2022 is a year that will be remembered for many reasons. Unfortunately a many of these won’t be positive. The pandemic lingers on, inflation is at a 40 year high and the war in Ukraine has killed many, displaced millions and disrupted food / energy supplies for almost every nation in the world. Saving on your bills is a consideration for millions facing a financial squeeze and today we aim to look at how you might reduce your household expenditure without reducing your quality of life. In fact you might even better it!
Control what you can, ignore the noise
It’s easy to become anxious about any of the macro factors that indirectly affect your daily life. However, devoting time, energy and mental bandwidth to concerns you can have little to no influence on is equivalent to shouting at the TV.
It’s not that we’re trying to ignore or devalue world-events, however if we want to be highly effective in achieving our goals, we must place more emphasis on those things we can make measurable difference on. For example, we can’t influence the price of oil, but we can control how much we drive.
Money saving tips
Saving money as you’ve no doubt gleaned from this site, is something we are in fully behind. Not to say that its easy cutting costs, or indeed something that can be actioned immediately, however this is one area in our lives we are undoubtedly in control of.
Below we’ve outlined a series of money-saving tips, many of which we have personally used to save hundreds on our monthly outgoings.
Utilities, energy & heating
At this time, it’s not so much reducing our utility bill prices but keeping the increases to an absolute minimum. Prices are changing at an alarming rate so the easiest way to check if you are overpaying is to use the Consumer Council comparison tools.
We’ll recommend this site across a number of sections below as they provide a comprehensive comparison tool across both Gas & Electric utilities. They provide free, independent support and advice for all consumers and businesses in Northern Ireland.
Outside of Northern Ireland Ofgem take the lead in consumer protection across the energy sector. While they do not have a specific comparison service, they created the Confidence Code of Practice which price comparison websites can sign up to uphold. This provides a trusted list of sites we as customers can check prices on.
The Ofgem-accredited price comparison website we have most familiarity with is Uswitch and where applicable we will reference this below.
With multiple >20% price rises in 2022 alone, the cost of gas has added significant pressure to household costs. Before we look at suppliers, we need to address our gas consumption.
It is estimated that if you turn down your heating by 1 degree, this could save up to 10% off your annual heating bill.
Other tips for reducing gas usage include keeping your boiler maintained, or replacing old systems. Using a smart thermostat such as that from Nest or Hive will allow you effectively manage your heating to exactly when you need it. Why heat a house when no ones home?
If you find your showers or hot tap water too hot, another consideration is turning down your water temperature.
With our gas consumption lowered, we now need to give consideration to the cost of our gas supply.
In Northern Ireland, there are currently 2 gas suppliers you can choose from to provide gas to your home- SSE Airtricity and Firmus. The Consumer Council Comparison Tool provides a very easy to follow process for determining if you are getting the best deal based on your circumstances.
England, Scotland & Wales
Uswitch have an extensive portal filled with the latest information on prices, Government support measures and a guide on how to compare gas costs among the 6 energy suppliers they present. There is a handy little guide on https://www.uswitch.com/gas-electricity/ that starts with entering your postcode and a few other details.
As with gas prices, oil has followed the same price trajectory. Reducing consumption is of course one of the first tasks you should consider. When you place your next oil order, consider using Boiler Juice to get a better understanding of the market rate for oil. You can complete your purchase on their site directly, or use this pricing to compare against your local supplier. If there’s a difference in the prices, you could ask your local oil supplier to match the online price.
BoilerJuice provide pricing for oil from suppliers right across the UK including Northern Ireland.
Unless you’re completely off-grid, electricity will be the most important utility you need at home. Finding the cheapest electricity supplier in your area follows the same process as noted above in gas.
If you are in Northern Ireland, the Consumer Council who are independent and Government funded has a super tool by which you can check your tariff against alternate suppliers.
Elsewhere in the UK, Uswitch is a leading comparison site that follows Ofgems’ Confidence Code of Practice. Other comparison sites such as Quote Zone also do this task very well.
Paying for your electricity on Direct Debit and without a paper bill, are quick and easy ways to take the administration costs from your bill, regardless of tariff.
Electricity is often the utility with the most wastage in a home. Vampire devices, leaving the lights or emersion heater on, always on servers or freezers create a constant need for a certain level of service. There are plenty of practical ways to become more energy efficient at home, these include:
1. Turning off the lights/appliances when not in use
2. Use LED lights
3. Switching to energy efficient appliances
4. Unplug devices or set sleep schedules
5. Lessen device usage
6. Keep the thermostat at a lower temperature
7. Use smart devices
8. Using smart meter
9. Set washing at low temperature
10. Solar-powered devices
Once a luxury of few, now a necessity in most households, the internet is definitely one area to make saving on your household bills.
As we’ve shown above, loyalty rarely pays when it comes to utilities. Often a better deal is presented for new customers and this is especially true with broadband suppliers. It pays to look around at alternative suppliers and compare prices. On your renewal, speak to your supplier and just don’t accept new terms. They will usually match or better an offer you have found elsewhere. Failing that, switching suppliers is a simple process and should result in no downtime.
Feel the need for speed
With broadband in particular, the speed of your service determines the price you pay. Unless you are an incredibly data heavy user, you most likely dont need full fibre broadband and certainly not gigabit level service. The majority of speed issues in a home come from poor wireless networking.
Consider upgrading your router or network extenders. The Eero 6 Pro from Amazon, provides a premium wireless mesh system and added network security. It is capable of managing 75 concurrent devices. Enough for pretty much any home.
Never accept the automatic renewal quote. We’ve seen examples of 100% increases in home insurance costs presented as an automatic renewal. When we searched for comparable new quotes, there were savings to be made on the original cost.
Other ways to decrease your home insurance cost include:
- Increasing your excess
- Get a multi-policy discount by using the same provider as your car insurance
- Pay your insurance premiums in a lump sum annually
- Avoid extras you don’t need such as holiday insurance, if you are covered on another policy.
- Add additional security to your home
Being frugal with your entertainment spend does not mean you need to cheap out. Take joy in the activities you undertake, but look for ways to spend less on them. For example if you are taking your family out for the day, bring a packed lunch. Spend on nicer items if you wish of course and make this the treat. Compare this to eating out in a restaurant and there will be undoubtable savings.
Recently we travelled to a beautiful little fishing village an hour from our home. Instead of eating one of the restaurants which we would normally frequent, the three of us partook in some al fresco dining on the beach, with fish and chips from the local chippy. 80% saving on our normal day trip cost, 100% of the satisfaction!
If nocturnal events are your thing, consider one of you driving to the event. With the current nationwide shortage of taxis this is not only a cost saver, but ensures you’ll each get home in a timely manner.
Like many households we replaced a digital TV subscription with a suite of streaming services. Being honest, we utilise none of them fully, but then binge when a series we are interested in goes live.
To slash your streaming bill, many decide to utilise only one service per month. Binge all they want to watch in that month and then move onto the next service the following month. It does of course require discipline to manage, but it can drop your streaming costs by a large percentage.
For services you must have, look into family plans. Youtube premium and Spotify for example have some very generous terms for families, especially if you split the cost.
Your health is your wealth and fitness may be a core focus for your early retirement. Reduce your personal training for small group classes, or small group classes for a personalised workout plan from a PT. Try to reduce your recurring costs outside of membership first. Do you buy a protein shake after each session from the vending machine. Bring your own.
On the gym membership, cheaper gyms such as Anytime Fitness or Puregym still have amazing equipment and classes. True there’s unlikely to be a pool, but is this really why you go to the gym?
If you’re a Crossfit fanatic I understand you go to your box for other reasons than the equipment, but a considered programme bought from a respected coach online can be executed in almost any gym.
- Amazon Prime
- Non-BBC catch-up including ITV Player, Channel 4 on-demand. As long as it’s NOT live.
Keep track of your TV viewing habits over the next month. It’s easy to determine if you actually need a licence or if you want to remove the ned for one, what changes do you need to make to your tv habits?
Food & drink
Food and drink are arguably the largest household costs any family will have in a month. They are also the areas where most savings can be made without changing the quality of your life.
Before we get into the sections below, consider this: Convenience is a charge on the unprepared.
Cook from scratch
I absolutely love being able to spend time cooking my meals. Albeit I have to make the time to do so. My lasagne > any store bought lasagne. Fact! I know exactly what ingredients I’ve put in and I cook the dish exactly the way I want it. “Too much garlic” is not a phrase in my vocabulary.
With a little bit of time we can drastically increase the quality of the food we eat and reduce the cost of each meal by cooking from scratch. Start with simple and familiar recipes. Food you enjoy and eat often. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They’re happy little accidents we have along the way and often end up making the dish authentic or unique.
Arguably the M&S Our Best Ever Beef Lasagne (800g) is one of the nicest store bought lasagnes. At £9.00 however this dish will serve 2 at most. Buying the comparable ingredients in any supermarket will bring this cost down to about half that and you comfortably feed a family of 4. Experimenting to get the taste you like is part of the fun. For those very conscious on cost, using items such a beans, to fill out the dish also reduces the costs further.
Look at your shopping bill each time you shop and then compare the prices with the other major supermarkets. You may find that the total bill could be significantly reduced by changing supermarket or visiting multiple supermarkets for your food. Personally we mix between all major super markets as there are certain items regularly cheaper.
Buy bulk items
A single use microwave rice can cost £1.00 per serving. A Boil in the Bag Rice as much as £0.50 per serving. Measuring the same rice from a larger packet by the same brand can halve this cost again.
Buying spices or meat in bulk from your local asian supermarket or food wholesaler is often the best way to reduce costs. Oh no, you might need to portion this out…..boohoo.
Meal prep (bulk cooking)
Often prepping your meals in bulk is the perfect counter argument to convenience. Consider your lunch hour. 10 mins to the deli, 15 mins to get served, 10 mins back and 25 mins to eat your lunch. 35 mins a day is often spent obtaining that convenient meal. The alternative is 1hr meal prepping at the weekend a top up mid-week. Food packed and ready to eat in seconds each lunch time.
Alternatively if you’re just not ready to give up your harissa chicken goats cheese salad at lunch, why not double up your dinner portions? It takes moments longer to prep 2 dishes as it does 1. Portion out and freeze the 2nd dish for another nights dinner.
Overspending on your shopping and impulse purchases can become a thing of the past when you plan out your meals in advance. Setting a meal plan for the week will also ensure you can keep waste to a minimum or use leftovers in a second or third dish. A cooked chicken on Monday can also be used for sandwiches the next lunchtime or fajitas for dinner (or both).
Shop the offers
A great opportunity for saving on your bills is shopping the special offers at your local supermarket. If you know the cost of certain staple items toothpaste, deodorant or items you always have in the cupboard, buying them when reduced will bring your average cost per unit down over the course of a year. Or build your meal plan around those items that are reduced. The added benefit of this is that reduced items are often “in season” and this adds great variety and nutrition to your meals.
Sites like Quidco or Top Cash Back give you money back when you shop online. They do this through affiliate links and partnerships and share their revenue with you the user. Generally speaking you won’t be charged any more for using such a site, but it’s always recommended to check that the sites you are buying from are providing the cheapest comparative price once you factor in the cash back.
We live in an ever increasing digital world. For better or worse it isn’t going to change as we add more digital devices to our networks for communication, security, knowledge or pleasure.
Taking a new mobile phone with each new contract ensures you have the latest technology in your pocket at all times. The cost of doing so mounts incredibly quickly.
Consider skipping upgrades and keeping your existing phone. Alternatively purchase your phone outright, outside of a contract and keep it for a longer period of time. The breakeven point of doing this is usually 18 months. The longer you keep your phone the more you save.
Check your tariff
Next time your contract is up for renewal ask yourself a few questions. Are you using all your data? Are there any specific services you are using on your network that another can’t provide? Can I create a family plan? Are there better deals elsewhere for my chosen tariff?
Check all the major suppliers and compare their offers. If you do want to stick with your current supplier, bring the best offer you have found to them to match. At very least they’ll give you a better deal than you are on currently.
Tesco offer a great family plan where discount is attributed for each additional family member. GiffGaff provide flexible sim only plans with no monthly contract.
Many smart devices such as Ring provide cloud based back ups or services with a monthly subscription. At time of writing Ring increased their costs of this service by 50% overnight. Protect yourself from such services by purchasing self-hosted options. With a few minutes online searching you can find self-supported or open source options for many smart devices on the market today.
It’s common advice across personal finance sites to buy a reliable second hand car and drive it for the life of the car. A new lease every few years quickly adds up in addition to the running costs. We’ll cover this extensively in a future blog post and update this when we do.
Do you need to be a 2 or 3 car household? Take note of how many times a month your cars are used at the same time. If you dropped a vehicle, how would you make those journeys? Is that a feasible option?
In January 2022, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) stopped insurance companies hiking up prices for loyal customers. This doesn’t mean you’ll get a better price this year, more that the discounts for new customers have been removed. According to the price comparison sites, insurance prices have increased 2% on average this year to date. Shop around!
Are you driving more or less miles? Have your circumstances haven’t changed. Ensure these details are up to date at all times.
Driving at slow speeds does of course reduce fuel consumption and both the Irish and UK Governments told citizens to slow down this year in response to the increasing oil prices. Going one step further, hypermiling which originated in the US has gained some traction here in the UK also.
What is Hypermiling?
Hypermiling is all about maintaining momentum. This helps you get the most from every last drop of fuel to maximise MPG. Slower acceleration, less erratic driving and decelerating without braking are core features to ensuring fuel efficiency. Imagine a glass of water on your dashboard. The less the water moves as a reaction to your driving, the better you are are at driving like a hypermiler.
What else can you do?
These are some of our favourite ways to save on your bills. We’d love to hear your other creative ways to cut your household expenditure. Drop us a message in the comments section below and we’ll add the best ones to the article. Before we conclude todays’ post, we’ve two take-aways for you that have proven to be incredible for us personally on our journey.
Ask for discount
Be brave enough to ask for discount in any setting. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. This was drummed into me as a teenager when my mum would ask the very attractive similarly aged (to me) shop assistant for discount on our sports shoes. If you can be mortally embarrassed as a teenager, doing this as an adult is easy.
Creating a household budget is the first step to financial independence. We’ll preach this from the hilltops forever. Because it is true. Focusing on where your money is, and then being intentional where it goes provides a sure fire way for budgeting success.
Top Tip - Saving on your bills
You don’t need to tackle everything at once. Small bite-size steps forward are easy to manage and this meaningful action will prove bigger results over time.