The huge cost of being British

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Being British comes at a huge cost. New research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research has discovered that every year we have to shell out £2,000 more than people elsewhere in the world on the basics.

So why is it so ridiculously expensive to be British?
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Why?

The researchers found that it's 11% more expensive to live in the UK than the average international cost. The main culprits pushing up the cost of life are transport, energy and property.

Property and utilities cost around 18% more than the international average. Some of this is a historical anomaly: property in the UK has been overpriced for some time, and anyone who is struggling to pay their enormous rental bills and save a small fortune for a house deposit will tell you that something somewhere seems wrong.

One solution, the researchers argue, is for the government to find a way to make home building more attractive. The CEBR Tweeted: " Pro-growth planning policy to reduce UK property costs would help to ease pressures on costs of living."

Fuel

Energy, meanwhile, is expensive because of a combination of the cost of bringing energy to a small island nation, the decision to run it as a commercial business driven by profit generation, and government policies demanding we pay for renewable energy development while we also shoulder the rising cost of traditional fuels.

But one of the most striking costs can be laid firmly at the door of the government: transport costs 31% more than overseas. The extraordinary tax burden on fuel and cars, has pushed the cost of travel into the stratosphere. For a government that says it is committed to making it easier for business to reach the regions they have a funny way of showing it.

Action

The researchers calculated that the combined effect of these three things costs us an extra £2,000 a year. It is calling for the government to take action to bring the costs down closer to the average, pushing more property development and lower fuel taxes.

It estimated that doing so would provide a major boost to the UK economy. It tweeted: "UK achieving OECD average prices for property, transport and energy could deliver 15% boost to GDP over 10 years."

The researchers revealed that it costs us more to have fun too. Recreation and culture cost around 14% more than elsewhere in the world, while hotels and restaurants cost 12% more.

It comes as small consolation, therefore, to hear that things are even worse elsewhere. Denmark is the most expensive place in the world to live - where prices are 29% higher than the international average. Ireland also fares worse than Britain.

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The huge cost of being British

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.
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