It might not feel very spring-like at the moment thanks to the horrendous weather, but I’m hoping for sunshine around the corner.
If you are bundled up at home this weekend, why not take an hour or two to go over your household bills to see if you could save hundreds of pounds?
Every year I challenge myself to see by how much I can cut the annual cost of my household bills. I know, I know, it’s a rock and roll lifestyle I lead, but I figure that the more that I save on stuff I don’t even realise I am using – hello waste water charges! – leaves me more cash to spend on treats or plump into my savings.
Last year, I managed to cut my annual household bills by £441. Here is how to you can do it too.
1 Start by signing up for a cash back website
Sign up for a cash back and get paid a when you sign up for new bill providers. Websites, such as Quidco.com and Topcashback.co.uk, list retailers that pay commission when shoppers click through to them. In turn, the website rebates some commission to the consumer.
And the cashback can soon add up with some providers paying as much as £140 to new customers. Since I signed up to Quidco back in 2008, I have made more than £1,600, so take it from me, it’s definitely worth doing.
I explain how these sites work in this post from last year. It’s free money, seriously. Sign up – and thank me later.
2 The only time comparing yourself to others is a good thing
My motto is normally: “Comparison is the thief of joy”, but when it comes to your household bills, I make an exception.
Research shows that the psychological effect of knowing that others are paying less than you can spur you on to change your own spending habits.
And knowing what your neighbours are spending on insurance, energy and broadband bills could save you more than £500 a year according to Moneysupermarket.com.
Simply enter your postcode on the comparison website’s home bill checker to find typical prices local to you.
3 Get rid of unwanted payments
Two-fifths us continue to pay for subscriptions we don’t use worth £21 a month, according to research by Topcashback.co.uk.
Now is a good time to take a fresh and thorough look at your bank statements, highlighting any direct debits leaving your account you’re unaware of, or subscriptions you no longer require. This could be anything from gym memberships to magazine subscriptions. By cleaning up the unwanted subscriptions, no matter how small, you could save yourself money and see your funds looking much healthier as a result.
4 Haggle on home entertainment
Phone line rental, broadband and TV customers are often hit with price hikes, but that doesn’t mean that you should pay over the odds for your home entertainment package.
Get a cheaper deal by haggling with your service provider. A survey from Moneysavingexpert.com found 87% of Sky customers who tried to haggle were successful in negotiating a better deal –sometimes shaving hundreds off their annual bills.
To get started, call your provider’s retention department and tell them you are thinking of leaving. Do your research in advance and check competitor offers through a comparison website such as Moneysupermarket.com.
Use key negotiation phrases such as: “I’m paying too much for my current package”, “a competitor offers a similar deal, but for less” or “I am leaving”.
Choose your timing wisely and avoid peak periods, such as Mondays, lunch hours and weekends, as the operator may be busy with a long line of callers – and you might need extra time to make your case successfully.
5 Streaming is the way forward
If you are fed up with pay a small fortune for Sky each month, why not opt to stream my favourite channels with Now TV for as little as £7.99 a month?
With this on demand service, you can watch the latest movies, TV, live sports and kids entertainment on your television or tablet – and the best part is, unlike satellite companies, which require you to lock yourself into a 12-month contract and impose penalties if you pull out before it expires, you can cancel at the end of any month.
Now TV can be streamed on your computer, tablet, Apple TV, PS4s, Chromecast or via special NOW TV box. If you’ve already got a Now TV box, or another device that can stream the service then all you need is a Now TV pass to get subscribed to the package you want.
There are currently four passes available for Now TV; Entertainment, Sky Cinema, Kids and Sky Sports. These are available for subscription periods as short as one day (for Sky Sports), or as long as a month. You can get a 14 day free trial of Entertainment, Movies and Kids.
The Entertainment Pass costs £6.99 a month and provides access to several channels not available on Freeview, including Sky 1, Sky Atlantic and Sky Living. Sky Cinema Pass costs £9.99 a month and includes all the Sky Movies channels as well as those featured on demand. There is also a Kids package, which costs £3.99 a month and includes channels such as Nick Jr and Nickelodeon.
The Sky Sports Day Pass costs a one-off fee of £7.99 and provides access to ten channels, such as includes Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports Football (for Football League, La Liga and more), Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Cricket, Sky Sports Golf, Sky Sports News and Sky Sports Mix. Other sports are covered in the two variety channels, Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Arena. Sky Sports Main Event will be the place for the biggest live events of the day.
If you want more access, you can pay £12.99 for seven days or £33.99 for an entire month.
Bear in mind that all monthly subscriptions will auto-renew, so set a date in your diary if you don’t want to incur a charge the following month.
Further add to your savings by sharing streaming subscriptions – and their charges – with friends. For instance, one of your pays the monthly charge for Netflix, while the other foots the bills for NowTV – and it’s all above board. But if you are worried that this ‘sharing’ is ‘stealing’, put your mind a rest and check out the story I wrote for The Guardian on this very subject.
6 Manage your mobile bill
Figures from Billmonitor.com show that more than three quarters of mobile phone customers are on the wrong tariff, with just a quarter of us using our free minutes and texts. As a result, we’re shelling out more money than we ought too.
But the sheer number of tariffs, deals and one-off offers can make it difficult to find the cheapest plan, but you can use an internet service that compares prices from providers to simplify the process.
Billmonitor.com, for instance, will compare more than 2.5 million UK mobile phone deals, and show you the best contract for your mobile phone usage.
The site will run through every call, text and byte of data on your bill, working out the cost on each tariff. By considering details such as free minutes, off-peak calling and charge limits, it can identify the 12 tariffs that could save you the most money.
7 Say no to insurance auto-renewals
While it may seem obvious, shopping around for insurance can save you a fortune. Never just accept the renewal quote you are offered as it is always worth getting quotes from rival insurers.
But keep in mind that the cheapest policy may not be the most appropriate as the level of cover will vary. Another easy way to reduce costs is to pay your premium upfront. Do not be tempted to pay for any type of insurance monthly because it appears to be cheaper or more manageable. It is not, as you will be charged interest, which can be as high as 24% a year.
8 Transfer your credit card balance
If you have hefty credit card debt, make sure you aren’t forking out more money on interest than necessary.
For instance, figures from Moneynet.co.uk show that those with a credit card balance of £2,000 and who repay just the bare minimum amount each month, would take 22 years to clear the balance – paying an extra £2,275 in interest in doing so.
Avoid these charges altogether and to move your debt to an interest-free credit card.
Before you make an application, check your eligibility with the soft-search tool from Moneysavingexpert.com.
A soft search lets you check what credit deals you’re most eligible for without affecting your credit score. The search it leaves on your credit file can’t be seen by lenders, so won’t affect their decision. This can stop you applying for the wrong products and harming your credit record in the process
Opt for the card with the lowest transfer fee for the period in which you are certain you can repay. Before getting a card with a fee, work out if you could clear the debt quicker to avoid it. If you’re uncertain, play safe and go for a longer term – after all, a transfer fee is better than paying higher interest later.
But once the debt has been moved, don’t get complacent, ensure that you then pay it off in full before the interest-free balance transfer period ends.