Cost of living - latest updates: Booze will get more expensive next month - wine drinkers could be worst hit; Amazon Prime discount dates revealed (2023)

Key points
  • Taking a train this week? Expect disruption
  • Why booze is about to get a lot more expensive (and possibly have less alcohol in)
  • House prices fall 3.5% - with huge drop predicted over next year
  • Everything to know before energy price cap changes
  • Your financial dilemmas:Can my mortgage offer be withdrawn?| Submit your dilemma above
  • Budgeting Mum:Finding cheap petrol|Electric cars|Saving for your children|Do food subscriptions save money?|Holiday spending

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Submit your dilemma to our cost of living specialist

Do you have a financial dilemma to put to our cost of living specialist?

It might be an issue with your mortgage or rent, or your consumer rights, or what benefits you are entitled to - whether it's one of these or something else, our question form is now open.

Cost of living reporter Megan Baynes will go through submissions and post the answers in this blog.


Marks and Spencer offering customers money off children's clothing for donating old school uniforms

Marks and Spencer is rewarding people for handing in old school uniforms by offering them money off children's clothes.

The retailer is placing "schwop" boxes in more than 200 stores to encourage shoppers to donate.

Customers can receive 20% off selected children's ranges through the Sparks scheme for taking part.

The pre-loved uniforms, including those from different brands and with school badges on, will be given a second life in an Oxfam shop and a dedicated eBay store.

"Every parent should be able to have access to a school uniform for their child at any age which is good quality and fit for purpose," said Lucy Peacock, head of pre-loved fashion at eBay UK.

"The cost of living crisis has created greater education poverty and an ever-increasing need for school uniforms."

Any school uniform that can't be resold in Oxfam shops or on eBay due to its quality will be recycled or reused wherever possible.

Earlier this month, Marks and Spencer froze the price of its school uniform for the third year in a row as part of its "commitment to protecting value on the products that matter most to customers".

Have you been affected by the rising cost of school uniform? If so, we'd like to hear from you. You can share your story with Sky News by contacting us on WhatsApp.

By sending us your video footage, photographs or audio you agree we can publish, broadcast and edit the material.


Free £200 HSBC switching bonus ends today

HSBC is offering bank switchers £200 when they sign up to its Advance current account - but the deal ends today.

In order to change your bank, you'll need to pass a credit check.

Then to get the bonus, you must use HSBC's current account switching service.

It automatically closes your account and moves over your money, direct debits and standing orders within seven working days.

Here's how to qualify for the £200 bonus:

  • Switch your current account using HSBC's current account switch service, including at least two direct debits or standing orders;
  • Start your switch within 30 days of opening your account;
  • Deposit at least £1,500 into your new account within 60 days of opening it.

You will not qualify for the offer if:

  • You've had an HSBC current account since 1 January 2020;
  • You've opened a first direct current account since 1 January 2020.

On top of the £200 bonus, you'll also be able to access a 5% regular savings account.

Here are some of the other switching deals currently on the market, according to MoneySavingExpert.

Natwest Reward bank account

Natwest is also offering £200 for switching to this account, plus a possible £3 a month cashback and access to a 6.17% regular saver.

To qualify for the free £200, you need to pay in £1,250 and use the app within 60 days.

The account has a £2 a month fee, but you can get £5 a month cashback - leaving those who qualify a net £3 up.

To qualify for the cashback: Pay in £1,250 a month, set up at least two direct debits of £2 or more going out and use its app.

First Direct 1st account

You can get £175, access to a 7% regular saver and a £250 0% overdraft for switching to this account.

To qualify you need to pay in at least £1,000 within three months.

Club Lloyds account

Lloyds is offering switchers £150, a 6.25% regular savings account and a "lifestyle benefit", such as a yearly Disney+ subscription, for opening a club account.

In order to qualify, you have to pay in £2,000 a month or pay a £3 monthly fee.


One of the biggest shopping events of the year: Amazon Prime Day date confirmed

Since 2015, Amazon has held an annual event offering its Prime customers exclusive deals and discounts on thousands of products.

The online retail giant has already reduced the price of some items, but Which? says it could be saving better deals for its Prime Day event.

This year it will be held on 11 and 12 July.

New deals will be dropping throughout the 48-hour sale, and electronics, baby products and kitchen appliances are some of the departments we expect to see offers in.

Amazon has confirmed that products from Samsung, Shark, Oral-B and Tefal will be discounted.

It's important to note the Prime Day discounts are only available to Prime members.

The membership costs £8.99 a month or £95 per year, and gets you access to Prime Video and unlimited premium delivery.


Selling your home? Energy efficiency could give you advantage

House hunters are prioritising energy efficiency and smart technology in their search for a home, new research suggests.

A survey of 1,000 adults looking to move home in the next five years found that concern around the cost of living and environmental impact was growing in importance.

Technology relating to energy efficiency was found to be highly sought after, with almost a third of respondents saying they would like an air source heat pump in their home.

Mark Seaman, head of new business development at Samsung UK, which conducted the research, said: "These results have shown that there is a real opportunity for the construction industry to answer the technology requirements of the modern consumer, to build homes that are future fit, to give buyers smarter, more efficient and better-connected properties that stand the test of time."


Taking a train this week? Expect disruption

Train drivers are refusing to work overtime for six days this week - leading to disruption across the country.

Aslef members are withdrawing non-contractual overtime, known as rest-day working, until Saturday inclusive - affecting 16 of the country's 35 rail operators.

Train companies affected are: Avanti West Coast; Chiltern Railways; Cross Country; East Midlands Railway; Greater Anglia; GWR; GTR Great Northern Thameslink; Island Line; LNER; Northern Trains; Southeastern; Southern/Gatwick Express; South Western Railway main line; SWR depot drivers; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Trains.

The action coincides with people across the country travelling to London for Wimbledon.

It is understood that there have been no negotiations between the union and the rail operators since the action was announced on 19 June.

What do both sides say?

Mick Whelan, Aslef's general secretary, said at the time: "We don't want to inconvenience the public. We just want to see our members paid fairly during a cost-of-living crisis when inflation is running at above 10%, and to not see our terms and conditions taken away."

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group responded: "They rejected a fair and affordable offer without putting it to their members which would take average driver base salaries for a basic salary for a four-day week without overtime from £60,000 to nearly £65,000 by the end of 2023 pay awards."


Why booze is about to get a lot more expensive (and possibly have less alcohol in)

By Brad Young, live reporter

Enjoying a drink in the summer sun may soon become more costly, as brewers and winemakers warn changes to alcohol taxation will increase the price of bottled beers, spirits and wines.

Some brewers are reportedly considering reducing the strength of beer to sidestep costs, while there are fears some wines may disappear from the shelves altogether.

Alcohol duty will be unfrozen on 1 August for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed in March that it will increase in line with inflation.

Taxation on bottled beers and spirits is set to increase by 10%, costing the industry £225m, trade associations have said.

"With business costs set to soar, it's impossible to see how brewers can carry on exactly as they are whilst still avoiding customers paying over the odds for their beer," saidEmma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association.

Ending the duty freeze will cost the industry £225m "at an already challenging time", with brewers facing "mounting price increases across supply chains" in the last two years, she said.

The challenge for wine producers may be even greater, given the introduction of a new system of calculating alcohol duties on the same day.

Wines will be taxed more the stronger they get, rather than by the volume of liquid as they are under the current system.

This equates to another 10% rise in costs, so when the end of the duty freeze is accounted for too, taxation on the average 75cl bottle of 12.5 abv wine will be 20% higher, according toSimon Stannard, director of policy at the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

"Alcohol tax rises will only further fuel inflation. It will heap more misery on consumers. And it will damage British business, especially those in the hospitality supply chain, who are still trying to recover from the pandemic," he said.

Alcohol levels in wine cannot be reduced in the same way as beer, he said, because it changes the product.

Wine from hotter countries, which naturally produce stronger wines, will be "penalised most of all", he said.

Draught products in pubs will not suffer the same fate due to a government scheme that promises their duties will be up to 11p cheaper than for bottled or canned products.

The Treasury has been contacted for comment.


Savings bank to boost customers' chances of winning through Premium Bonds

Savers who have Premium Bond accounts with NS&I will have their best chance of winning a prize in 15 years.

From next month, the prize fund rate will increase to 4% from 3.70% - its highest level since 2007.

Odds on each £1 Bond will therefore increase from 24,000 to 1 to 22,000 to 1.

The changes will see an extra £30m added to the prize fund, with an estimated 460,000 extra prizes up for grabs, NS&I said.

The bank has also increased its interest rates for variable products.

On its Direct Saver and Income Bonds, the interest rate is increasing from 2.85% to 3.40%.


Turning carbon dioxide into stone

In this edition of the Business Podcast, Emma Crosby, sitting in for Ian King, is joined by a leading economist as revised GDP figures show slight growth for the first quarter of the year.

Plus she talks to the boss of Nationwide as the building society warns that continued mortgage rate hikes are threatening a "significant drag" on the housing market.

And she hears from the Icelandic company turning carbon dioxide into stone.


Calls to abolish standing charges and increase unit rates

The standing charges on energy bills should be abolished or reduced, bosses in the sector have said.

The system penalises those trying to keep their energy bills under control, said the boss of British Gas owner Centrica.

The standing charge is a fixed amount that people pay regardless of usage and funds the upkeep of the electricity and gas grids.

"The standing charge hits those who are careful about their energy use hardest – and these are often people from low-income households and prepayment meter customers," Centrica chief executive Chris O’Shea told the Sun newspaper.

Greg Jackson, chief executive of rival Octopus Energy, agreed, calling for unit rates to be increased instead.

"Standing charges are too high," he wrote on Twitter.

"Costs should be moved on to unit rates with extra support for low-income/disabled customers."

If this happened, some poorer people, such as those with large families or in poorly insulated homes who need to use more energy, could see their bills rise.


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