Nine things you must do before April
Here are nine things you must do in the last nine days of March...
Austerity April is closing in fast.
Yes, next month looks set to be the point when the recession really starts to bite as taxes rise and prices soar. And it’s not just these austerity measures that will make April a financially stressful month – it’s also the end of the tax year on the fifth.
So to help you save some cash before April hits, here are nine things you should do in the last nine days of March...
#1 Pick up any prescriptions
Prescription charges in England will increase on April 1st from £7.20 to £7.40 per item. So if you have a prescription (or repeat prescription) lurking around that you haven’t collected yet; do it before April 1st!
North of the border in Scotland, prescription charges will be scrapped on April 1st as the country moves in line with Wales and Northern Ireland – both of which already have free prescriptions, but only for residents.
Annual pre-payment prescription certificates in England will stay unchanged at £104 – the equivalent of 15 individual prescriptions within a year. But the shorter three month versions will increase on April 1st from £28.25 to £29.10 – that’s equal to four individual prescriptions in the same period of time.
To check if you’re eligible for free prescriptions and for some more frugal medicine tips read Save money on your healthcare.
#2 Visit the dentist
Prescriptions aren’t the only health charges that are being hiked on April 1st; NHS dental fees will also increase. The cost of a check up will rise by 50p to £17, fillings and root canals will go up by £1.40 to £47 and dentures and bridges will increase to £204 – a £6 rise.
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So if you’re due a check up it may be worth seeing if your dentist can fit you in before the month is out. And don’t forget to check if you’re eligible for free treatment before you hand over any cash.
#3 Switch phone providers
If you currently use BT as your landline telephone provider you may want to consider switching before call charges and line rental costs are upped on April 28th. The costs of calls are set to rise by 9% and monthly line charges will be hiked by 30p.
These rises will take landline calls from 7p per minute to 7.6p and the BT call minder answering machine service will also increase from £2.60 per month to £3.
#4 Cut your water costs
Water companies will be allowed to hike prices on April 1st in England and Wales, while prices in Scotland will stay frozen for the billing year 2011/12.
Most households will experience price rises of 4.6% as payments rise by an average of £16 to £356 this year. But some areas of the country will experience higher increases depending on their local water supplier. Northumbrian water customers will face the largest rises of £24 per year (7.8%) while the lowest hikes will be brought in by Welsh Water with a 2.7% rise.
#5 Top up your NI contributions
National Insurance (NI) contributions dictate the amount you’ll be paid when you reach State Pension age. You get a full year of NI contributions for each year you work or claim benefits such as Income Support or Child Benefit – the more NI contributions you have, the more State Pension you’ll get.
Currently you’ll need 30 years of NI contributions to receive the full State Pension, but if you haven’t managed to build up this amount you can still buy back individual years and give your pension pot a boost.
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What’s more, if you do this before April 5th you’ll be able to claim even more cash back – read Two weeks left to boost your pension by thousands to find out how.
#6 Boost your personal pension
It’s not just your State Pension that you can boost before April hits. If you have a personal or stakeholder pension, you can also make additional tax-free contributions up to a limit of £255,000 – but only if you do it by the end of the financial year on April 5th.
It’s especially worthwhile to take advantage of the 2010/11 £255,000 allowance as the limit is being slashed to just £50,000 for the next financial year.
#7 Get an ISA
An ISA is a savings account that pays out interest that is not subject to tax. Currently you can earn over 3% on an easy access Cash ISA and as much as 4% if you’re prepared to lock your cash away for a fixed term.
We’re all allowed to deposit £5,100 into one of these accounts in this tax year, but to take advantage of this year’s allowance you must make the transfer before April 5th. If you don’t use it – you’ll lose it!
#8 Use your personal allowances
If your spouse or civil partner is in a lower tax band than you or pays no tax at all, then transferring any savings into their name could cut your income tax bill. This is because the interest on the savings will be subject to his or her tax rate and personal allowance.
#9 Buy stamps
On 4th April first class stamps will increase in price from 41p to 46p, second class stamps will jump 4p to 36p and first class larger letters will be hiked by 9p to 75p. It’s estimated that these rises could add as much as £30 million to the country's Christmas post bill – so it may be worth stocking up now!