So, we have started washing our own cars, stopped giving money to Costalot Coffee shops and their high-priced brethren, and are dutifully carrying packed lunches to the office most days, the next place to turn attention might well be the stuff that you don't think you can make a difference to - how about those pesky utilities and household bills? This cold weather, where the dark evenings make time spent huddled indoors, are the perfect time to think through some of this stuff, and re-plan budgets...
Electricity and Gas - first step is to read your meters and submit the readings online if you have the ability to do this, otherwise call your suppliers with them. That ensures that they have the correct details and that you are not paying for fuel you've not used. Once that's done, time to start reducing the usage...
- Go from room to room - check what is plugged in and decide whether whatever it is needs to be.
- Laptops and anything with an inline power-adaptor uses power even when powered down if it's plugged in and the power is flowing. Switch off from the socket when not in use.
- Likewise TV's and stereo's on standby - standby still uses power - use the off-switch instead!
- Are you on Economy7 electricity? If so a timer-switch is your new best friend. use it to set washing machines, dishwashers and tumbledriers to run overnight if your living arrangements allow.
- Don't tumbledry if the weather is good enough, and you have the facility to dry outside. Even quite a small balcony will take an airer, and you can dry a surprising amount outside on one of those on a warm sunny day!
- You can also use your airer indoors of course, but be cautious of damp developing.
- Turn your heating down - if you're in short sleeves, indoors, in December, then you can turn it down quite a long way once you've popped a jumper on!
- If you're using the oven try to cook several things at one time.
You might find you can acquire one of those energy monitors that attaches to the meter out-cable from your energy company free of charge, or some libraries loan them out - it's astonishing what things you can track down as power-guzzlers! Remember also to turn out lights when you're not in a room, and consider changing regular light bulbs for low energy where you can - with table-lamps though be careful that the fitting is suitable - otherwise they can actually use MORE power!
Water - are you on a meter already? If not, Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis recommends that if you have more bedrooms than people living in your home, then most will definitely make a saving by switching to a meter, same number, and it's worth considering, less, and savings are less likely if you're in an area with average priced water rates. HOWEVER - and this is the biggie - when you take the decision to switch, you have 12 months to then change your mind at which point you can revert back to a rated bill, no problem. For most people that could be a bit of a win-win situation! If you are in a flat with one central main pipe coming in, then you may not be able to revert.
Telephone - Analyse what sort of user you are - we for example make most of our calls from our mobiles, or communicate with friends and family by text & email, meaning that a basic land-line package with standard inclusive free weekend and evening calls is great for us. If you are at home a lot during the day and making calls one of these packages could be expensive for you though, you might be better with one that includes daytime calls as well for a fixed additional cost. it may be that you feel you don't require a landline at all - although if you take this step you MUST be sure to have a fully charged mobile handy in the event of needing to make an emergency call, and if you want broadband many providers require you to have a landline too.
TV/Broadband/Telephone packages - sometimes these are cheaper, but not always. Are you paying for a TV package that you simply aren't using - for example if you only watch films once or twice a month there is little point in paying for Sky Movies, you would be better with a pay-per-view postal DVD or download service. Likewise Sports channels - we remove our sports package from the bundle over the winter months as the sport we use it for - speedway - isn't on then. Paying for it for only seven months of the year can save as much as £100! How about your broadband - if you're constantly being charged extra for going over your download limit it might be worth checking how much extra you would pay to go to an unlimited deal.
Mobiles - ah now this is a good one! I was on a contract for years - it gave me masses of free minutes, more texts than you can shake a stick at, and the same package now would include 500mb of data a month. The only problem was, my £20 a month was being wasted as I didn't use that many minutes, and barely made a dent in the text allowance! When I bought the iPhone I switched to Pay As You Go - my provider trebles whatever credit I put on, which makes my calls & texts free for a month, and they also give me a free 500mb data-bundle as a thank you for topping up £15 at a time, so that's a months-worth there, too! the second month I add a data-bundle and a text bundle - at £5 each, and the whole process gets repeated for month 3. So from £20 a month on contract, I have dropped to an average £7.50 per month - quite a saving! Obviously in my case the phone was a big expenditure, however I've now had it for three years, my contract over the time would have cost me over £700, whereas PAYG has cost just £270 - so as things stand the phone is effectively cash neutral. It also gets used for business as well as personal use of course.
So how much do you reckon you could save? Or maybe you've already done these work-throughs, and can think of a few extra ideas for people to try?
Lovely OrkneyFlowers has joined in with Frugal Friday again this week - click her name to read the post!