Winter can be tough on our wallets, with Christmas presents to buy, parties to attend and of course the big day itself! Another expense that winter brings is increased utility bills. iCountspoke to families across the country and found out that 40% of us have had to borrow money to pay utility bills, and over a third have had to choose between cooking a meal or putting on the heating in winter.
If your utility bills are a challenge over winter, there are some simple steps you can follow to help reduce your bills and make your usage more efficient.
Switch your payment method
One of the easiest ways to cut down your bills is to switch your payment method. If you pay monthly, you may not be getting the best deal. Many utilities providers offer a discount if you opt to pay by direct debit, with the average saving being around £75 per year. It’s worth giving your utility providers a call to see what discounts you could be eligible for.
Keep an eye out for deals
Many of us avoid switching providers for fear of the amount of hassle or admin involved. Luckily, switching providers is easy, with most providers taking care of everything for you.
Use price comparison websites to have a look what deals are being offered, or call your existing provider to see if they are offering any new plans that you may be eligible for.
Get into good habits
Picking up a few good habits can also help to drive down your utility bills this winter. Make sure to switch off lights that aren’t needed, pop on a jumper instead of turning up the heating, and switch appliances off at the wall instead of leaving them on standby.
There are other simple changes you can make around the house too, such as moving bulky items like sofas away from the radiator, and blocking up gaps around doorways to help your heating be more efficient.
Hopefully these easy tips will help you to reduce your utility bills this winter, and ease the financial pressures that Christmas can bring!
Protecting our family’s financial future is always something that has been important to us. This is why Steve and I have been working all the hours under the sun – him outside of the home, me working from home – to ensure our family have the best possible future we can.
Steve has recently left his security job and is currently in the interview process for multiple other jobs – he’s currently taking a career break whilst he searches for something part time to work alongside his studies and this is something we have budgeted for. Him studying for his new career is something that needs to be done to get him his dream job – and us a decent income on decent hours (no more night shifts!) so we’ve made sacrifices to ensure our financial future is as bright and rosy as it should be.
However this isn’t the only way we have protected our financial future and the future for our children. If either Steve or I were to pass away, the loss of income we would suffer would be vast – however we have prepared for this.
Life insurance is a must, especially when you have children. We’ve both recently taken out new policies – mine is slightly cheaper for the same amount of coverage due to certain differences – and should anything happen to either of us, this would go to the other for the children. When my father passed away in January, his policy paid for the funeral and has also been so helpful to my mum in the months afterwards as she went through the grieving process. Our policies will also be for the same things – to make any arrangements for our funerals and then to ensure the quality of life of our children for as long as it possibly can.
Critical illness cover isn’t something we have yet added to our policy but it is something we are definitely considering. Critical illness add-ons usually cover a number of different conditions including different types of cancers, heart attacks and strokes. With my father suffering a heart attack not long before he passed away, Steve’s grandad having a stroke and friends and family passing away from other illnesses covered, we know just how common these illnesses can be and how important this cover is so we will definitely be sorting out some for both of us.
Another form of cover we are yet to add on to our policy but are considering is personal accident cover. Just knowing we are covered should an accident occur would be a great weight off our shoulders. I’ve also noticed that more and more places are doing children’s cover as an add on for no extra cost. Whilst we are yet to add Jack and Olivia to our policies, we do think it is always best to be prepared and whilst you never want to think that something could happen to them, nobody knows the future. That’s why you have to prepare for it.
When it comes to life insurance for my family, I always ask certain questions before purchasing a policy.
Can I hold multiple policies if I so wish? Yes you can. I don’t plan to always have more than one policy but I currently also have a free life insurance policy until Olivia is one which is running alongside my paid for policy. This pays out £10,000 which isn’t a lot, but for a free policy, is great. It is handy to know if you can hold multiple policies if required.
What do all these terms mean? There are so many different things to look out for – is life assurance the same as life insurance? Technically no. Insurance pays out when something happens to you. Assurance pays out when it does. I always make sure to know exactly what I am buying.
How much cover do I need? This is where I always struggle. I try to make sure that any funeral costs are covered and that my family are provided for, for the foreseeable future – whether that means paying rent or a mortgage, bills or just there in case they need it. I’m currently covered for just over £100,000 but this can be scaled up and down if I so wish – the monthly amount I pay would just vary slightly.
I’m taking other steps to provide protection for my family’s financial future too. I’m working hard to get out of debt, I’m putting money aside for a ‘rainy day’ and we also know of an inheritance coming to our family, the majority of which will be put away in a high interest savings or bond account as our fully funded emergency fund.
I’m taking steps to protect the financial future of my family – what are you doing?
I received compensation from C Space to thank me for my post.
Ever wished you could share an idea directly with a brand to help create positive change? C Space specialises in bringing the customer and the brand closer together through their online research opportunities. How great is that?
To make sure all consumers were heard, C Space created an app called Hatch by C Space where consumers can participate in influencing change with multiple brands that are important to them, like Twitter, Unilever, Colgate, or Godiva, among others. In the app you can interact with others like you, engage in activities, surveys and discussions that interest you. What’s even better – for each research activity you participate in, you earn an Amazon gift code! Handy in the run up to Christmas, right?
Hatch by C Space was only available to US and Mexico before but it is now live in the UK too – why not download today to start earning rewards and influencing big brands. Below are links to download on iTunes and Google Play. Please use referral code UKLaunch1 when signing up – this is my referral link and I would be ever so grateful!
You can find the iTunes Hatch here and the Google Play Hatch here. Don’t forget to use referral code: UKLaunch1. You know how much I love a good survey – so I will be airing my thoughts on the app! Why don’t you join me?
We’ve been saving for a home deposit for quite some time now. Unfortunately this is taking us a bit longer than it would probably take others as we live in a very expensive area – so if we want to get a mortgage, we need to save an extremely substantial deposit. This does also mean that we have been looking further afield to see if we can find properties elsewhere that suit our needs and don’t require such a large budget!
The tool talks about your outgoings and where you can actually save money on them. I gave the tool a try and found out that if I cut back a little on my non essential outgoings, I could have an extra £2000+ per year to put towards my deposit. When you put it like that, it seems crazy not to cut back, doesn’t it?
But how exactly am I saving money for our deposit? Steve is putting a little money aside from his pay packet each month but that isn’t as easy for me as I’m self employed. I never quite know how much money I will make but I try to put a percentage away for tax purposes, some kept in my account for bills and then move amounts over to my savings as and when. I also have a bank account which has a ‘Save The Change’ feature which enables me to save money to my savings account without even thinking about it.
Another thing I do is I always check for voucher codes and My Voucher Codes really is a great resource for this. They feature so many different brands! I always check the site before purchasing online as I am bound to save some pennies by finding a voucher code – and then I can move the amount I’ve saved straight into the deposit fund. Have you been checking out the site for voucher codes? If not, why not? You are bound to find the brand you are looking for on there!
Lastly I am still doing my online surveys and market research chats – these may not be consistent but the odd £10 payment for cashing out on a survey site still boosts the deposit fund a little and the £50 cheque I get from one of the survey sites every couple of months is a substantial boost. I also am decluttering as I go and selling anything that we no longer need – I am being brutal. It goes, it sells and the money gets added to the house account.
Steve and I have been together eight years now and living together for seven yet we are still going to be first time buyers. It is important for us to save a decent deposit to get us our perfect house for us to raise our family. I can’t wait to finally get there.
There is so much pressure on us nowadays to pay out for big events and special occasions. I must admit that we don’t participate in all the events in a year as it would just be too much but we do celebrate a few and have our own special ways of saving for them.
Swift Money are currently in the process of creating an infographic talking about how we spend money on these occasions and how much pressure is on us to buy at these times. Let’s take a look at the facts and figures around gift purchasing and how we finance these gifts. People may even consider taking on loans such as these https://swiftmoney.com/payday-loans-for-bad-credit.php – is this something you have ever considered?
52% of women ‘always’ or ‘occasionally’ save money for gifts, whereas 63% of men will ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ save. I would definitely agree with this – I am much more likely to save for Jack and Olivia’s birthday and Christmas presents whereas Steve just uses that month’s paycheck if there is anything left. 68% of people said there are societal pressures to buy for more calendar events than they would like to – this is very true also but in our situation, we have decided that we will only buy for the most important people on the most important occasions otherwise we end up spending out far too much and leaving ourselves short in other areas.
When it comes to Christmas gift giving, food and drink is the most popular gift given (38%) with wearables such as clothes, jewellery and perfume following close behind with 28% and gadgets also at the same percentage. I generally buy food and drink items, wearables or gadgets so this figure definitely seems correct to me. So when it comes to Christmas, what do we do?
I have now got to the point where I start saving money from around halfway through the year – I save a little bit into my savings account from each invoice that comes in, I save my rewards on all my supermarket loyalty cards so I can spend them during the festive season and I also try to save all Amazon gift codes so I can have a big splurge on presents at the end of November for Jack’s birthday and the kids Christmas presents. I also enter competitions to try and win the things that the kids and Steve want but I may not necessarily afford. Yes, I may not always win but I always end up with a nice bounty of prizes to give to the children, Steve and our parents alongside the things I have bought.
Aside from a few chocolate eggs for the kids at Easter, the only other events we spend out on except for birthdays is Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. It is said that 40% of people buy flowers for Father’s/Mother’s Day and whilst we definitely buy our mums flowers for Mother’s Day, I cannot say we have ever bought flowers for our dads – opting more for sports stuff, clothes or the odd bottle of whisky. Whilst we save for the kids birthdays and Christmas presents, we generally tend to pay out for other presents such as Easter eggs and Father’s and Mother’s Day presents out of our paychecks.
How do you save for special occasions? Do you have a particular routine each year to save up for the big events?