10 ways to cut your household bills

10 February 2011

1. Go online

Paperless bills save money for utilities providers, which means they are keen to encourage their customers to use them by offering incentives. You can save roughly £5 per fuel bill a year by cancelling your paper bills.

Npower, for example, offers a discount for those opting for paperless bills with its Go Save programme, which allows customers to manage their account online - and garner a reward for doing so.

Paperless billing may not provide a huge saving, but you could cut your bills by hundreds of pounds by choosing an online-only deal, especially with energy providers. For example, you could save on average around £200 to £300 a year on your energy bills.

For more read: Top money-making websites

2. Get more than one service from a provider

One way of saving cash is to bundle your services and get two or more from the same provider. Providers want your custom, and offer cash incentives to encourage you to take more than one product from them.

For example, if you have a basic entertainment package from Sky TV, it will cost £19.50 a month. But if you get your broadband from Sky too, you can get a similar TV package plus broadband for the same price.

How to get the cheapest home media deal

3. Don't remain loyal

We often stick with the same bank, mobile phone network or utilities provider for years. This isn't usually out of a sense of misplaced loyalty, but simply because it seems to be the easiest option, particularly as many of us believe that most deals are basically the same.

However, if you take this view you could be losing money - loyalty rarely pays. "We recommend customers switch every year to ensure they're on the very best deal," says Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com.

"At the moment, switching providers can save consumers up to £530."

4. Review your policies

Even if you're keen to stick with your current providers, it's worth reviewing your policies to see if any changes could be made that could save you money.

Check the excess on your car insurance. Some companies offer cheaper premiums on the basis you'll pay more in the event of a claim. If you're a young driver, adding an older driver to your policy could also reduce your costs - it could save you an average £467 a year, according to moneysupermarket.com.

Read our five-minute guide to car insurance

If you have full gym membership that entitles you to use all the equipment and attend as many classes you like a week, but you only make it to the gym once a month at best, it would be wise to review your membership.

See if there's a way of scaling down your membership, limiting what you can use but saving you cash.

5. Cut your phone bill

Make the most of offers from your telephone provider such as free evening and weekend calls. If you're with BT, sign up to its Friends and Family Mobile scheme - for an extra £1.50 a month, customers can call UK mobiles anytime for just 7p a minute, almost half the price of BT's standard mobile rates.

Skype is another great way of saving on phone calls. After downloading the free Skype software to your computer you can talk to anyone else anywhere in the world who also has the software, without having to pay a penny (apart from your broadband fee).

If you don't want a landline but need to have the internet at home, consider using an internet dongle from your mobile phone provider. A dongle is a small piece of hardware that plugs directly into your computer, giving you access to the internet for a small monthly fee. This will save you £9.49 on BT line rental.

Finally, take a look at your mobile phone bill. Many of us are on the wrong tariff. Indeed, some people may actually be better off on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) tariff, rather than shelling out for a monthly contract.

If you pay £30 a month for your phone but only make a couple of calls, for example, you could be better off topping up by £10 on a PAYG tariff and saving yourself £240 a year.

Read: Cut your mobile phone bill

6. Ditch products you don't need

Every year people waste hundreds of pounds paying for needless financial products. Extended warranties are a prime example, especially on inexpensive items. If you only pay £40 for a microwave, paying around £11 on top for three years of cover does not seem worth it.

Mobile phone insurance can also be pointless, as most people are already covered by their home insurance - so don't double up but ditch your cover instead. By cancelling it you can save around £100 a year.

Use your common sense and do your own research before signing on any dotted lines.

Read: 10 rip-off financial products you should ditch

7. Be credit-clever

It can be difficult to make headway clearing a credit card bill when the interest keeps accruing. By switching to a 0% credit card, you could save around 16% (the average credit interest rate) of your total balance.

"It's a great way to manage borrowing costs if you can't clear your bill each month," says Andrew Bond, spokesperson at Barclaycard.

If you pay your balance in full each month, don't miss out on the advantages of a cashback or reward card. These cards give you something back each time you use your card.

Choose the right credit card for you

8. Install a water meter

If you struggle to pay your water bill, you could make a saving by installing a water meter.

"On average, un-metered households pay £361 a year for water and sewerage, compared with just £305 for those on a meter," says Robinson. "This is a £56-a-year saving, but currently just 35% of households have a meter."

As a rule of thumb, a water meter should save money if there are more bedrooms than people in a household.

If you switch to a meter but then find it doesn't save you money, you can come back off it again - as long as you do so within a year. Households that have been told they can't have a meter installed can request to have their bills assessed at a metered rate, which means they should still see a reduction in their bill.

9 Rethink how you pay

Automatic payments make things much easier for companies, which is why if you pay your bills by direct debit you could save yourself a small fortune.

Direct debits are also a much easier way of making a payment as, once set up, they don't require you to do anything else. By changing to paying by direct debit, you can save an average of £99 per utility bill a year.

10 Shop smarter

Finally, in your attempts to cut your bills, don't forget you can also save money at the supermarket till by switching to own-brand products.

Take a look at some basics - a loaf of Warburton's Danish bread is 75p, but Asda's own Danish bread is just 53p; and at Tesco, a 500ml bottle of Fairy Clean and Care washing-up liquid will set you back £1.50 for 433ml, but a bottle of its own Daisy washing-up liquid costs just 60p.

Many supermarkets also offer price comparison tools on their websites and guarantees that their prices won't be beaten anywhere. Asda, for example, says it will give any customer who finds cheaper goods elsewhere a £10 voucher, as well as refunding the difference.

Check out our 20 steps to a frugal lifestyle

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