Average household bills

Have you ever wondered how your household bills compare with everyone else’s?

Could you be paying much more than the average and are you missing some tricks to save a bit of cash? We’re here to answer those questions. Here, we’ve found the average household bills including council tax, electricity, gas, water and more.

And if you’re paying more than average on your household bills we’ve got some advice on clever ways to save. For example, did you know that most households waste £50-£86 a year by leaving appliances on standby? Or that you could save up to £200 per year by switching to a water meter? Read on to find out the average household bills and where you could save.

Please note: these average household bills are calculated per household.

Average energy bills

The average energy bill for a year is £1,252 according to Uswitch. As this is one of your biggest bills, it’s so important that you save money here. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to bring down the price of your energy bills.

In the last 8 years, the average energy bills have gone up a massive 140% according to stats released earlier in 2012. In 2004, the average energy bill for a household was just £522. The average household income has increased by just 20% in this time, so it’s no wonder that families are struggling.

How to save:

* Switch and lock in. Always, always compare prices when your energy bills policy is due for renewal. Use a price comparison website to make sure you’re getting a good deal and see if you can get a policy that gives you a fixed price for a long period of time. This means your payments are guaranteed to stay the same for that time, even if the company announces price hikes (which seems to be happening quite a lot at the moment).
* Use common sense for energy saving. We all know the little tips and tricks for saving energy – use energy-saving lightbulbs, don’t leave the TV on standby, only boil the amount of water you need in the kettle, put a jumper on before you turn the heating up and so on. These will only save you a small amount each, but being sensible with your energy use will add up and save you a considerable amount.

Did you know?

* Using your dishwasher once a day at a 65degree wash costs you £94.64 per year.
* Using your electric oven for one hour per day costs you £127.92 per year.
* Boiling your kettle 3 times a day costs you £49.38 per year.

Find out more about how much your appliances cost to use.

Average electricity bill

If you pay your gas and electricity separately, it’s useful to know the average electricity bill per month and the average gas bill per month.

According to Uswitch, the average electricity bill per year is £500, which means that the average electricity bill per month is around £42. It will, of course, depend on how many people live in your house and how much electricity you use, but this average can generally be applied to a family of 3-4.

Average gas bill

According to the BBC, if you pay for gas and electricity separately then the average gas bill is around £740 per year, which means the average gas bill per month is around £61. Again it depends on how many people live in your house and so on, but you can use this as a reasonable average for a family of 3-4.

Average water bill

Water bills are calculated in 2 ways – you’re either on a meter or you’re on rateable value (RV) charges.

A metered bill takes into account how much water you use, while a rateable value bill doesn’t. Rateable values are worked out based on council rates of your house that were recorded in 1989 (this is different to your council tax band). If your property is newer than that, you’re likely to have a water meter fitted. (If you live in Scotland, your water bills are based on your current council tax band).

If you’re on a rateable value bill (about 70% of us are at the moment), your water company will usually fit a water meter for free if you ask. Once you’ve changed to a metered bill, you’ve legally got 12 months to change your mind and switch back to a rateable value bill.

If you live in a house that already had a water meter fitted when you moved in, you can’t change to a rateable value bill.

The average water bill for a year is £379 if you’re not metered (rateable value) and £325 if you are metered, according to Ofwat.

This means if you’re on a rateable value bill, the average water bill per month is around £31.50. If you’re on a meter, the average water bill per month is around £27.

How to save:

If you’re on rateable value charges: a rateable value bill doesn’t take into account how much water you use, so using less won’t save you any money. This means it’s harder to save money on a rateable value bill. We recommend that you consider getting a meter fitted – you could save up to £200 a year. If you’re not sure it’ll save you money (e.g. if you think you use a lot of water), use this calculator to check. And remember that you can switch back if you find it’s costing you lots more.

If you’re on a water meter: there’s all sorts of ways to save water (and therefore money). Take a shower instead of a bath, don’t leave the tap running when you don’t need to (like when you’re brushing your teeth), check your taps for any leaks, wash your car with a bucket and sponge rather than with a hosepipe, and get a water hippo to place in your toilet cistern if you’ve got an older system (these can use up to 3 litres more per flush than a newer one).

Estimated bills can sometimes push your payments up, so it’s a good idea to read your water meter around once every 3-4 months and submit the readings to your water provider. It’s also possible that you can have a leak – to check, read your meter and then don’t use water for a little while (overnight for example), then read your meter again. If the readings are different, you may have a leak and you should let your provider know.

Average council tax

The average council tax bill is £1,201 per year (just over £100 per month) according to the Office of National Statistics. But council tax is a bit more complicated – an average council tax bill can’t really be applied for everyone because council tax bands vary so much.

Council tax is worked out based on what valuation band your home has been put into. The bands range from A-H – A is the cheapest. How much you pay per band depends on your local council. As an example, in Wandsworth in South West London, a Band A (the cheapest) property council tax will be £452.36 per year for 2012-2013. A Band H (the most expensive) property council tax will cost £1357.07 per year for 2012-2013 (a massive different of £904.71).

How to save:

Although council tax prices are fixed (so it’s different from lots of other bills because you can’t price compare or switch providers to get a better deal) there might still be a way you can save money on your council tax bill:

* Get your house rebanded: Council tax bands were decided in 1991 when most houses weren’t even looked at properly. So if you can prove that your house is in the wrong band, you could save £100s (and you could also get a rebate from the whole time you’ve lived in the house back to when council tax was introduced in 1993. This could be £1,000s!). To see if you might be able to get your house rebanded, visit voa.gov.uk and enter your postcode. That way you’ll be able to see what band your house is in and what band your neighbour’s houses are in. If similar houses in your area are paying less than you, contact your local valuation office.

* Get a council tax exemption: you might be entitled to an exemption of up to 50%. A full council tax bill will be charged to any property where at least 2 adults live. For just 1 adult, a 25% discount will be applied. There are also lots of cases where someone doesn’t ‘count’ as an adult for council tax purposes – this includes carers, people with certain disabilities, full time students, under 18s and more. If no one who counts as an adult lives in the property, a 50% discount will be applied.

Average food bill

The average food bill for a family is a massive £70.10 per week – and that’s just the spending on food and non-alcoholic drinks. You won’t be surprised to hear that food is one of your biggest expenses when it comes to household bills, but did you know that in the last 8 years, the cost of food has risen by a massive 77%? So it’s no wonder we’re struggling to afford our food bill.

How to save:

The good news is that there are lots of ways to save on your food shopping. Visit our cheap food section for a bargain shopping list and lots of recipes ideas costing under £1 a head. And follow these bits of advice – they’re our absolute top tips to keep the cost of your food bill down:

* Make a list and stick to it. Plan what you’re going to eat for the week and shop for just what you need. Make sure you’re never hungry when you hit the supermarket because that makes it more likely that you’ll be tempted to buy extra items.
* Try own brand products. If you always trust the same branded products, it’s time to give supermarket own brands a try. If you can notice the difference in quality, then you can just switch back, but you might be pleasantly surprised to find that you can’t tell the difference with lots of the products.
* Leave the kids at home (or shop online). Never underestimate pester power for getting you to buy things you don’t need. Taking the kids shopping makes it more stressful and more expensive, so if you can leave them at home then do, otherwise consider shopping online.
* Bulk buy and cook. You get better value for bigger packs as long as you don’t let anything go to waste. Make the most of your freezer by keeping uncooked meat for another week, or just cook more of your meal and then freeze that for another time.

How do you save money on your household bills? Are you paying more or less than the average? Join our Money saver Facebook page and let us know.

Where to next?

How much does it cost to use my appliances?
More ways to save on household bills