MILLIONS will want to get clued up on these six money changes happening in January that could affect your finances.

January is an important month, with households looking to get their finances in order for the year ahead.

From Universal Credit changes, to Household Support Fund deadlines, we explain all you need to know and what it means for your money.

Energy bill rise

Major suppliers are hiking bills for some households while others may pay less in the new year.

The changes come as part of the government's energy price guarantee, which limits the average bill to £2,500 a year.

But regulator Ofgem still sets the price cap on what suppliers can charge.

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The next update came into effect on January 1.

That means you might spot a a slight difference in bill prices from now.

The change will be different depending on who you're with, how you pay and where you live, as the supplier decides the difference.

So that means your bill could either rise or fall. Keep in mind for most it will be pennies difference.

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But for some people on Eco tariffs, where you pay different rates at night and day, they could pay nearly £150 more over the course of a year.

The hike will be worst for those on standard tariffs in North Wales and the Merseyside area who pay for their electricity on receipt of bills and not by direct debit.

Their bills are set to rise by more than £5 per month between January and April.

But those in the north of England will likely pay around £3.90 less per month.

Prepayment meter customers will see an average bill increase of £1.50, while those who pay by direct debit will see an average increase of just two pence.

The changes are made to the amount that energy suppliers charge per unit of gas and electricity they supply.

Check your bill to see if your unit rates have increased.

If you're on an eco tariff which has seen a dramatic hike in costs – check with your supplier about moving onto the standard variable tariff.

But be aware that you may incur a hefty exit penalty if you do opt to move tariff – so it's important to weigh up the costs.

The best way to lower your energy bill is by reducing your gas and electricity usage.

But if you're really struggling and you're in debt with your supplier there are also plenty of energy grants and schemes open to help you out.

Household Support Fund deadline

Thousands of households have until January 31 to get a cash boost through the Household Support Fund (HSF).

The fund is worth £421million and was set up by the government.

It has been allocated to councils across England to distribute to residents in need.

There's no set criteria on who is eligible for the help as it depends on where you live, but generally, money is given to families on low incomes or benefits.

But tens of thousands of households have just four weeks left to apply for the support.

Households in Nottinghamshire have until January 31 to £180 free cash paid directly into their bank accounts.

Meanwhile, Harrow Council is handing out up to £300 in free cash to households – with just weeks left to the deadline.

And there are plenty of other areas handing out help to residents in January, but you'll want to make a note of these fast-approaching deadlines.

We have put together a handy guide to all the councils with deadlines this month.

Tax return deadline

Households have a month left to submit their online tax return for the 2021 to 2022 tax year.

The deadline for filing paper-form tax returns ended on October 31 2022 – but thousands can still file theirs online.

Those who miss the paper deadline, still have until January 31 to file online.

Self-assessment customers face a penalty of £100 if their tax return is up to three months late.

Further fines of £10 a day are applied after three months, up to a maximum of £900.

For payments late by six months, you'll be fined 5% of the tax you owe or £300, whichever is greater.

You can calculate how much your fine will be on the Gov.uk.

If you need help with your return, visit the Gov.UK website or call the helpline on 0300 200 3310.

There are HMRC guidance notes and manuals online, but if you're struggling you could seek advice from an accountant or tax adviser.

Automatic payments of winter fuel payment

Automatic payments are usually made between November and December if you qualify for the winter fuel payment.

You should have received yours by January 13, 2023 at the latest.

If you haven't got your payment by then, you need to call the office that pays your benefits.

Those details can be found in the letters they have sent you.

And if you're found to be ineligible for the winter fuel payment but want to challenge that decision, there's a government form for that, too.

If you're eligible, make sure you apply for support funding like the Cold Weather Payments and the Warm Home Discount.

Plus, you might be eligible for help via the Household Support Fund.

Changes to Universal Credit work rules

You might need to look for work or prepare for work as part of getting Universal Credit.

From this month, there'll be changes to so-called in-work conditionality, affecting an estimated 120,000 claimants.

It means people earning the equivalent of over 15 hours per week at the National Living Wage but less than full-time hours will be required to look for more or better paid work.

The threshold is currently set at 12 hours.

The rules can seem a little complicated, but each person is typically assigned one of six conditionality regimes.

This depends on their assessed capability and circumstances to work.

You’ll likely be put in the "all work-related activity group" if you’re able to work, unless certain exceptions apply to you.

This could be things like disability, pregnancy, you're in full-time education or you're responsible for a child.

Check your Universal Credit online account to find out which work-related activity group you’re in.

Fine for not having a train ticket rises

Customers caught dodging train fares will now be charged £100.

The fee was originally £20 but that has now risen by £80.

Passengers will be fined if they are caught without a ticket and travelled from a station that has ticket facilities, according to National Rail rules.

Ticket inspectors can ask for a valid train ticket at any point during the journey – so make sure you've purchased one.

The £100 fine applies to those travelling in standard and first class carriages.

Those who travel in a first class carriage but have only purchased standard class tickets could also be fined.

People will also be fined if they are over 16 years of age but bought a child’s ticket. 

To avoid these fines, make sure you purchase your train ticket ahead of travel if you can, though there are usually ticket offices or machines at train stations. 

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To save some money on travel, especially if you travel a lot, see if you qualify for a railcard.

 It could help you save one third on train tickets.

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