Friday 12 November 2021

Frugal Friday…

 So having reassured you last week that you’re not going to end up sitting in the dark, shivering (unless you want to!) the next thing is clearly to deal with the escalating energy prices we’re (almost) all facing at the moment. 

I’m pretty sure I’ve dealt with energy saving ideas before on here - but I’m deliberately not looking back to see what I’ve said before as hopefully there might be some new ideas to come. Surely I must have learned SOME different stuff in the past few years, no? 

I know my energy bills are increasing at the moment - we lost our lovely gas “zero standing charge” tariff earlier in the year, and are now paying more than three times as much for our tiny gas usage. As prices increased our previous electricity supplier decided to boost their cashflow by fabricating a need to increase our direct debits to an amount which would have left us literally hundreds of pounds in credit even at the end of the winter period (which is not what’s meant to happen) - they couldn’t justify it, but nobody we spoke to was able to over-rule the system and get it dropped back down,  so we opted to depart and go onto a standard variable tariff with a new provider. 

We’ve established that prices are increasing, and that unusually there is nothing you can do at source to reduce the impact, so instead what can we do to reduce costs by reducing the amount of power we use? Well some stuff is obvious and talked about everywhere - turn off lights when you leave a room, don’t leave tech on standby, turn the thermostat down a degree, and only boil the amount of water you actually need in the kettle. 

If you’re on Economy 7 electricity you have a great route to really reduce your costs without actually even reducing your use - simply by using more during the cheap overnight period. We almost only use our dishwasher and washing machine overnight, and usually run the dehumidifier overnight too. The hot water and the heating are already set to operate in the cheap period of course. Learning exactly how it works, when your time periods are, and setting storage heaters correctly all also help you get the most bang for your buck on E7. For anyone on E7 particularly with an immersion heater for hot water, and an electric shower, consider using the hot water already in the tank for a bath before bed rather than showering when you get up - electric showers are a devil for power use and it will cost less to reheat a full immersion tank on the cheap rate. If you have a gas boiler that deals with hot water and are still using an electric shower, consider having a mixer tap shower fitted instead - it will probably earn it’s money back in relatively short order at the moment. 

Want some free heating? Well next time you get up in the morning and find the sun streaming in, throw those curtains wide open and get the benefit! On chilly days, for unused rooms that don’t get any sun though, you’re better leaving curtains or blinds drawn to help retain more heat. On the subject of curtains, think about lining any lighter weight or unlined ones too. That doesn’t need to be purpose-made expensive linings either - something as simple as a cheap fleece blanket tacked in will do the job brilliantly. If you have a draughty external door then scour charity shops for a long curtain and hang that in front of it - and make a “sausage dog” draught excluder to keep the wind from whistling in underneath (this can be as simple as an old bath towel, rolled up and secured with a couple of elastic bands). And once it gets dark, get those curtains pulled - helps prevent heat loss and just gives a room a warmer feel, too. 

More ideas: If you’re a coffee drinker, boil a full kettle of hot water for your first cup of the day, and transfer the excess to a flask - you can then use that to make subsequent drinks. For tea, you can transfer the right amount back to the kettle for a far quicker boil - although I know tea purists are wincing at that one! If you’re a frequent tea drinker then pour the cold water for your next cuppa straight into the kettle while it’s still hot - it should mean some of the work of heating it has been done for you when you come to boil it next.  Lighting a few candles can give both additional light and a little extra heat - and who doesn’t love the glow of a candle or two? (Or indeed four…for added comedy value). Batch cooking for course - don’t make one dinner’s worth of bolognese sauce or chilli, double or even quadruple it up and freeze the extra. The added bonus there is subsequent portions give you a home made “ready meal” that can be “pinged” in a fraction of the time in the microwave.  Time AND money saving! If cooking using the oven, again try to fill it rather than just cooking one item, and once you’re finished, leave the door ajar to let the heat escape fully into the kitchen. If replacing a light fitting, or even a bulb then look for LED rather than halogen. If you’re fortunate enough to have a wood-burning or multi-fuel stove, a stove-top kettle can be used sitting in top of it to heat water for washing up or cleaning purposes.

As ever the website has a whole fund of advice on this sort of thing, and still more can be found on the forums too - just whenyou think there are no more ways possible to save a bit of gas or electric, someone pops up with a whole new idea! Indeed - if you have any favourite energy savings tips that aren’t covered here, pop them in the comments below.


Friday 5 November 2021

Frugal Friday

 Oh poor, poor neglected blog - and after all the love I showed it last year, too! There you go - this is what a return to something approaching normal life does. Again for the benefit of anyone reading later, we’re still in the Covid-19 pandemic, but with nearly 70% of the U.K. population now vaccinated, in a rather better place than we were this time last year. 

Anyhow - what better way to come back than with a Frugal Friday post (albeit belated) and what better time to write a Frugal Friday post than when the U.K. is facing an energy crisis? Electricity and gas prices have sky-rocketed over the past few months, and the myriad energy companies who were relying on clawing in customers by offering “cheap” fixes are now struggling as the wholesale price they pay have exceeded the price they are selling the energy for. We now have less than half of the energy supply companies in the market than we had this time last year as many - and even some decent sized ones - have gone bust. 

So - if your supplier bites the dust, what can you expect? Well the first thing is that there’s no need to panic, you’re not going to lose your energy supply and be left without lighting or heating!  You will be transferred to a “Supplier of Last Resort” - SoLR - yes, your prices will probably increase, but everyone’s prices have increased, so consider yourself part of a pretty big club! Your supply will continue unaffected - and credit you have on your account will be transferred to your new supplier - you won’t lose any money so don’t worry, although getting everything squared away will probably take a couple of months. Don’t cancel your Direct Debit unless you are specifically told to either - it will almost certainly be transferred to the new supplier, and continuing to pay means you won’t end up with a big bill to pay. 

So what if you’re on a fixed rate deal that’s about to end? You should fix again, pronto, right? Well, usually, no. With the price of energy as it is, currently the cheapest tariff to be on is your supplier’s standard variable tariff (SVR), as that will be set at the price cap - currently almost without exception any fixes that are being offered are hundreds of pounds mor expensive. (The exception is from a couple of small providers who are extremely likely to go bust any day - and being mid-switch to one of them when they DO go is not a great position as that almost certainly WILL hold up you seeing any account credit you build up.)

Essentially, right now we are in an unprecedented “do nothing” situation. If you’re still on a fix that started back in the summer, stay put, it’s likely to be cheaper than anything you will get now. If your fix is ending, do nothing - let yourself roll onto the variable (capped) tariff, and if you are moving into a new property, contact the existing supplier and resist all their efforts to convince you that you need to sign up to a fix! There are awful tales out there of people being told they can’t go onto the SVR and the only tariffs available are fixes - this is nonsense, and all you need to say is “no thank you” - they don’t have a choice. Remind them that they should not be treating you as a new customer - you’re not, you are simply taking over the supply already in place in your home. Pass on your opening readings as usual, make very clear you want to go onto Direct debit, and make sure that you put in meter readings monthly if you’re not on a smart meter as your use may be very different to the previous occupiers. 

Next week, with the weather now getting colder, expect a Frugal Friday post from me on things you might be able to do to save energy - even if you don’t need to do it from a financial standpoint (lucky you!) we should all be trying to reduce our energy use from an environmental point of view anyway.