking a cut from suppliers, others charge householders a fee for the service. Although there are many new auto switching websites emerging, one of the more established websites is:

www.lookaftermybills.com/‎

, https://flipper.community and https://thelabrador.co.uk/?

“It’s early days but there’s no doubt we’re starting to move into the next phase of energy switching,” says Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/.

He also points out that while the services are good for convenience, better savings can be made by householders searching for the cheapest deals themselves.

For day to day general energy saving tips this website is also useful >> https://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency/energy-saving-quick-wins

Mortgage

This is a big one to keep on top of! Whether you go for a fixed rate, variable or tracker the market is constantly changing. You might want to move to a mortgage that has a better interest rate but sometimes the lender requires you to pay an early repayment charge before you can switch. It’s important to weigh up the price of the early repayment charge (sometimes referred to as exit fee or admin fee), as well as any other charges related to the new mortgage, against the costs you’ll be saving with the lower interest rate.

A common mistake would be to go to your current bank to see what deal you can get. It is certainly the easier option because they have all your details and there would be less hoops to jump through in order to get an agreement in principle BUT as this is likely to be one of the biggest investments in your life then it makes sense to shop around. Not only that but it is also a sad fact that once a company has your business, they are less likely to offer you the best deal because they feel they already have your loyalty. Better rates are often offered to new business customers.

For an all-round unbiased service, we would highly recommend going to a broker who will take your details and then look at the whole market in order to find you the best deal. We work very closely with a broker that has access to 12,000 different mortgage products from 90 different lenders. They offer a free consultation and a small fee if you proceed but when it comes to potentially saving thousands of pounds in interest and penalties it will be worth the peace of mind in the long term. If you would like us to get a FREE consultation with this broker, please fill out a contact us form.

NB: You can lose your home if you default on your mortgage payments.

Council Tax

Council tax is a local property tax and (removed word unfortunately) applies to all residential properties such as houses, bungalows, flats, maisonettes, houseboats and mobile homes, regardless of whether they are rented or owned.

12% of the council tax that we collect is kept by Cheltenham Borough Council. The council tax you pay goes towards three different areas (called precepts):

  • Cheltenham Borough Council (including parish councils)
  • Gloucestershire County Council
  • Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire

Council tax is mandatory but, in some cases, you may get a discount or be exempt if the occupant(s) falls into one of the below categories.

For more information on these discounts you can visit the council tax website https://www.cheltenham.gov.uk/counciltaxdiscounts

 

Home Insurances

Building and contents insurance can be a minefield and it is difficult to compare policies like-for-like. The main areas to make sure are comparable when comparing costs are:

  1. Sums insured for the building & contents
  2. The voluntary and compulsory excesses
  3. New for old policy
  4. Accidental damage or standard cover

Increasing the voluntary excess on your policy can quite often bring the premium down. The best way to consider what level you would be happy with setting as a voluntary excess would completely depend on your circumstances and the finances available to you monthly.

For example, a lot of people would rather pay £500 to get something done straight away rather than go through an insurance procedure - phone calls, forms, quotes etc. - and then pay an excess of £250 in order for the insurance company to pay the other £250.

Yes, you might have saved yourself £250 in the short term, but it is important to bear in mind that insurance companies can often drag their feet during the claim process but they also have a cheeky tendency to increase your premium on the following renewal date if you have made a claim that they have paid out on.

Buildings insurance is mandatory when you have a mortgage however, so it is important to give it some thought and shop around.

Again, the benefit of using a comparison website is that it will store your information so you don’t have to input everything from scratch every year and you are able to set a reminder with them for when your renewal is due. Also, they quite often provide an extra incentive for switching through the website (such as gifts or 2-4-1 cinema tickets for a year) and offer exclusive tariffs that are unavailable elsewhere. Such website can include comparethemarket.com, gocompare.com and the confused.com.

NAEA The Property Ombudsman Rightmove Zoopla Primelocation OnTheMarket