How to Save Money on Your Essential Bills

I practise what I preach with my essential bills, I pay the least I can for the services I need. Here is how to save money on your essential bills, excerpts take from my book The Money Guide to Transform Your Life. When appropriate I will include links to companies that can save you money, these are referral links where both get a bonus if you choose to sign up. Win Win!

Essential bills – A quick review of you Direct Debits

Before going into the detail of the essential bills saving ideas, go through your direct debits and work what is essential. Do you really need to pay for Sky TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime? Do you really need the expensive boiler insurance or the oven insurance? Question everything and cancel it if it feels like an unnecessary expense.

I go through my direct debits every three months and do a quick review to check that they are all essential and still needed. I have gotten rid of things like dishwasher insurance (if it does break, the money comes from my emergency fund), mobile phone insurance, magazine subscriptions and monthly contact lenses.

Likewise, I do the same with my business expenses, where I have so many monthly subscriptions: do I really need professional Zoom, Microsoft Office, accounting software, podcast hosting. It’s worth having a good look through all your direct debits. If you feel it is unnecessary, go online or call them up and cancel it. An immediate significant money saving can be made there.

Review the Essential Monthly Costs

Mortgage or Rent

Most likely this is your biggest bill that must be paid each month. Oh, to be mortgage free (I say with a long mortgage term remaining). There are often ways to cut costs here.

I re-mortgaged in 2020 to buy out my ex-husband as part of our divorce settlement. I got a 1.39% mortgage rate! Currently mortgage rate are at an all-time low, and likely will stay this way for a while.

Talk to an independent mortgage broker who can assess the entire market for the most appropriate fixed or variable rate mortgage with fees to work out how much money per month you could save. My recommendation is Trussle who did an amazing job with me in 2020, they will assess your needs and the entire market to find the best deal to save you monthly costs. If you use this link we will both get £100 in Amazon vouchers as a thank you referral gift.

If you can move to a new mortgage deal with a lower interest rate, then you will save a huge chunk of monthly expenses.

A fixed rate mortgage gives you the stability of an agreed interest rate and the same monthly payment for a period of time. A variable rate mortgage moves with the Bank of England Base Rate and your monthly payments will do the same.

You can have a repayment or interest only mortgage. The repayment mortgage means that you are paying off the loan balance as well as the interest. At the end of your total mortgage term your house will be fully paid off and owned fully. An interest only mortgage means that you are only paying the interest payments, and not towards the actual cost of the house. An interest only mortgage can be a short-term fix, as monthly payments are lower, but I would not recommend for the long term.

How to Save Thousands Selling your house with eMoov

A worked example

If you have a mortgage of £200k outstanding on a 25-year term, with a fixed rate of 2.49% your monthly repayments (repayment basis, not interest only) will be £896 per month.

Switch this to say 1.49% on a two-year fixed deal and your monthly mortgage payment goes down to £799. A saving of nearly £100, and this is pure interest you are saving. Your monthly repayment will still reduce your mortgage balance in the same. Use the mortgage calculator as mentioned on my website recommendations page to play around with your own numbers.

Rent Savings

A bit trickier, this one. If you have a good relationship with your landlord or letting agency be sure to negotiate your rent when you start living somewhere or when your rent is up for renewal. Rent absolutely can be negotiated down. The monthly charge is never set in stone.

Council Tax

This is the tax that pays for the police, fire service, refuse collection, local county council and parish council. It is a usually a large bill. It depends on the value of your house as it stood in 1990. Be sure to check that your house is classified using the correct rates band. I live in a four-bed semi-detached house in Hertfordshire, Band D and my council tax is around £190 per month, paid over 10 months. Check out your local council website for more information on your council tax.

As I am a newly single mum, I applied immediately for a single person discount of 25%, my new council tax is £150. Still a large bill, but at least lower. I like to pay it over ten months, that way I get two months March and April – when I do not have to pay my council tax; this feels like a nice bonus that I put towards debt repayment or maybe towards something fun like a holiday.

 Utilities – Electricity, Gas

These are usually also large bills, often way more than £100 per month. It is easy to save money here though by simply doing an energy comparison and switching to a company with cheaper energy rates. Let’s be honest here about energy. It’s all the same, whichever company that you pay your money to. The only things that differ are the cost and the levels of customer service (and bizarrely, paying more doesn’t guarantee better customer service in my experience!).

My recommendation for a good energy provider is Octopus Energy, I haven’t switched for four years as they always offer great value, even when I do my annual comparison check! Have a look to see if you save money, if you switch we both get a £50 credit to our bills!

Get a Smart Meter

Smart meters are being rolled out across the UK for the accurate measurement of electricity and gas use. Your energy company will fit one for free. My smart meter gives me real time energy usage information and I know that my monthly usage bills are 100% accurate. No more estimates of bills and manual meter reading.

Switching energy Providers to get a good deal and a smart meter

Plus, now I know exactly how much energy things are using in my home I have changed my behaviour. Everything is switched off at the wall, I nag everyone about switching off lights, I rarely use my tumble dryer and use my slow cooker more often than the cooker. I fill the kettle with enough water for that one cup and use the economy settings on my washing machine and dishwasher.

During the winter I compared a day of heating on during the day to heating off during the day. With the heating on my energy cost £3.50 and without the heating cost £2.50. If we did this every day this is a saving of £30 a month (it would be very cold though!).

If you are getting a smart meter fitted, do check that is a second-generation meter to ensure that the meter still works when switching from one supplier to another.

Water Bill

Your water bill is more set in stone: you must pay the company that services your area and you cannot switch. However, you can choose to be on a water meter if you move to a property that is on water rates. The general guidance is if you have fewer people than bedrooms it is most likely cheaper to have a water meter. Just call up your water company and they will sort it for you for free.

Broadband

I have no loyalty to any broadband provider and tend to switch every year to get the best deal. With broadband you have two choices BT (or the many companies that use the BT cables, PlusNet, TalkTalk, EE etc) or Virgin who use a different cable system.

You can get amazing cashback deals on broadband with the companies desperate to get you on board as customer who then hope that you stay beyond the length of your 12-18-month contract. Check that the monthly cost is competitive, and that the cashback is a good deal.

An example is me changing from TalkTalk to Virgin. I needed fast great quality broadband as I work from home and have lots of devices being used with three boys. I got £120 cashback moving over to Virgin on a £38 a month 12-month contract. The cash back took it down to £28 per month. One year later I have moved from Virgin to EE, my new 18-month contract is £24 per month and I received £100 cash back. Taking my monthly cost down to £18.44. A saving of nearly £10 per month.

TopCashback is my cashback company of choice they often offer higher rates of cash back compared to others. I have had an account for seven years and my total cash back earned is at £3,500 (yes you read that correctly £3,500) that I have earned in cashback discounts and refer a friend payments.

Everything I buy online I push through TopCashback to get an extra discount. Simply put, you open an account and search for a retailer on TopCashback first. They are all on there! Once you find, say Nike, click on the box that whizzes you through to Nike website to make your purchase. You will then be credited with a cash back amount, this is currently 4% of the purchase total for Nike (April 2020).

Mobile Phone

There is always a better deal to had with your mobile phone when you come to end of your contract. I have recently moved to a Sim only plan saving myself a huge £32 per month!

I would also recommend negotiating a deal, having worked in the mobile phone industry, I know you can walk into a shop, or phone their call centre to get yourself a deal that is better than what they often have advertised on their website or window poster. Particularly if you are an existing customer, they will want to keep you with a good deal.

Traditional mobile phone contracts last 24 month and include the phone, normally for free as a sweetener. The contract costs you maybe £40 a month for two years meaning you are paying £960 for a phone that maybe cost the phone company £4-500 (I used to work for EE!).

To save money look into buying the phone separately and taking a Sim Only contract covering just data, calls and texts. If you already have a phone that is out of contract and it still works then just pay for the Sim only contract. It’s also an idea to look at the data on your contract, do you really need 20 GB of data when you are often at home with Wi-Fi? Reducing your data on your contract can save you money too. And remember to use TopCashback if you are buying online!

TV Package

Many of us pay for expensive TV packages. Personally, I have a TV licence, Netflix and Amazon Prime. I spend around £30 per month on TV. You may also have Sky TV, Virgin TV, BT Sports, Heyu, Now TV, Apple TV, Disney+, the list goes on and on as more new companies enter the market.

My question to you is to check that you need every TV package. If you have Netflix do you need Amazon Prime TV, Sky and Disney+ as well? It’s a debate that I often have with myself, so am limiting myself to just Netflix and Amazon Prime. I often find great stuff to watch on iPlayer and More 4 anyway which is on Freeview and covered by your TV licence. Anything you deem you don’t watch enough of, cancel. You can always switch it back on if you miss it too much.

Make a call to Sky, Virgin or BT, the main companies that host your TV, broadband and landline in one package and see what they can do to reduce your monthly cost. If you are out of contract, they will always offer you a better deal. But you need to be proactive here, call them. Go to the customer retention team, who are specifically there to keep you as customer. A better deal and a saving are there for your taking.

You can also avoid paying for your TV licence if you never watch live BBC TV and do not watch iPlayer.

Insurance

There are many insurances that are important to have. I have listed four here but there are many more that you might have. Firstly, you should assess how important the insurance is to you. For example, I used to have dishwasher insurance, but paid £18 a month for a year and never made a claim. That was £216 I spent on insurance; I could have bought a whole new dishwasher with that. I cancelled it after a year and saved myself £18 a month!

All insurance should be compared and checked every year, never let a policy auto-renew unless you want to be stung with a high renewal charge. Again I use TopCashback for my insurance renewals, they have a great comparison tool, plus I get cashback! I recommend honesty in all insurance applications, as you risk not being accepted for pay outs if you tell porkies to reduce an insurance price.

Home Insurance

Home insurance is normally as essential requirement when you have a mortgage. And it is an important insurance to cover you for loss and damage to your home and contents.

You have buildings and contents insurance. Building insurance covers you for damage to the house from fire, storm and covers you for the house to rebuilt. Content insurance insured the things inside. Be sure to get cover that is enough for your contents, you might be surprised how much it would cost to replace everything in your home if there was a fire for example.

Your contents insurance can be standard or have accidental cover added. Handy when your toddler throws something at the TV screen and break it (this has happened twice to me).

Car Insurance

Car Insurance is the law! You have to have it. There is fully comprehensive and third, party, fire and theft. I would only have fully comprehensive to cover me for everything and I protect my no claims bonus that is now at its maximum.

My car insurance is checked every year based on comparison site checks. Car insurance is my least favourite bill to investigate value for money. I hate doing it, but it must be done. My renewal quote sent through in March 2020 was £480. I ran a comparison using the TopCashback comparison site and got my quote down to £420 (ensuring that I was using a reputable insurance firm that I had heard of with good real customer Trustpilot scores).

£420 still felt like a lot, especially as I only paid £280 the previous year. The only difference this year was it was one adult on the policy, after removing a second driver plus one speeding ticket. Both changes have made my car insurance much more expensive.

There are many ways to save with car insurance;- parking the car in a garage, having a car security, driving less miles, having a higher excess are some way to save.

I decided to try out a different car insurance product, something new, a pay-as-you-go car insurance company, By Miles, savings hundreds. I pay £170 upfront for a year and then pay 3p for every mile I drive.

Travel Insurance

Not an essential insurance, but it’s something that I ever travel without. I have annual travel insurance for myself and my children, it works out much cheaper to buy in one annual amount.

Travel insurance is an important one, to be taken out the day you book your holiday, not just before you go! It will cover you for illness on holiday, delays and compensation, theft or loss of belongings whilst broad, repatriation, many rare occurrences. But for the sake of around £50-60 per year for an annual travel insurance policy, it is worth having. You can buy individual trip insurance, compare the prices of both to see which is better value depending on how many times you travel in a year.

If you choose to purchase travel insurance annually, as with any other insurance you take out always compare and most likely switch companies every year for insurance deal.

Pet Insurance

Again, not an essential insurance and something that many people with pets don’t have. Hands up, I have a cat, Trev, and he isn’t insured. If I had a dog I would pay for insurance, I have heard too many horror stories from friends about huge vet bills.

To compare pet insurance providers check out TopCashback as before.

I am sure you agree, loads of ways to save hundred of pounds from your essential bills in here. Please let me know how much you save I love to hear from my readers when they have saved a fortune!

This post is an excerpt from my book The Money Guide to Transform Your Life. To buy the full book head here for a signed copy.

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Lynn Beattie

Aka Mrs MummyPenny

Personal Finance Expert

I write about personal finance made simple, lifestyle choices that will save you time and money, as well as products and services that offer great value.

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