Tuesday, 6 October 2020

How I Cut My Bills by £130 a Month


Last year, I decided to overhaul my finances to see if I could save some money each month. I felt that I wasn't fully in control of what I was spending and it was too easy to use my debit card without really thinking about my outgoings overall. Along the way, I found out a lot about why my spending was higher than it should have been and some great ideas to get better control of the monthly bills. As times are hard for a lot of people right now, I thought I would share how I did it, in the hopes it helps someone else avoid the same traps I fell into and save some money too. The first and most important step I took towards getting better control of my spending, was to get a banking app on my phone. 

This post contains an affiliate link for Amazon. If you buy something after clicking the link, I get a small monetary reward which I may spend on sweets.
 


Get a Banking App


I bank with Natwest, so I will be describing my experience with them, but I hope most banks will have an app with similar features. The app is something I had avoided because I was unsure if it was safe to have an app on my phone that could access all of my bank cards and other personal details. However, I have found since getting it, that it would be very hard to gain unauthorised access to the app, as you have to set up a unique passcode that would be hard to guess. It also makes my cards a little safer, as I can lock them directly from the app if I lose one. Once you have the app, you can see at a glance everything you spend and you can move money between accounts, so it's easy to see how much you have left, which makes budgeting so much easier. It's brilliant for keeping track of your spending so that you can be accountable for everything instead of letting your bank card run away with you. I set up a second account for my 'spare money' so I leave enough money in my first account to cover all my direct debits, then move the rest to a second account, so I can see how much I have left for food and anything else we might need. after the bills are paid. If money is a bit tight, you can divide what's in the 'spare' account by four and then you know not to go over that amount in the week, to avoid going into your overdraft. Anything that's leftover at the end of the month, you can either spend on treats, or move to a savings account, or perhaps do half of each. In the app, or on your banking website if you don't have the app, you should be able to find a list of all your recurring direct debits each month. Even if you think you need everything you are paying for, I highly recommend you go through them all very carefully as I found a few surprises in mine and this is where I saved most of my money. 


Direct Debits


Firstly, make sure that you know what every direct debit is for, then check the amount you are paying. Do you need it? Can you get it for less? Sky.com is a very good utility that you can save money on. I went on the website and checked out what package I was on and it turns out that they had a package with exactly the same channels for £5 less, so that was easy. If you are happy to phone them and get into a bit of negotiation, it's possible to save even more. Previously I've rung them and said I will have to cancel and they've offered me a much better deal, so it's definitely worth getting brave and standing your ground. You could save money if you have your broadband and cable with the same company, this didn't work out for me, mainly because our location dictates what service providers we can use, but it's something to consider if it's a possibility in your area. I was getting the most expensive broadband package from BT as I felt that, since I work from home, the most reliable option. I didn't see enough of an improvement to justify the cost, though, so I did some research and found a much cheaper option with similar download speeds.  It's very easy to compare prices for lots of your major bills these days, using a comparison website, such as Money Supermarket or Compare the Market. Money Saving Expert offer lots of help and advice on getting the best deals too, including help to find the best broadband provider. 


Other Scheduled Payments


Not all service providers accept direct debit and this makes it all the harder to keep track of your payments. You wouldn't think you would need to keep track of your payments, as you agree how much you pay monthly when you set up the contract, but there is sometimes a clause where the amounts can be changed without notifying you. As I understand it, modifications were made to the law on this in February, but it's still worth keeping an eye on things, just in case. When I went through all my outgoings, I found my payment to Now TV had been doubled, because the contract had expired, so they just changed the payment amount to whatever they wanted. They didn't tell me and I hadn't really looked at my outgoings closely enough to notice that the amount had changed. Thankfully it had only been a couple of months and I took steps immediately to cancel all my contracts with them. As well as broadband, I also had their Entertainment and Movie packages, which I cancelled and switched to Amazon Prime. We already have Netflix, and I really just wanted something to provide a bit of variety. With Amazon Prime, you also get free next day delivery and a free version of Amazon Music, which is handy to have on your phone, because the music doesn't stop if you leave the app to do something else, so I thought it would provide a bit more value for my money. 


Check Your Appliances


Another way to save money is to check how much water and energy your appliances use. Our dishwasher broke down just before Lockdown started and we couldn't get it replaced for months. During this time, I got a rebate from my water company and my direct debit was reduced by £6 a month. Nothing else changed as far as I'm aware, except we were now washing up by hand. I did some investigating and it turned out that I'd been using the intensive setting because the other settings took hours, but what I didn't realise was that, despite being quicker, it used an awful lot more water. We have since replaced the dishwasher, but I have read the manual thoroughly to ensure we are using the most economical setting. You can make savings on your other appliances too. I bought a heated airer that uses a fraction of the electricity of a tumble dryer and still speeds up the drying process. You can make it even quicker by covering the fairer with a sheet once you've hung all your wet laundry on it. 


Mobile Phone Bills


After my experience with Now TV I am drawn towards any company that is upfront and honest about their charges and this is why I love GiffGaff. They offer sim-only contracts, with generous goody bags of talk, texts and data and they tell you exactly what you are getting without tying you into a contract. They give you helpful updates about your usage and even tell you if your bundle is not the best one for your needs. The customer service is also exceptional. For example; I contacted them on Friday, to query the goody bag I was on in preparation for writing this post and I got a reply back 12 hours later, on a Saturday, explaining in detail the differences between my goody bag and the next one up and what I would pay if I decided to switch. They are so helpful and there's a community forum as well if you need more instant help or advice. Everyone in our house has sim-only GiffGaff contracts and have done for years. I love how easy it is to see how much you are using and switch between bundles if you find you need less data. I pay £10 a month, which gives me unlimited calls and texts, as well as 6gb of data, which is more than enough for my needs. I recently changed my husband's goody bag because he has wi-fi at work and home, so I switched him to the £6 plan which has 500mb of data but still has unlimited free calls and texts. This is something to consider f you have access to free wi-fi in your workplace, or when you're out and about. I am not being paid anything to talk about GiffGaff, but I didn't feel I could write a money-saving post without mentioning them, as they've saved me so much money on my bills, not just because they are cheaper in general, but also because they give so much control over our phone bills. They even sell refurbished phones from £29, so there's no reason to be tied to a contract. I do have a referral code for GiffGaff, if you're thinking of switching. It's not a blogger thing, all members get them, but if you join through my code, we both get a free £5 credit, which is always handy. Click for free £5 credit when you join GiffGaff 


Other Ways to Cut Your Bills


Check your council tax band: It is possible that you could be paying too much council tax, due to the way council tax was hastily calculated back in the 90's. There is a very handy how-to guide that goes through the very easy steps to find out if and how to make a council tax claim. 

Check your water rate: Do you have a soak-away in your garden? If the rainwater that runs off your roof gets channelled into a soakaway, instead of into the main sewer, you could be entitled to a rebate on your water rates as well as a reduction in your future bills. Find out more information about soakaways here.


Here's a breakdown of everything I saved each month by carefully checking, and in most cases renegotiating, my direct debits and other outgoings. 

Gas and Electric     £71

Home Insurance     £3

Sky                       £5

TV Streaming        £14

Broadband            £17

Water                   £6.50

Mobile Phone        £5

Car Insurance       £9

TOTAL                 £130.50                                           


I hope you've found this post useful and manage to make some savings if you need to. There is help out there if you are struggling, so please don't suffer in silence. Contact Citizen's Advice or the National Debtline for information and advice on money matters. 

Money Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash


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2 comments

  1. Great advice. I had a big overhaul of my families finances at the start of the year and it has really made a difference. It turns out we were paying £5 something a month for the cover plan on a washing machine we no longer had. Oops. x

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    Replies
    1. It really is surprising what you find! I was kind of embarrassed at how much money I had been wasting, but I figured it might help someone else so I admitted my shame! x

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