Take some advice and stand up for your rights

You can claim compensation for delays to rail services. Photograph: John Devlin
You can claim compensation for delays to rail services. Photograph: John Devlin
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As the new year begins, you might be thinking about taking a fresh look at your finances, making some savings or finally getting a problem that’s been bothering you addressed. My advice? Don’t give up. Here’s a few examples of how you can start 2017 by successfully standing up for your rights.

Beat rail rises

Even though the UK’s rail prices are already among the highest in the world, last Monday saw many of them rise again – with fares going up on average by 2.3 per cent. That makes it even more crucial to claim for every single journey you have a delay on in 2017.

Generally, that means a 30-minute delay on the railways or 15 minutes on the London tube and Southern Railways too. With trains, the longer the delay, the greater proportion of your ticket cost is returned. With the Tube, it’s even better – as soon as your delay hits 15 minutes, you can expect the whole cost of that single fare to be refunded.

And don’t forget the cost of parking at railway stations too. If you get caught out by unfair charges, you can also make a complaint.

Not sure if you can claim? Head to the operator’s website where their scheme should be prominently outlined and explained. It helps sometimes if you can get a delay form from a member of station staff.

There is a time limit on claims so make sure to apply within 28 days – and keep a copy of your tickets or take photos of them, just in case.

Watch your energy

The colder it gets, the more your bills rise, especially if you simply let fuel contracts roll over from cheap promotional deals onto a higher priced standard tariff.

Ofgem regulations state suppliers must send you written notice about your existing plan end date 42-49 days in advance. As soon as you receive this letter/email, you are free to switch to a cheaper deal without paying any penalty or cancellation fees. If you feel you’ve been overcharged for your gas or electricity, not received a notification of a tariff change, or your supplier hasn’t met service standards, make a complaint for free at resolver.co.uk.

Work out gym costs

After all that festive food and drink, January is usually the month where we commit to getting fit. But before you get locked in to a long contract with your local gym, be honest with yourself. Set your targets low and build them up, rather than getting over-ambitious and giving up. Use guest passes while you’re figuring out if you like the gym and resist initial offers – they’ll get better after the January peak period.

If you sign a contract, then check what your cooling-off period is and work out how much it will cost you to cancel. Bear in mind that some contracts will charge you for three months’ premiums or more after you tell them you want to end the contact.

Be a good giver

If you’re buying in advance for a birthday or wedding, or any gift that won’t be given for a while, check the retailer’s policy on returns for unused items after a month. If it’s not clear on their website, or in their store, then ask them by email and keep a record. Make sure to ask for a gift receipt when buying, especially if you’re not sure if your Auntie Mabel will like that Iron Maiden box-set you’ve snapped up at a bargain price