These days we’re regularly urged by consumer experts to change our utility supplier to get the best deals out there. It means, for those of us who take heed of the advice, that we have a good idea of how much electricity and gas we’re using on a monthly basis. And, more importantly, we can keep on top of it.
But what of the other costs involved in running a home? There’s water, which is a standard charge based on location, and so too is council tax. But what about your broadband, phone bill and TV packages? These can vary hugely from month to month and between suppliers. Ringing around different providers can often get you quite impressive savings if you’re prepared to negotiate.
Why is it worth haggling to get your broadband, phone etc costs down? Well, apart from the fact it means more money in your own pocket, we were pretty surprised to learn from a survey carried out by the government’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) that the average adult in the UK spends twice as much on Wi-Fi, phone and TV packages than he or she believed they did. Read on, to discover more ways you can cut back on household costs.
Most people end up paying too much for their broadband, phone and TV (which are often combined) because they stay with the company even after the less expensive introductory rate has passed. And often you’re paying for premium channels you hardly – if ever – watch.
When it comes to whether or not you should be paying a higher rate for your internet connection, a speed checker can work out what your broadband speed is and if you’re paying for high-speed and not getting it then swap to a cheaper package (just check you’re not charged a penalty for swapping mid-contract).
According to the independent government-approved regulatory company Ofgem, the average annual UK utility bill works out at around £1,345. That’s a lot to pay in one go but thankfully there are alternative payment methods. For instance, most companies will give a slight discount if you pay a fixed sum monthly by direct debit (this is estimated based on your annual usage). Alternatively there’s the choice of paying quarterly. If you pay too much via direct debit and you have money left over in the account ask your supplier if they pay interest on it (some do).
You’ll often also get a discount if you go for a dual fuel tariff (ie use the one supplier for both electricity and gas). Online-only services also provide discounts. The best way to save money though is to invest in a smart meter (the government has ordered a roll-out of these to every household and which should be completed by 2020). These tell you how much electricity or gas you’ve used and what the corresponding cost is.
Most households in England and Wales pay around £395 a year for water – that’s an increase of 1.54 per cent on the previous year. The cost of water varies depending on where you live in the UK. It’s around £495 for South West Water, for instance, while Severn Trent Water was least expensive last year at £341.
Other factors which can affect the total of your water bill include how big your home is and how much water there is in your locality. You can always get a water meter to keep a note of how much you’re using and to help you cut back on costs.
Our food bills have increased quite dramatically within the past year or so, prompting many of us to already cut back. One of the best ways to do this is to buy own-brand products, but another (and slightly more controversial method) is to buy food which has been marked down because it’s about to go past its ‘best before’ date. This doesn’t mean the food is about to go off – it’s still fresh – it’s just a ‘marker’ for the supermarkets.
Another way to save is to plan your weekly menu before you go shopping where you’re using any left-over food in the next day’s meal offerings.
You could also cut out money saving vouchers from the store’s magazine, and find others on the web.
Like water, council tax rates are affected by locality with the average for a band D home in England around £1600 – that’s an increase of £60 in 2017. Paying monthly by direct debit at least makes the amount more manageable.
Running a home can be expensive then, but at least there’s an element of control over how you manage those costs.