Nine personal finance changes hitting TOMORROW – and what you need to do right now explained

AS a cost of living crunch hits millions of families, you'll want to know about these nine personal finance changes rolling out from tomorrow.

A flurry of hikes are set to come in from April 1 – here's what you need to do to protect your finances.

Millions of households will see their energy bills DOUBLE from tomorrowwhen the energy price cap increase will be introduced.

Mobile phone and broadband costs will also rise for many customers.

While petrol prices mean filling up a family car costs almost £100 now – even after Rishi Sunak cut fuel duty by 5p.

National Insurance and council tax rates will also rise.

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But an increase to the living wage and some benefit rates could help ease the squeeze on budgets.

The living wage, which is paid to those age 23 and over, will rise from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour from April.

Here's exactly what you need to know about the big personal finance changes happening from tomorrow.

Council tax rises by up to 6%

Council tax is going up from tomorrow – and families are now typically being charged £2,000 or more for it.

Rates will be hiked by as much as 6% across the country, with the levy going towards upkeeping local services like roads and state schools.

How much extra you will pay will depend on your local council and what band you are in – which is based on how much your home is worth.

There's no way to avoid the increase, but it pays to be aware of upcoming changes so you're not caught out.

Plus, there are steps you can take to make the rise easier on your budget.

How to beat the hike

You could be eligible for a council tax reduction without realising and some people can even get a 100% discount.

If you live on your own, you're entitled to 25% off your council tax bill.

This also applies if there is one adult and one student living together in a household.

If you live with someone who doesn't have to pay council tax – such as a child or someone who is severely mentally impaired – you could get a 50% reduction.

If you live in an all-student household, you won't have to pay council tax.

Many households will also get a £150 rebate on their council tax in April – it's part of the Chancellor's measures to help with soaring energy bills.

You should get the payment if your property is in council tax bands A to D, and there is a discretionary pot of £144million to help those outside those bands.

The grant will be handed out first to people who pay their council tax bills via direct debit.

That's because it can be deposited straight into their bank accounts – so to get it sooner, make sure to set up a direct debit – contact your local council to do this.

You might want to check your council tax band to see if you could be eligible for a council tax refund.

You can find out your band by checking with your local authority or on the postcode checker.

If you think you are paying more than you should, you can try and change the band.

Use the council tax band checker tool to see which band your neighbours are in.

If they are in a lower band than you are, you could get yours moved down.

Contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) in England and Wales or the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) in Scotland to do this.

Make sure you've got the evidence to hand showing you're paying more, such as addresses of similar properties to yours in a lower band.

If the VOA agrees that your property is in the wrong section, it will contact you to let you know it will be changed.

Energy price cap goes up

The energy price cap, which limits how much suppliers can charge customers for their energy, will go up tomorrow adding nearly £700 onto millions of customers' bills on average.

Those on default tariffs paying by direct debit will pay an average of £1,971 per year from April 1.

Prepayment customers will see an increase of £708 from £1,309 to an average of £2,017. The energy price cap only applies to providers' standard and default tariffs.

This means if you're on a fixed-term energy deal, the cap doesn't apply to you.

It doesn't mean that this is the price everyone will pay – your exact bill will depend on how much energy you use.

Here's what you can do to try and cut your bills to ease the price hike.

How to beat the hike

You might not know that household appliances could be a real drain on your energy bills if they are not working properly.

For example, if your radiator has cold spots even when it’s on, it shows there’s air trapped inside, which is stopping it from working properly – and costing you money.

Make sure to check key appliances are working properly – for example, you'll need to bleed your radiators if there are cold spots.

Changing the settings to the most cost friendly option on your appliances as well could save you money.

For example, if you have a combi-boiler – the most common model – make sure the flow settings are set to 50C for hot water and 55C for heating.

Sometimes, default temperatures are much higher than this – and it can increase your energy bills.

Make sure you do a meter reading TODAY as well.

Although mega website crashes have happened today as suppliers' sites struggle to cope with the number of people logging in to do their meter reading, it's important to take a picture of yours today.

You will be able to submit it later with today's date on it.

Doing a gas and electric meter reading before the new price cap rolls out will help you avoid paying more than you need to.

Local councils also offer welfare assistance schemes all year round that can help you with bills.

And energy suppliers are offering cash grants to those hardest hit by bills rises.

For example, British Gas is giving out up to £750 through its hardship fund.

But the amount can vary according to your supplier and your circumstances.

If you're not eligible for any financial help, you can reduce the amount of gas and electricity you need with some simple tips.

For example, by turning your thermostat down just one degree you could save around £100.

National insurance hike

There are a number of National Insurance changes happening from tomorrow you need to know about.

You pay National Insurance when you're employed and earning more than £9,568 a year, or £184 per week.

Self-employed people earning more than £6,515 also pay national insurance contributions.

Rishi Sunak announced a major change to National Insurance in his Spring Statement, which means millions more workers won't pay the tax from July.

However, many people will still have to pay hundreds of pounds more a year as the National Insurance rate goes up from 12% to 13.25%.

The hikes will hit the finances of around 25million Brits, who will have to pay 1.25 per centage points extra in contributions.

How to beat the hike

How much extra you will pay will depend on how much you earn – you can check out how it will affect your salary here.

If you're ready for the increase, you'll be able to set a new budget, rather than being surprised by the tax increase after April 2022.

Perhaps it is time to ask your boss for a pay rise or look at ways to increase your income from other sources.

Plus, you'll want to see if you're eligible for a number of tax reliefs.

You can claim for a working from home tax relief worth up to £125 – even if you’ve just worked one day from home.

If you are a basic rate tax payer, the relief is worth 20% – that means that you'll get £1.20 per week.

This adds up to £62.40 over a year for anyone earning between £12,500 and £50,000.

And if you're part of a married couple, check if you can apply for the marriage allowance.

This can slash hundreds of pounds off your yearly tax bill – you can transfer up to a maximum of £1,260 in unused allowance, which would mean saving £252 off your income tax bill this year.

But you are also allowed to backdate your claim for up to four years – as long as you met the criteria.

This would net you an extra £970 in tax savings bringing the total amount you've got back up to £1,220.

Mobile and broadband bills rising

Many UK mobile networks and broadband providers are preparing to hike their prices from April.

EE, Vodafone and BT pay monthly customers will see their bills rise by as much as 9.3% from April.

A Sun investigation found that EE – which is owned by BT – is increasing prices by up to £73.68 a year.

O2 is yet to announce how much payments will increase by, but that will be revealed later this month.

How to beat the hike

You can't get out of these mid-contract hikes as they're in the agreement you signed.

Check your contract to find out how much you currently pay. Your provider will get in touch to tell you how much it will increase by.

But there are ways you can try and get a better deal.

You can also haggle with your provider to try and lower your bill, especially if you are coming to the end of your contract.

They will want to keep your business, so may offer you a better deal.

Research from Which? shows households could save nearly £250 a year by asking for cheaper rates.

It's also worth checking that you're not paying for a service or channel that you don't actually use and seeing if you can cancel it.

Water bills to jump

From Friday, millions will be paying more for their water bills.

The average combined water bill will rise from £412 a year to £419 from April 1 according to WaterUK.

In some cases, households will have to pay up to £36 a year more.

The exact amount your bill will rise from next month will depend on where you live, how much you're charged and the rate it's increasing by.

You can check how much the average bill is going up in your area from the Discover Water website.

How to beat the hike

Moving to a water meter could help you save cash.

One mum more than HALVED her water bill after getting a meter – saving over £200 a year.

The device will measure how much water you use and send the data to your supplier who uses it to take more accurate readings and charge you your bill.

The general rule is that if you have more rooms than people living in your home, you'll likely save money getting on installed.

You could cut £70 from your energy bills and reduce your water bills too by reducing your wash time.

And turning the tap off while you brush your teeth could save £60 a yearsays Octopus.

Water companies offer a range of support to struggling households, including a cap on bills for large families and those with certain medical conditions through the WaterSure scheme.

Stamp shake-up

Stamps will soar to almost £1 from April 4.

First class stamps will rise 10p to 95p, and second class stamps will set you back 2p more at 68p.

Royal Mail announced the price increases earlier this month, blaming the decision on fewer people sending letters.

The postal service said the number of letters being sent has fallen 60% since 2005.

Since the start of the pandemic, there are 20% fewer letters being mailed.

How to beat the hikes

If you send a lot of letters, it might be worth stocking up on stamps before they go up in April.

You'll also want to be aware that your stamps might look a little different too.

New barcodes will be found on new stamps from today.

You'll want to know that you won't be able to use old stamps from January 31, 2023 – so make sure to use them all up by then.

Or, you can swap them in for the new-style stamps.

You have to fill out a "Swap-Out" form on the Royal Mail website, which hasn't yet been released, or call the postal giant directly to request a form.

Or you trek out to get one in person from a local delivery office – but not a Post Office.

You'll then have to post back the stamps you want to swap to a Freepost address.

Covid tests won't be free

Families  will have to pay around £2 to check if they have the virus, from April 1.

That's because the Test & Trace programme, including free testing, cost the government £15.7billion in 2021/22 alone.

To lower the cost you'll have to pay – but vulnerable people, including those in high-risk jobs and with health conditions, will be eligible to pick up swabs without paying.

How to avoid paying

You can still go on the Government website to order lateral flow tests – there are still some delivery slots available in England every day.

It means you still have a chance to order some in and avoid paying for them.

Benefit rates go up….

From April 11, millions of people get more money in their pockets as benefit rates will rise.

Benefits including Universal Credit, child benefit and more will go up by 3.1%.

That's because rates are going up in line with the rate of inflation recorded in October last year.

An increase in line with inflation is designed to help people keep up with rising prices.

But as the latest rate of inflation for February has soared to 6.2%, experts have slammed the government for not increasing benefit rates in line with this figure.

It means that your money might not stretch to cover all bills and essential purchases – which are rocketing in price.

How much will I get?

You can check out ALL the benefit rate rises in our handy round-up here.

The exact date you start getting the higher rates will depend on when you get your monthly payments.

Universal Credit claimants getting the standard allowance will get £10 more a month – or more than £15 extra if you're part of a couple.

You can use a benefits calculator to check if you're claiming everything you're entitled to which could boost your purse.

You can check by using an online benefits calculator, which are offered by charities such as Turn2Us and EntitledTo.

… and beware of payment shake-up

If you receive your benefit payments onto a Post Office card, you'll need to move your account over before April 5 or risk having your payments stopped.

Post Office accounts were intended for those without a bank account.

But now, anyone who gets Post Office payments will need to either open a bank account or, if they already have one, give HMRC the account details.

It's estimated that around 382,000 people still use a Post Office card account.

What to do now

Customers have a choice to receive their payments via a bank, building society, or credit union account.

You won't get the payments until you have provided or created a new eligible account.

Child Benefit and Guardian’s Allowance customers can use their Personal Tax Account to let HMRC know about the new bank account, or use the webpage to report changes.

Alternatively, you can call the Child Benefit line on 0300 200 3100.

Anyone getting tax credits can change their account details online via too, or by calling the tax credits helpline on 0345 300 3900.

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