Friday, 5 April 2019

Finance Fridays - Price Changes in April 2019

We were looking at starting a bed and breakfast business in last week's Finance Fridays. This week we are checking some of the price changes that have occurred this week. With the end of the tax year today many companies use the beginning of April as the traditional date to hike their prices and charges up. Let's have a look at some of them.

Stamps – The cost of both first and second class stamps has gone up. Both have increased up by 3p. A first class stamp is now 70p and a second class stamp is 61p. If you are a keen online seller do also bear in mind that the price of a small parcel up to 2kg is now £3.00. If you buy your postage online you can reduce this to £2.90.

Council tax – There's not a lot you can do about the rising cost of council tax. This year the average price rise for a Band D property is £70 a year. Only two councils seem to have frozen their council tax this year and they are Wigan and Thurrock. It does seem a bit extreme to move to another area to escape the increase but there is something you can do to help you manage the cost of council tax. We pay our council tax over 10 months and so have nothing to pay in February and March. This suits us as our car insurance is due in March and two months council tax cost pays for that. For other people having a break for February and March may work well after the expense of Christmas. Alternatively if you currently over 10 months then requesting to switch to 12 months will mean lower monthly payments.

Water – Just like council tax you can't choose your provider but you can do something about the cost of it despite this year's price rises. If your bills are calculated by the rates method then you will charged a fixed fee no matter how much water you use. You can switch to a water meter for 12 months to see if it is cheaper for you and if it isn't you can switch back. Generally the rule of thumb is that water rates are cheaper if you have more people living in your house than bedrooms. Do also think if you take a lot of baths, water your garden or wash your car at home as this will all contribute to higher water bills.

Mobile phones – If you are on a monthly mobile phone contract then it is likely your monthly fee has gone up. Customers of O2, Three and Vodafone will be paying 2.5% more and EE said it was increasing their contracts by 2.7%. These annual price increases are written into their terms and conditions and allows them to increase their prices each year by RPI.

Prescriptions and dental charges – It costs to be ill these days and that includes just having a simple check-up. For those in England who have to pay for prescriptions (remember Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland abolished prescription charges some years ago) the cost for a single item has risen 20p to £9.00. If you have a lot of medication or a long term condition requiring a prescription then it might be better buying a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC). These haven't risen in cost and a three month one costs £29 while a 12 month one is £104.

For dental charges in England there are three bands covering dental work and the cost is applied accordingly. Band one is the basic check-up and care. This has increased by £1.10 to £22.70. Band Two is now £62.10 and covers fillings and tooth removal. The final Band Three will now be £269.30 and is for more complex treatment such as crowns and dentures. In Wales the fees will increase for Band One to £14.30 (up 30p), Band Two to £46 and Band Three £199.10. Those eligible for dental treatment in Scotland and Northern Ireland won't see any increase in fees.

Minimum wage – Not so much a price change directly but one that can cause prices to rise. From 1st April the National Living Wage, as it is called for those aged 25 and above, rose from £7.83 to £8.21 per hour. For younger people it has also gone up depending on the age banding. With all the price increases already listed this seems to be good news for those in line for the extra in their wage packets from now on. However, having to pay out extra on salaries does mean that employers either have to swallow the costs or increase their own prices which then has a knock-on effect elsewhere.

Plastic shopping bags – We all know they are bad for the environment which is why the government introduced a charge in 2015 for single use plastic bags. At first the charge was 5p per bag but some retailers and in particular supermarkets have switched to 'bags for life' which cost more. From 8th April the cheapest bag Morrisons will be offering their customers will cost 20p. They will also be rolling out paper shopping bags at the same price in Wales at the same time and then in England and Scotland in May.

Station toilets – Last but not least a charge being scrapped! Network Rail confirmed that the cost of using the toilets in their busiest stations has been dropped. Sadly Network Rail only operates 20 stations, albeit some of the biggest including King's Cross and Edinburgh Waverley. This means that other train station operators are still charging.

What April rises have you noticed? How are you going to pay for them?

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