Back to school, back to work and back to saving money - we've 18 key savers to ease you into autumn
With leaves starting to fall, nights drawing in, and kids heading back to school, there's no hiding it - summer's fading and autumn is on its way. September is a time when many people's focus switches from time-off and holidays to getting back to the normal routines (well, normal for a pandemic) of work and school.
So why not also make sorting your finances part of that shift? If it saves you £100s, you'll be able to relax more on that next break. Here are some ideas to get you and your finances ready for the weeks and months ahead...
This article was originally written for our weekly email on Wednesday 1 September 2021. We've updated it with all the latest info on Tuesday 7 September 2021.
1. Huge £140/year energy hikes due in a month hitting millions. As the switching process can take 3 weeks, sort it now.
The price cap on standard energy tariffs paid by 11 million customers will jump on 1 Oct due to the soaring price suppliers pay for the gas and electricity they sell us. While the cost of the cheapest deals has also risen over recent weeks for the same reason, they will still save a typical £100+/yr over the next year compared with staying on a standard rate.
If you find choosing confusing, we can help. With our MSE Pick Me A Tariff tools, tell us your preferences and we'll find your winner from the whole market - perfect if you're nervous about switching. Or you can do a full market comparison.
Switching worked for Sue, who emailed: "As I heard prices are rising from Oct, I switched and saved £315 a year, and fixed for years. This has really helped me."
On certain benefits? Some can also apply for £140 towards bills via the 2021/22 warm home discount.
2. Just a few weeks left to apply for a Self-Employment Income Scheme grant worth up to £7,500. Don't forget.
The deadline for the fifth and final Covid grant is 30 Sep. Full info on eligibility criteria, how much you can get and how to apply in self-employed grant help.
3. Heading back to the office? Use our commuter tool to find your cheapest train season ticket.
If you're not going back full time, our Train Season Ticket Calculator lets you compare normal annual season tickets with daily fares and new flexi season tickets.
4. Last-minute cheap school uniform from only £3 an item - though stock's limited.
While some schools are already back, many kids returned last week, and if you've spotted last-minute gaps or just want some spares, see our cheap school uniform round-up.
5. Get £125+ to switch bank - now is a good time.
This is a staple MoneySaving tip in any month, but there are a couple of good deals at present. And as we always say, switching is easy.
- Switch to Nationwide to bag £100, or £125 if you're an existing savings, mortgage or current account customer (plus we've a trick to make anyone eligible for the £125). If accepted for Nationwide's FlexDirect account*, you can get the cash plus a 1yr 0% overdraft and 2% AER fixed savings interest on up to £1,500 in year 1.
If you're a newbie or you've a savings or mortgage with it, use the link above to apply. If you already have a FlexAccount, FlexDirect or FlexPlus account you can switch in a current account from a rival via online banking. See our Nationwide FlexDirect review for full info and eligibility criteria, and how to make yourself eligible for the £125 if you don't qualify.
- Switch to Virgin for a free £150 experience voucher + 2% savings. The Virgin Money M Plus account* gives newbies who switch to it £150 towards Virgin Experience Days (for example, a track day or sushi making).
It pays 2.02% AER variable interest on up to £1,000 and comes with a linked easy-access savings account paying 0.35% AER variable. Its debit card is also a top pick for overseas use. See our Virgin Money review for full info and eligibility criteria.
Full switching help and more deals in Best bank accounts.
6. Planning on a holiday now travel is (slightly) easier? Save £100s booking the right way.
Many missed out on a summer trip so if you're planning a last-minute September getaway or a half-term or Christmas trip instead, use our tips to slash costs. Just remember it's best to book with flexibility given the uncertainty.
- Cheap package holidays - they give extra protection and can be cheap if you're heading to resorts.
- Cheap flights - including free seat selection and cancelled flight rights.
- Cheap hotels - also includes cheap holiday rentals.
- Cheap travel insurance - get it as soon as you've booked.
8. Get TWO years' tax relief worth up to £280 if you've had to work from home for just ONE day in each of the last TWO years.
This isn't a must-do now but this 'back to normal' period is a good time to sort it, especially as it's easy for many.
If your employer required you to work from home for at least a day between 6 April 2020 and 5 April 2021, you can claim a whole year's tax relief on your working-from-home (WFH) expenses. Plus if you've had to work a day at home since 6 April 2021, you can claim another year - in total it can be worth up to £280. See Martin's WFH tax back blog.
As Daniel tweeted: "Thanks @MartinSLewis, I just claimed two years. £250 on its way to me off my tax."
9. New petrol on forecourts from 1 Sep - check if your car is compatible.
New rules in England, Scotland and Wales mean most forecourts now need to sell greener 'E10' petrol as standard, yet 600,000 older vehicles aren't compatible and require pricier fuel. Those cars that can handle it may also need to be filled up more often as it's less efficient. See full new greener petrol help, including how to check your car's compatibility.
10. Putting on your uniform ready for work again? Are you due a tax rebate?
Claiming is easy - see Uniform tax refunds. Cole tweeted: "@MartinSLewis. Put in for uniform tax rebate, calculated they owe me £60 for the last three years. New tax code now with uniform allowance included. Def worth it."
11. About to pay for childcare or after-school clubs now you're back at work? Save 20%.
If you're a single parent who works, or a couple where both parents work, check out the Government's Tax-Free Childcare scheme. It's worth up to £2,000/yr per child aged 11 or under, yet only about one in five eligible families claim it.
12. Saving rates are rising (slowly) - get up to 1.75%. Check NOW to up your return.
While it's hardly time to crack open the champagne, rates have been inching up over the last few weeks from what were depressingly low figures. So if you've not checked recently, you may be able to get a boost:
- Get 0.65% easy access. Here, you can add and withdraw money when you want, though rates are variable so can fall (or rise). The top payer is app-only Tandem at 0.65% AER interest, but if a big name is important to you, Nationwide's 0.45%* AER deal is the top easy-access savings rate from a high-street firm (but you're limited to three penalty-free withdrawals a year).
- Get 1.67% fixed, if you can lock cash away for the term. Here, you get rate protection as returns are set in stone though it means you won't benefit if rates rise. Atom pays the top 1yr fix at 1.5% AER and the top 2yr fix at 1.75% AER.
Full info and more options in Top savings.
13. FREE financial education textbook - vital term-time reading for you and your kids.
Partly funded by Martin, it's the first ever curriculum-mapped textbook in schools, available as a free 150-page PDF download for anyone, with tailored versions for those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (Wales to come in autumn). Many grown-ups learn from it too.
14. Don't get back into costly habits, especially if you're going back into the office. Check how much that morning latte really costs.
Use our Demotivator to see the true cost over the year for anything where you need to kick the habit to save pounds - and how long you'd need to work to pay for it. The answer can be eye-watering.
16. Don't automatically throw leftover suncream away. It could last up to two years.
You may have some from a holiday overseas or that you planned to use at home. See why you should always turn sun cream around before throwing it away.
17. £15bn worth of benefits are unclaimed - are you missing out on £1,000s - with Covid support measures ending?
Ensure you get what you're entitled to with our 10-minute benefits checker. For instance, an estimated half a million people could claim universal credit but don't.
18. Time to start saving for Christmas (yes really), if you haven't already.
While we wouldn't normally use the C-word in September, it can cost families dearly - especially with worries about supply shortages this year which may make deals harder to find. So don't try to pay for it out of December's salary (and you could consider banning unnecessary presents too). See saving for Christmas tips.