Utilities can make quite a hole in your monthly budget. However, they’re a necessary part of life for all of us. Gas and electricity, TV, phone, broadband etc keep us in heat, light, communication and entertainment. But, while we all have to cover the cost of them, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to pay full price. If you’re looking to cut the cost of your utility bills then there are some simple ways to do it.
Fix your energy bills
Experts estimate you can save around £300 a year by fixing your energy bills as prices continue to rise. Choose a dual tariff and you’ll save money too. You can also make savings by option for the right payment method – most energy companies will give discounts to customers who pay by direct debit, rather than cash or cheque. And if you’re on a pre-payment meter read about how to move to a credit account.
Opt for broadband without a phone line
Not everyone uses a landline these days. For many, a home phone is just an annoying source of cold calls and extra bills to sort out. However, whether you use the phone line or not, line rental has always been an essential if you want access to broadband. Thanks to the arrival of fibre broadband this is no longer the case. If you want to reduce the cost of your broadband payments then find a provider who won’t charge you line rental too. Virgin Media is on of the few broadband providers offering this deal but more are likely to follow.
Use a comparison site
It’s not a new suggestion but still one that works. If you want to reduce the cost of energy, TV, phone or broadband then price comparison sites are a great way to see where the better deals are. If you find what looks like a better deal then don’t hesitate, switch. It’s not hard to move utilities providers, most will do the work for you. And if it lowers monthly bills with no drop in service then what have you got to lose. But use comparison sites with care.
Get an energy monitor
The trouble with gas and electricity is that it’s difficult to quantify how much you’re using in real time. How much does it cost to have a bath instead of a shower? What’s the additional cost of using the oven for an hour a night? Are you pushing up your energy bills by having the heating on during the day? Although you can ask these questions, most energy companies won’t give you a straight answer other than “it depends on your home and your usage.” So, rather than waiting to see what your bill holds at the end of the month, get an energy monitor instead. These cost around £25 but some energy companies will give you one for free. You’ll be able to see real time estimates of your energy usage and decide where to cut back to reduce those bills.
Haggle for better deals
The prices you’re charged are not set in stone and you can usually get at least some sort of discount by simply asking for it. Factors that will work in your favour include being a long time customer (over a year) and being able to point to a cheaper, better deal that a competitor is offering. This is particularly so with TV, phone and broadband providers who are very keen to keep customers in an increasingly competitive market. Most companies will match another deal on the market and offer a discount to keep you as their customer. If they won’t drop the price, ask for some free add-ons so you’re getting an improved service for the same cost.
Avoid peak times
From energy to phone calls, you can always cut the cost of your bills by switching to an off peak tariff. Savings can be considerable if you’re able to avoid high usage of your utilities when everyone else in the country is doing it too. However, make sure you establish exactly when peak times are. If you’ve got an off peak tariff but you end up using utilities during peak times the costs will soar.
Look into social tariffs and freebies
Some providers have cheaper tariffs that are made available to certain demographics, for example if you have a disability. You can also switch to a cheaper tariff if you’re struggling financially – most companies will be keen to keep you paying your bills, even if they’re reduced, rather than not being able to pay at all. With both of these you have to ask for them as utilities providers don’t tend to offer them unsolicited. It’s also worth looking into whether you qualify for any freebies. That could be a free wireless router, a free energy monitor or something like a free boiler or insulation.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley