With the summer months behind us, it's time to start looking at saving for the winter. With colder weather we need an extra bit of heat and our gas and electricity bill will rise accordingly. Money Dashboard has compiled our recommendations to stop those bills getting out of control:
1. Heat is expensive
It's useful to bear in mind that the devices that create heat tend to be the ones that need the most fuel. Only fill the kettle with the amount of water you need. Don't leave the iron or hair-straighteners on longer than you need to. If your heating is on turn down the thermostat and put on another layer instead.
2. Be eco-friendly
A lot of environmental advice has budgetary benefits too. Switch to energy saving light bulbs and turn them off when you're not in the room. Also, don't leave electronics on standby. They still use electricity until you turn them off. The Energy Saving Trust reports that £900 million of electricity is wasted every year due to appliances being left on standby.
3. Do your own meter readings
Energy providers' estimates are just that; estimates. If you are billed too little, you will end up with big bill at the end of the year that you were not expecting. If they bill you too much, you'll be out of pocket in the short term. You can usually submit your own meter reading online or over the phone, and an accurate reading means an accurate bill; if you know how much you are spending you can budget more effectively.
Money Dashboard automatically identifies and categorises transactions like Utility payments allowing you to track your spending and budget accordingly. Put simply, if you know how much you're going to spend on bills, you can work out how much you have left to spend on other things, or to pay off debts.
4. Pay by monthly Direct Debit
Electricity and gas suppliers prefer payment by Direct Debit and are sometimes willing to offer incentives in the form of 5-10% discounts to customers who pay by this method.
5. Internet billing
Some providers will offer discounted rates to internet customers, as the reduced requirement for personal interaction and paperless billing saves them money. Often you can save up to 10% in relation to the standard tariff.
6. Try to avoid pre-payment meters
Pre-payment meters tend to be more costly than billed meters paid by direct debit. It might cost you to get a billed meter installed, but it's worth it for the savings as well as the convenience.
7. Don't be fooled by ‘dual fuel'
‘Dual fuel' is when you get gas and electricity from the same supplier. A lot of the time, it's cheaper overall to go with dual fuel as suppliers offer deals. But that's not always the case; sometimes getting fuel from two different suppliers works out cheaper overall. Be sure to compare prices for dual fuel and separated electric and gas suppliers.
8. Find the cheapest supplier
You may have been with the same gas and electricity supplier for years, but there might be a cheaper deal out there. It's surprisingly easy to switch your supplier as you use the same gas, electricity, pipes, meter & safety. The only difference is the price and the customer service.
The quickest way to figure out the cheapest gas and electricity supplier for you is to use a price comparison website like Energy Helpline or Confused.com. You input your address and details and they show you what deals are available.
9. Reduced rates for financial hardship
Some utility suppliers will offer discounted rates for those who can prove they are receiving state benefits or otherwise experiencing financial hardship. There are also grants available from the Energy Saving Trust and various charities that will pay for improved home heating and insulation or cover part or all of your utility bills. Criteria for application and the extent of the discount or grant will vary, and in some cases it may not be cheaper than the best online or Direct Debit deals, but if you believe you may be entitled it is worth asking your provider, or read more at the Consumer Wiki.