13:07 07 January 2013
The start of a new year is the perfect time to whip your finances back into shape. But, while there are numerous ways to save money by cutting back on spending and switching to a better deal, there may be cash out there that already belongs to you. And it's up to you to find it.
So grab yourself a cuppa, gather together your paperwork and let's get cracking.
1. Get a refund from your energy supplier
Many of us pay for our energy bills by direct debit because it usually works out cheaper. But if no one has popped round recently to read your electricity and gas meters, the amount being deducted from your bank account will be based on an estimated reading rather than an actual one. As a result, you could be paying too much.
The only way to avoid this is to regularly give your energy supplier an accurate meter reading - usually by calling up an automated answer system or by logging onto your account online. Once you have done this, your bill will be updated and you may find yourself in credit.
Although it's not uncommon to be in credit on your bill, as energy usage goes up in winter and down in summer, if you're heavily in credit, ask your provider to refund you which it must provide unless it has a valid reason not to.
Energy suppliers should automatically offer refunds over a certain level anyway, so make sure you receive the full amount. For example, npower refunds you if you're £60 or more in credit after 12 months and have given an accurate meter reading. In fact, npower recently refunded me around £150 and I didn't even ask for it.
Meanwhile, British Gas only refunds you automatically if you are £100 or more in credit at the end of the year and you've given an up-to-date meter reading. However, you can ask to have it refunded earlier if you wish.
2. Check your council tax band
Council tax is one of the many necessary evils in life so the last thing you want is to be paying over the odds for it.
Council tax bands are based on valuations made in 1991 and range from A to H, with A being the lowest. Because properties in England and Scotland haven't been re-valued since 1991, you may have moved into a different band without realising it. This means you could be paying more for your council tax than you should be.
To find out if you are, check how much your neighbours are paying by heading to the council tax valuation list and typing in your postcode (England and Wales only - those in Scotland should go through the Scottish Assessors website).
If you are in a higher band than many of your neighbours, you can challenge it by asking the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to look into it.
If your property has changed significantly since it was valued, you can also make a formal challenge to the VOA - but only in the circumstances listed here.
If the VOA agrees you're in the wrong band, it will be corrected and you will be refunded.
3. Get tax back if you wear a uniform
Wearing a uniform to work each day not only makes getting ready in the morning much easier, but if you have to wash, repair and replace it yourself, you may also be able to claim tax back.
Providing your uniform shows you do a certain job, such as a T-shirt with a company logo or a nurse's uniform, and you don't wear it outside work, you can make a claim. How much tax relief you can claim depends on your industry.
The standard allowance for looking after your uniform is a flat rate of £60 for the current tax year. This means basic rate taxpayers can claim back 20% of this, so £12. Higher rate taxpayers can claim back 40%, so £24.
If this is the first time you've made a claim you will need to contact HM Revenue & Customs in writing. Otherwise you can claim by phone on 0845 300 0627.
4. Claim for a delayed flight
My honeymoon to Costa Rica a couple of years back got off to a bit of a bad start thanks to being stuck in a New York airport for five hours due to a thunderstorm. If you've also experienced the joys of a delayed flight don't put up and shut up. You may be able to claim compensation - and not just for recent flights either.
Thanks to new EU rules, if your flight departed from an EU airport, regardless of airline, or you were on an EU airline and the flight arrived at an EU airport, you could get compensation for delays of three or more hours. This applies to flights dating back as far as February 17, 2005.
In some cases you will be refunded the cost of your ticket, in others you may get additional compensation on top.
You can read more about it how to claim with Cathy Toogood's article but before you get too excited, bear in mind if the delay was caused by something out of the airline's control, such as bad weather or industrial action, you won't be able to claim.
5. Reclaim PPI
Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past couple of years, you can't have missed hearing about payment protection insurance (PPI).
Most of us will have received a phone call or a text message or seen an advert on television telling us to reclaim PPI. But if you do believe you were mis-sold PPI when you took out a loan or credit card, there's no need to pay someone else to reclaim it for you as you can easily do it yourself.
To make a claim, contact the company you think has mis-sold to you. The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) website has a useful section on PPI to help you make your claim. If your claim is turned down, you can then take your case to the FOS which will look at the facts and decide if you were unfairly sold a policy. If it rules in your favour, you will receive a refund from your provider.
Refunds can be in the thousands, so if you think you're entitled to one, don't hesitate in finding out.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct
Disclaimer: Supanet is not responsible for, and disclaims any and all liability for the content of comments written by contributors to this website
x Share us on Facebook