Knowing exactly how much money you are paying every month for utilities and subscriptions can be like navigating a maze, but it’s important to stay within budget and avoid any unwanted surprises. It will also help you to cut back on any unnecessary bills. Use these top tips on ways to cut down on avoidable charges:
1. Head online
Companies are increasingly pushing us to go ‘paperless’ with our bills by offering financial incentives. For example, you could save around £5 on your annual fuel bill by managing your account online. While it may not seem much, it’s an easy £5 back in your pocket.
2. Don’t just roll over
Allowing companies to automatically renew your contracts may be the easy option, but it's likely leave you worse off, so shop around using comparison sites to get the best deals. Comparethemarket.com found auto-renewal costs the average householder almost £200 a year through large increases in car and home premiums. Even if you're keen to stick with your current providers, it's worth reviewing your policies to see if any changes could be made to save you money. You could also pick up the phone and ask them what deal they could do to keep your custom. It’s worth a go!
3. Loyalty doesn’t pay
We often stick with the same bank, mobile phone network or utilities provider for years, even if we are unhappy with the service that we get. So consider switching. It is easier than ever, it can save you hundreds of pounds and it could decrease your stress levels – if poor customer service is the reason for the move!
Tip: Use Yours Switching (0800 008 7777) to see how much you could save on your gas and electricity bills.
4. Don’t get sucked in by costly TV subscriptions
During the winter months, subscription satellite TV providers such as Sky and Virgin Media ramp up their TV marketing. But before you take the plunge, consider whether it’s value for money for you. Research from Freesat revealed the average Pay TV household spends £471 per year on its TV deal but most (65 per cent) watch less than 30 per cent of the channels on offer. If you’re unsure, consider non-subscription TV packages. Set top boxes provides over two hundred channels without the hefty cost.
Tip: Use Yours Switching Phone & Broadband (0800 083 4311) to compare digital TV, broadband and home phone deals.
5. It’s good to talk
Consider using free services like Skype to cut the cost of your phone bills. After downloading the software to your smart device or computer, you can call anyone in the world who has done the same without it costing a penny. Also take a glance over your mobile phone bill, check you are on the best contract and if there are any other ways you can save money. If you like to send lots of photos, why not download an app like WhatsApp to your smart phone so you can send them for free.
6. Check your banding
According to MoneySavingExpert up to 400,000 homes in England and Scotland could be in the wrong council tax bands. It is worth taking a few minutes to check, it's free and could save you hundreds of pounds. Backdated rebates are going as far back as 1993. To check you're in the right band, click here.
Tip: For more ways to cut your council tax bil, click here.
7. Make a list; check it twice!
Research from the consumer group Which? found supermarkets regularly employ sophisticated mind games to make us part with more of our cash. Use a shopping list so you are less likely to get distracted and pick up items you may not need. Also check whether an offer is really worth it and whether you really need three huge multipack bags of crisps just because you get one free! Also consider buying own brand products, they are often just as good and a fraction the price of their more famous counterparts.
Tip: For more ways to save at the checkout, click here.
8. How are you paying?
Most companies prefer automatic payments like direct debits and incentivise customers for doing so, so it’s worth checking how you are paying bills. It could save you £43 a year on average for gas and £30 for electricity with British Gas just for paying by direct debit. It’s also a much easier way of making a payment as, once set up, you don’t have to do anything else and you don’t run the risk of missing a payment.
9. Drive down the cost
Petrol prices are low at the moment, but you could still drive down your annual fuel costs further. There is still variety depending on which petrol pump you visit, so do your homework. Although it can be difficult, it also worth considering if there is any way you could use your car less.
10. Parting is not such sweet sorrow
Direct debits are great because you can forget about them…but then it's important you remember to cancel them when they are no longer needed. Whether it’s a magazine a sports club membership or a dating site, it’s thought forgetful Britons are wasting millions on payments for services they no longer use, so keep on top of your payments. Also consider cutting products you don’t need like, extended warranties, especially on inexpensive items.
Thanks to Georgie Frost, Share Radio's Consumer Champion and presenter of the Consumer Issues Show.