Keen to trim back your energy bills? Here’s how to go about it

Winter – and bigger heating bills – are on the way. Vicky Shaw shares some expert tips on how to shop around for better deals.

The nights are drawing in – and just as we might be starting to spend more time back indoors and wondering how long before the heating needs to start going on again, energy prices have been on the rise.

So, before the chill really kicks in, now could be a great time to see if there are savings to be made.

According to some recent analysis from MoneySavingExpert.com in early September, the average price of the top 10 most competitive tariffs had increased by £65 per year since the start of August. Want to see if you could switch and save? Head to the website’s free ‘cheap energy club’ (moneysavingexpert.com/cheapenergyclub) to see what better deals are out there.

Switching may seem like a hassle but there could be some significant savings to be made. Adam Bullock, UK director at TopCashback.co.uk, says: “Energy suppliers are continuing to increase prices for households across the UK, meaning many families are going to be worse off this winter.

“Switching energy providers can make a big difference, yet many people put it off or want to avoid the hassle. However, by working out household usage, shopping around for the best rates and earning cashback on top, people could be cutting off hundreds from their energy bills.”

Ofgem, the independent energy regulator for Britain, recently set out plans to cap rip-off gas and electricity tariffs and hopes to have the measures in place by the end of the year – although consumer groups are still encouraging people to shop around for the best deal.

Here are some tips from TopCashback.co.uk for shaving money off your energy costs…

1. If your household circumstances have not changed – meaning the same number of people are living at the property and you have the same boiler – then it’s worth working out your household consumption from the previous year, for both gas and electricity. This will enable you to be more accurate than the monthly estimate from your provider.

2. Once you have worked out your household consumption, you could try using an accredited energy price comparison website to see which provider can give you the best deal based on the amount of energy you use. Remember, when you use your energy – during the day or evening – will also have an influence on what deal is best for you.

3. While getting your gas and electricity from the same supplier seems the simplest and most logical thing to do, depending on how you use your energy, separate deals may work better. Check out the prices of both dual and single fuel with providers, as you may find two providers are better than one.

4. Another way to make a saving when switching is to do your switch via a cashback website, which will pass commission back to you as cash – giving you extra money on top of the savings you’ll be making on bills.

5. Once you’ve found your preferred supplier and you’ve made the switch, it’s important to keep on top of your consumption. If anything changes, it may mean you’re suited to a different deal. Make sure you do regular meter readings – put a reminder in your calendar – and check every time you receive a bill rather than relying on an estimate.

6. You may be able to save money by signing up for an online energy tariff, meaning you agree to manage your gas and electricity bills online rather than receiving bills in the post.

But you may be charged a fee for leaving an online deal so be sure to check with your supplier first.

7. From turning off your oven a few minutes early – the residual heat will continue to cook your food – to turning off lights in empty rooms, small changes can reduce your energy bills to help bring costs down.

8. Thousands of households are caught out by moving to a standard variable rate tariff (the default price plan offered by energy suppliers, and usually the most expensive) when they are out of contract. To avoid overpaying, make a note of when your tariff is up and start looking at the switching process again.

WHY… DRIVERS NEED TO TAKE EXTRA CARE ON ROADS THIS AUTUMN

AA car insurance statistics show that drivers are twice as likely to hit an animal during autumn and winter than in the summer. Deer and badgers are the most likely victims, as well as the occasional fox – although in some places you could be unlucky enough to hit a wild boar, the insurer says.

While potentially lethal for the animals that unwittingly run into the path of a car, they can cause a lot of damage to vehicles too, with drivers and passengers also potentially being injured. Janet Connor, the AA’s insurance director, says: “Deer are a particular problem during autumn and in late spring. There are some two million deer in the UK and the population is rising. We estimate that damage caused to cars by hitting deer and other animals costs the insurance industry around £11 million per year.”

TIPS FOR DRIVERS

The AA says it’s not just country roads that are affected, deer can also attempt to cross motorways and A-roads. “Where the potential presence of deer is signposted, take particular care and keep your speed down,” says Connor says. “If you see a deer cross a road ahead, expect more to follow so slow right down and be prepared to stop.”

HOW YOUR INSURER CAN HELP

And if you do hit something? Insurers will arrange for your car to be recovered if it is severely damaged, if the police have not already done so. The AA says if you have struck an ‘owned’ animal and you can establish ownership, it might be possible to claim for the cost of damage or injury from them – so it’s important, if you can, to exchange details with witnesses and take pictures. Your own insurance company will be able to advise on this. But if your car is damaged by a wild animal, a claim for damage or injury to your passengers could affect your no claim bonus and you’re likely to lose your excess, unless you have protected both as part of your policy.

POUNDNOTES

Financial fact: House prices in London fell by 0.7% annually in July – the biggest tumble there since September 2009 when there was a 3.2% decline, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Land Registry.

21% OF PEOPLE CONSIDER THEIR SPENDING ‘VIRTUALLY CASHLESS’

More than a fifth (21%) of UK adults consider themselves ‘virtually cashless’ when it comes to how they choose to pay, a survey suggests. Over a third (35%) regularly go out with just a credit or debit card, while 16% leave home with just a single contactless payment method, GoCompare Money found. However, 41% don’t believe that we will ever be able to do without coins and notes.

YOUNG DRIVERS ‘FACE £2,442 ANNUAL BILL TO KEEP CAR ON THE ROAD’

Young drivers face paying £2,442 to run their car in the first year, a cost which has increased by £61 in the past six months, a study has found. When similar research was carried out in February, the typical cost was lower, at £2,381, Compare The Market’s Young Drivers Report found. Using data on the Compare The Market website and from other sources, the report looks at the typical annual cost of running a car for 17 to 24-year-old drivers, including insurance, fuel, road tax, MOT costs and breakdown cover.

TWO-THIRDS OF PARENTS WITH CHILDREN GOING TO UNI ‘EXPECT TO GIVE FINANCIAL SUPPORT’

Two-thirds (66%) of parents who anticipate sending their child to university expect to support them financially while they are there, according to a survey. Parents believe it will cost them on average, £17,165 over the length of the course, the Lloyds Bank Spending Power Report has revealed.

Lloyds found parents feel they will have to support their adult children on a range of aspects of university life – such as accommodation, travel costs and study equipment. Robin Bulloch from Lloyds Bank, says: “The costs associated with going to university can mount up quickly, and often it’s unexpected costs that rack up the bill making it essential to take some time to consider the many expenses that may arise and budget for how these will be covered.”