Do you know how much you are spending on household bills? Well, the answer could easily be "too much".
Households are underestimating how much they are paying on their household bills by an average of £770, according to research by a leading bank.
People believe their gas costs £279 less a year than it really does, and underestimate electricity charges by £91, council tax by £721 and water by £65.
On the other hand, people are overestimating their expenditure on TV, phone and broadband bills by £386.
This means that, added together, the average household thinks it needs to find £2,559 to cover household bills, but actually needs a shocking £3,329 – or 30% more.
Even if you can't do anything about your service suppliers raising their prices, you can at least take action to use less fuel and ensure you're getting the best deal.
Here are 12 ways to cut your household bills...
1. Turn down the thermostat
Our homes are on average 4 degrees warmer than they were 40 years ago, according to a report by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Put a jumper on and you probably won’t even notice if you turn the heating down a notch, but you'll probably notice a reduction in household bills.
2. Turn off appliances you are not using
We have more lights and more electrical appliances, such as microwave ovens, televisions and computers, than ever before.So don't leave lights on in rooms you are not using, and turn radiators and other heaters off or down in unused rooms.
A guide to energy-saving lightbulbs
3. Don't leave appliances on standby
You can waste hundreds of pounds on household bills if you leave everything on standby. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that the average household spends an average of £45-£80 a year powering appliances left on standby.
Turn anything that doesn’t need to run all the time off at the mains.
4. Fill the washing machine
Always run the washing machine and dishwasher with full loads. Two half loads use more energy than one full load.
How to choose the best washing machine
5. Don't overfill the kettle
Only boil as much water as you need at any one time. According to the Energy Saving Trust, three-quarters of British households overfill their kettles, wasting a total of £68m in unnecessary household bills each year.
Where to find discounts for the over 50s
6. Prevent limescale build up
Whether in your kettle, your washing machine element or your water heater, limescale will stop them working properly and cause you to use more electricity.
How to keep your washing machine clean
7. Use an energy monitor
You can buy a small wireless device that tells you how much energy you are using at any one time.
By switching appliances on and off and watching the readings you can see which ones are guzzling electricity. A basic model costs around £40.
What is Nest?
8. Buy energy-saving appliances
No one is suggesting you throw out all your old electrical equipment that is still giving good service, as that wouldn't be very eco-friendly or save you any money.
However, when purchasing new appliances, look for the energy rating. Even if the purchase price is a little higher this could soon be paid back in terms of lower energy bills.
How to complain to your energy provider
9. Use water-saving devices
Likewise, when replacing your plumbing, look out for taps, showers and lavatories that minimise water usage. If you have an old-fashioned lavatory without a variable flush, a Water Hippo could help you use less water. Using a timer when you have a shower could also save you water.
Could a water meter work for you?
If you live alone or as a couple, you could save money by switching to a water meter, says Paul Lewis. All water companies in England and Wales have to fit them free. If a meter cannot be fitted, the company may reduce your charges just because you’ve applied. You can estimate your potential savings online using this handy calculator from the Consumer Council for Water.
10. Don't pay more council tax than you need to
Make sure you know the rules on paying council tax, because you might be able to pay less as a result of your circumstances – for instance, if you are on a low income or live alone.
And apply for any discounts you might be eligible for.
How to check you council tax band
11. Switch domestic fuel and broadband suppliers
Reports indicate that saving money by switching is getting harder, particularly if you have switched recently as the prices from different suppliers increasingly fall in line with each other.
But if you haven't ever compared what you are paying for your domestic fuel, your phone service or internet provider with what you might pay if you switched, it is certainly worth using a comparison website to see if you can make savings.
Beat energy price rises and save money by switching broadband providers with Saga Compare
12. Make sure you are getting help with your heating costs if you qualify
If you're of state pension age, you can claim the Winter Fuel Payment.
See if you qualify for a £140 Warm Home Discount available from the major energy suppliers by calling the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99. Even if you don't qualify, the helpline can give you, for free, confidential advice on grants and help with paying bills, as well as tips on energy efficiency.
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