Think of all the things that you pay for in your home - electricity, gas, TV, phone line, internet connection - the list goes on. Just making a few small savings on each could save you a fortune, which is why we've come up with 30 ways to save on your household bills
Act NOW to save money on your winter household bills
Energy prices have gone up again, but you can still make a big difference to your winter household bills if you switch now.
But if you switch to a fixed tariff now, you could save yourself a small fortune. Many energy companies are currently offering tariffs that are fixed until spring 2014 – meaning you’re completely protected from price increases for 2 winters.
Gas and energy prices differ in each area and of course depending on how much you use. So we can’t tell you which is going to be the cheapest tariff, you’ll need to get on a comparison site and find out for yourself. Just make sure you’re looking for a price that’s good value and fixed for a long time. Ones we’ve found include:
-Sainsbury’s: fixed until May 2014
-British Gas: fixed until May 2014
-EDF: fixed until June 2014
-Scottish Power: fixed until March 2014 -Southern Electric: fixed until December 2014
And remember to compare tariffs and switch again just before your contract ends!
More money-saving methods
There are other tricks and tips you might not be aware of that can make a big dent in your energy bills:
-Pay by monthly direct debit – this usually shaves a bit off your costs.
-Always check your bills – make sure your meter readings match up with your bills and let the company know if not.
-Get insulated – loft insulation could save you around £180, cavity wall insulation could save around £115 a year. You might even be entitled to a grant to cover the costs of insulating – check the government’s Warm Front Scheme to see if you’re eligible.
-Be energy smart – use energy-saving lightbulbs, always turn electrical appliances off at the wall and so on. Make sure everyone else in your house is doing the same.
-Try our 15 ways to keep warm without putting the heating on.
Of course it’s not just gas and electricity that costs you money on your household bills. Think of all the things that you pay for in your home – TV, phone line, internet connection, insurance – the list goes on. Just making a few small savings on each could save you a fortune, which is why we’ve come up with 30 ways to save on your household bills – click through for some great money-saving ideas.
Are you on the best deal for your mobile? Many of us are either paying for texts and minutes that we don't use, or going over our usage and getting hefty bills. Call up your provider and discuss the best deal for you, or shop around for a new one.
How much can I save? According to Billmonitor, the average save made by switching to the best deal is a massive £195!
Skype is free to download and you just need a web cam and a microphone and you're ready to go! You'll be able to call other Skype users for free (and video call too) and make cheaper-than-usual calls to mobile phones and landlines. Download from skype.com.
How much can I save? It will depend how much you're spending on phone calls at the moment, but for example, if you're on BT and you want to call a relative abroad, you'd pay £5 extra per month for the package that allows you to call foreign countries, then it would cost 2.5p per minute to call some countries. Just half an hour of calls a month would cost you £69 over the year.
If you need to melt butter or heat up cooked foods, use your microwave. It's much more efficient than firing up the cooker. And using the kettle is a faster and more efficient way of boiling water than using the hob.
How much can I save? It's difficult to put an exact figure on it, but it's likely that your kitchen accounts for just over 1/3 of your electricity bill, so any small changes in this room will help.
Get more energy saving advice from energyrethinking.org
Make sure there's enough money in your account to cover your direct debits and standing orders. If you don't have enough money to cover payments that are going out, you might face charges from your bank (and although you might be able to claim this back, it's better to avoid the hassle!).
How much can I save? The charge for breaching your overdraft tends to be around £35 a time.
Calls outside of your plan can be expensive, so make sure you know what your package entitles you to and do your best to stick to it! Even if you're on a plan that gives you 'unlimited free evening and weekend calls', these are often limited to an hour - so put down the phone and redial. Make sure you know when peak and off peak times are too, as it varies by different providers.
How much can I save? If you were on a BT unlimited evening and weekend UK calls package at £3 per month, making calls during the day will cost you 7.6p per minute, so make one 10 minute call per week during the day time and over a year it would cost you £39.52 per year.
If your food packaging has ice crystals on it or there's frost of ¼- ½
inch thickness around your freezer, it's time to defrost. Frost build up
means your freezer uses more energy. It's also worth making sure your
freezer isn't over packed, as this will make it less efficient too. Make
sure you don't lose any food while defrosting though, if it's a cold
winters day then leave it outside (where animals can't get to it), or
otherwise you can leave it in a cooler packed with ice for a few hours.
How much can I save? According to thenewiceage.com, an inefficient
freezer can cost you £18 per year.
Doing this will increase the pressure which lowers the boiling point of the contents of your saucepan, plus it holds the heat where it's needed rather than letting it dissipate into the air, steaming up your kitchen.
How much will I save? It can take twice as long to heat a pan of water without the lid on compared to with the lid on, so if you can halve some of your cooking times, you'll save a small fortune over a year!
Car insurance can cost a fortune, but follow these few tips and you could save a bit of cash: Park your car off road or in a garage overnight, increase your excess (but make sure you can pay it if you do have an accident) and pay for a whole year's cover in one go if you can afford it.
How much can I save? It varies per person and per policy, but for example paying for a whole year's cover in one go will typically save you 25%.
On average, customers who switch to a water meter save 5-10% of their bill and it's usually free to get a meter installed if you live in England or Wales. What's more, if you decide you're not happy, you can switch back within 12 months.
How much can I save? It varies per household, but an average water bill in South East London is £255, so a 10% saving would save you £25.50 per year. You can use uswitch.com's water bill comparison service to find out how much you'd be likely to save if you switched to a water meter.
Calling an 0870 number will cost you 6.4p per minute during the day time, while 0845 numbers will cost 2p per minute. First of all, see if you can find the answer to your query in the company's FAQs online. Failing that, try using saynoto0870.com - a website that finds alternative customer service numbers for big companies. If you can't find a cheaper number and you absolutely have to call, at least make sure you have all the details you need to hand, so you're not wasting any time when you do get through to an operator.
How much can I save? A 15 minute phone call to an 0870 number will cost you £9.60!
Companies prefer you to pay by direct debit as it means you won't miss a payment, so you'll often get a discount if you choose to pay this way.
How much can I save? The typical annual saving on paying for gas by direct debit is £55, while it's £46 for electricity.
Always use the smallest pan you can when cooking, as heating up less surface area uses less energy. But also make sure that your pot fits the burner, otherwise you'll end up heating air instead of food.
How much can I save? It's hard to say how much exactly this will save you, but heating a 6 inch saucepan on an 8 inch burner wastes 40% of the energy used, so over a year it would be significant.
It might sound like an unnecessary expense, but if your pets get ill, vet bills can really mount up - especially if they end up needing regular medication. Pet insurance can cost as little as a few quid a month, but shop around for a good deal.
How much can I save? It depends on whether your pet gets ill and the cost to cover the illness, but for example treating a dog with cateracts could cost £1,500.
Are you paying for packages like sports channels, music channels or film channels, but never watching them? Reassess what you're actually watching and make sure you're not wasting money.
How much can I save? A Sky Movies package will cost you £16 a month, so if you're not watching the movies that's £192 wasted every year. If you use it occasionally, why not consider a LoveFilm subscription instead?
We've said it before and we'll say it again - compare, compare, compare. Always use websites like lovemoney.com, energychoices.co.uk and moneysupermarket.com to compare different companies and their offerings. This applies for everything from gas and electricity to mobile phone bills and insurance.
How much can I save? Potentially hundreds of pounds per year.
When it comes to renewing a contract (be it your gas bill, car insurance or anything else), loyalty doesn't pay. Just because a company offered you a great deal last time, don't assume that they're still offering you the best deal - shop around to see what's available. If you'd like to stay with the same company to avoid hassle, still shop around until you find a great deal with someone else then call up your current company and tell them about the offer and ask if they can beat or match it. It'll give you great bargaining power!
How much can I save? Potentially hundreds of pounds per year.
Generally, it's cheaper to pay your bills by direct debit as you're likely to get a discount. However, research by gocompare.com has found that 43% of people overpay on their direct debits for energy, so it's worth checking your bills and claiming what you're owed - some companies won't automatically reimburse you. However, if you're not owed lots, it might be best to leave your account in credit - particularly for energy bills which may go up over the winter, as the extra money will help to cover these costs.
How much could I save? According to gocompare, the average refund was £124.
Make sure your heating is only coming on when you need it and see if you can turn your thermostat down. If you have thermostats on all radiators, consider turning them off in some rooms that aren't used very often and turn them down in others.
How much can I save? Turning your thermostat down by just 1 degree could cut your heating bills by 10% according to first-utility.com - it shouldn't be too hard, according to npower the average household temperature has gone up by 6ºC since the 1970s - from 12ºC to 18ºC - so see how much difference 1ºC really makes.
If your radiator has air trapped in it, water won't be circulating round fully so it won't be as efficient as it could be. If yours needs bleeding it'll be warmer at the bottom than at the top. To bleed your radiator, turn your heating off, open the bleed key by turning it anti-clockwise and close the valve when water starts to come out. Have a cloth ready to catch the drips and be careful as the water can be hot!
How much can I save? It depends on how efficient or inefficiently your radiators were working to start with. But say you make your radiators more efficient and are therefore able to turn your thermostat down by 1 degree - on average you'll save around £50 over a year.
Boilers get less efficient with age, so you end up wasting money on heating. However, it is expensive to replace a boiler (around £1000 or more) and unfortunately there's no easy way to tell how efficiently your boiler is working without getting an engineer to check it. Generally, if yours is more than 10 years old, it's worth considering getting a new one.
How much can I save? An inefficient boiler could be wasting 25% of your spend on heating bills - that's a massive £225 per year on average.
There's lots of ways to use the same energy for 2 different tasks - for example drop a few eggs for the kids lunch into water that you're already boiling for rice or pasta. Or when you using the oven to make dinner, either make double the amount and freeze it, or use the oven to cook 2 things at once.
How much can I save? It's difficult to put an exact figure on it, but it's likely that your kitchen accounts for just over 1/3 of your electricity bill, so any small changes in this room will help. Get more energy saving ideas at energyrethinking.org.
If you've got money on a credit card, switching to an interest-free one could save you a small fortune. See our article on which credit card is best for me for more advice.
How much can I save? According to moneysupermarket.com, the average balance on a credit card is £1,765.35. If you're paying that off at the average rate (18.17%), you'll be charged £279 in interest over 12 months - an interest-free card will charge you nothing, provided you pay off the balance within the interest free period.
It's a hard task, but how often do you open your oven door to check on what you're cooking? Every time you do, the temperature inside drops and the oven will use more energy to get it back up to the right temperature AND you'll need to leave the oven on for longer to cook your food. So clean the door so you can see what you're cooking without wasting energy or money.
How much can I save? It's hard to put an exact figure on it, but even if you reduce your cooking times by 5 minutes per day, it'll make a difference. Get more energy saving ideas at energyrethinking.org.
Energy-efficient light bulbs last 12 times longer than normal ones, so it's well worth switching.
How much can I save? For each energy saving bulb you fit, you'll save up to £9 on your annual electricity bill, according to first-utility.com.
Bigger packs will save you money in the long run. For example, we checked the price of dog food in Sainsbury's and found a 950g pack of Bakers Complete Meaty Meals costs £2.73, which works out at 28.7p per 100g. A 3kg pack costs £6 which works out at 20p per 100g.
How much can I save? It'll depend on what type of pet you have, what pet food you buy and how much they eat, of course, but with our example above you're saving 8.7p per 100g. An average, medium dog will eat up to 380g per day, which works out at nearly 12 kilos per month, which would be a £10.44 saving over a month - or £125.28 over a year.
If you've already got a perfectly good mobile phone and you're at the end of your contract, a SIM only deal could save you loads, as the cost of a phone won't be built in to your package.
How much can I save? For example, a Dolphin 30 phone contract with Orange will get you 500 minutes and unlimited texts for £30 and you'll be tied in to a contract for 24 months. The same deal but on a SIM-only contract will only cost £20 a month and you'll only be tied in for a month at a time. Over a year, that's a saving of £120.
Thousands of us are overpaying on our council tax, as houses haven't been checked since 1993 when the council tax system was first established! It's easy to check if you're in the wrong band, we've explained how here.
How much can I save? If you find your house is in the wrong valuation band and get it changed, you could save up to £200 a year AND you could be entitled to a refund of over payments, which could potentially add up to thousands.
If you're a low income or vulnerable household, you could be entitled to a warm front grant to spend on home insulation and heating improvements (such as having your loft insulated). There are several situations which make you eligible, for example if you are on Income Support and have a disability, or if you're on Jobseekers Allowance and have a child under the age of 5 living with you. Find out if you're eligible at direct.gov.uk.
How much can I save? If you qualify you'll be entitled to up to £3,500.
If you're searching for the best deals on a new phone contract, electricity, gas or anything else, keep in mind the great deals that you can get using cashback sites. Quidco has loads of great offers on electricity, insurance, phone deals and heaps more.
How much money can I save? The offers are always changing, but for example at the time of writing Quidco are offering up to £100 cashback if you switch to npower.
Having a roof rack on the car will mean you use more fuel, even if it's empty. So if you don't need it, take it off.
How much could I save? An empty roof rack could use up 2-3% more fuel, so if it cost you £40 to fill up your tank, that'd be £1.20 wasted every time.