Mrs MummyPenny Talks is back for Season Five.
This season I’ll be joined by Faith Archer of ‘Much More With Less’ and our seven episodes will focus on practical advice for dealing with the Cost-of-Living Crisis.
We’re grateful to our sponsors, PensionBee, who are on a mission to make pensions simple. To find out more and or sign up to PensionBee you can use this referral code where both of us will get a £50 credit to our pensions http://refer.pensionbee.com/mQeBiQC
Episode 3 is ENERGY. Here is the transcribed show notes
Hi, and welcome back to Episode Three of Mrs MummyPenny Talks Cost-of-Living with Much More With Less. Thank you for returning to listen or watch this podcast, which is in collaboration with our friends at PensionBee. I’m just going to quickly hand over to me talking about PensionBee and their podcast.
So, we get it, pensions can be complicated, but PensionBee’s on a mission to make them simple with its podcast. So, whether you’re just starting on your savings journey, nearing retirement, or somewhere in between, the Pensions Confident Podcast can help you to get the best out of your pension. I joined them for Episode Five to discuss the cost-of-living crisis, why it’s happening and when it will be over. You can find this and other episodes of the Pension Confident Podcast on all major podcast platforms, which are available to listen to today.
Episode Three is about something that we have been talking about for a very long time, which is energy. I feel that most of what I talk about in the media is energy. I’m sure you’ll know that I do a lot of work on TV and radio, and energy is one of my specialist areas. It has been for years actually. I know a lot about it. I used to buy it for Tesco back in the noughties when it cost hardly anything. So, I know about how it works upstream, where it’s made and how electricity is made, because you need gas to make electricity. I understand the bigger picture of energy and I understand the smaller picture of how we save money on it. Because the basic fact is that bills have gone up by 80%. Bills on average are going up by 80%, but I’m going to talk about it in terms of numbers, because percentages are confusing. At one point our bills, in September of 2021, were on average £108 a month. They are going up to £350 a month. That is not a percent. That’s going to be happening from October. At the moment, Cornwall Insights, which is who Martin Lewis quotes as his source of reliable energy information, they’re saying that the bills are going to go up to £450 in January. I suspect it’s going to be higher because of that pipe that the Russians cut off the other day, the gas pipe. So, we’re in a dire situation with our energy bills, and I am crapping myself. Am I allowed to say that word?
Your podcast so you can say what you like! I think many people will share that perspective. I think the energy price rises are an absolute nightmare. For many people the Ofgem stats are all based on the average household. So fundamentally, if your household uses more energy, your bills are going to be even higher. And there are going to be millions of people that just cannot pay that kind of sum.
What we’re actually talking about is that the population of the UK is about 60 million people? Roughly? My son would know – who I can’t reference at this moment. So, this is probably 80-90% of the population are going to be impacted by this energy price rise. We’re talking about people who are on lower incomes and we’re talking about people on middle incomes. We’re talking about people earning, £30k/£40k/£50k a year, which is most of the UK. Most people in this UK are earning that amount of money, so it’s impacting everybody.
It’s meaning that people who perhaps didn’t have to think about money-saving measures so much before, it really is hitting people in the wallet. So, the idea of this particular podcast was to focus on ways you can bring those bills down.
Absolutely. I’m going to start with a little bit of setting the scene with energy prices and why they’ve gone up so much. I’m going to keep it really simple because there’s no point bombarding people with facts. But why have energy prices gone up so much in the last couple of years? Well, we have a conflict happening in the Ukraine and Russia. Lockdown happened which messed around with global manufacturing. So, there was a huge surge in manufacturing in some parts of the world after lockdown ended, but now we’ve got the situation where China is going back into lockdown. So, it’s just all over the place and it’s this perfect storm of all these worldwide events.
A lot of gas is mined in Russia and the Ukraine. So, Germany, for example, gets 50-60% of its energy from Ukraine and Russia. It’s not just the UK being impacted by this, it’s other countries too. You might hear in the media that ‘France has got it easy -their bills haven’t gone up by very much’. In fact, one of my friends lives in France, and she messaged me about it the other day (I know a lot about energy!). And over there it’s all being state funded at the moment, whereas at the moment, our government hasn’t given us enough money to help us with our bills.
Hopefully by the time this podcast comes out, the government will have announced some further measures to help those in need. In France, they’re building up a bit of a problem with their government where they’re funding energy bills and building up massive debt. In summary, there’s unprecedented events that have happened worldwide, which are causing our energy bills to surge, but we are in this situation. We’re in it. So, we want to talk about how to save costs on your monthly usage. You can’t switch energy company at the moment. That always used to be our bog-standard solution – find a better energy company and switch, but you can’t do it.
Yes. it’s this topsy turvy world where if you switch energy provider, then almost certainly your energy bills will actually go up more that if you stay with your current one on a variable tariff. You can’t really do the pay less. It’s got to be use less and waste less to actually bring the energy bills down. This is something that is very close to my heart, because I live in the least sensible house when it comes to energy.
It’s a very beautiful house.
I do love my house. But, in terms of energy use, it is a complete nightmare. It is a detached house. It is an old house. It is only one room thick, so most rooms have windows out on both sides. It is amazing in the summer. It leaks energy like nobody’s business and, just to cap it all, we’re not on the gas network. So, I pay my electricity bills and I also have to pay for heating oil, which is not regulated. There’s no Ofgem for heating oil. There’s no price cap on heating oil. You’re completely at the mercy of the world markets. So yes, energy and how to use less of it is very close to my heart.
Can I just touch on a couple of things there? Price cap – so there is a price cap on our consumer energy usage – what we personally use. But I’m sorry, that price cap is a pile of rubbish. I’m going to say this because it’s my podcast and I can say what I want. I do not have faith in Ofgem and their conservation of the energy world. I listened to the one of the guys at the top talk on BBC news the other day and he was just spouting off government crap. They are just raising this price cap up and up and up. A lot of people are asking who’s making money out of the energy world? Some energy companies are making huge profits. We know this.
Will that be the ones that actually produce the energy?
So, British Gas is a subsidiary of Centrica. Centrica makes gas and electricity. They are making mammoth profits. British Gas is the company everybody trusts because it’s the old public company. It used to be public before it was privatised in the 80s by Maggie Thatcher.
Yes, “Tell Sid”. Thank you. I’m too young for that! But where am I going with this? There are some energy companies who are profiteering, but actually the people who are making big profits are the companies who are drilling for the gas and making the electricity. So, we’ve got profiteering happening on various levels, and we’ve got some energy companies who aren’t profiteering, so this price cap is meant to help the energy companies.
Yes. I think there’s a lot of padding in there and they’re trying to protect companies. Ofgem is trying to stop so many energy companies going bust. We’ve already seen more than 20 go bust and that costs to cover consumers bills. Now the rest of us are all paying for that. But I don’t run an energy company. I’m not an MP, so I can’t do a package of measures. I’m just me in my house with my high energy bills, trying to work out how to cut them.
I just get really angry about it because I know a lot about energy. I know Greg Jackson, the CEO of octopus energy, so I know what he’s going through. Octopus energy, they’re one of the better energy companies. They’re your supplier and they’re my supplier, and I’ve stuck with them. This is not a recommendation of them at all (but they are a great energy provider).
What you can learn from companies like Octopus is they have a winter workout on their website with various tips and suggestions for how you can bring your bills down. It is absolutely worth having a look at identifying what drives your bills apart from OFGEM and price cap. In a typical household more than half of your fuel bills are driven by heating and hot water, according to Energy Saving Trust. It’s trying to think about how you can cut down the use of your heating. How can you cut down the use of your hot water so that you actually bring the prices down?
So, I don’t know about you, but bringing the temperature down in your home by one degree, Energy Saving Trust reckons that saves £60-80 a year. Possibly more from October with the prices going up so much. One of the things we did when we moved in was that we installed thermostatic radiator valves. Some of the tips for energy savings are really cheap. Some of them do require a bit of investment. I’m thinking about some of the stuff we actually chose to invest money in, things like thermostatic radiator valves. We had some doors put in where they were missing to stop drafts. We went to charity shops, and we bought the lined curtains. I’m hopeless at DIY, so we got somebody to come around and put a piece of wood in the chimney. There’s still a bit of ventilation, but it’s like a chimney draft excluder. Again, the Energy Saving Trust days you can save £20 a year. It’s going around the house, where do you feel the draft? Where can you put draft proofing strips? Draft excluders on the doors? Flexible filler in the gaps in your skirting boards and in your floorboards? If you can feel the energy leaking out, how do you stop it and therefore pay less to heat?
That’s a really, really good shout. Something that I’m going to share is my little tip on draft excluders. Get an old pair of tights and all those odd socks. We’ve all got a pile of odd socks, especially if you’ve got kids. Stuff one leg with your old socks and knot it up at the end. That’s a snake draft excluder. That’s really good, isn’t it? You could put eyes on it to actually turn it into a multi-coloured snake. Use the see-through, tan tights and it will actually turn into a snake. I have to give credit to my mother for that. My mother passed away a long time ago – nearly 30 years actually. She was amazing at home cooking and energy saving.
Our bills were always really low because my mum did everything she could to keep the bills low. In fact, I remember going to the post office with my mum to pay the electricity bill every month. That’s what you used to have to do in the 80s. I think that’s where I started to learn my money-saving because I’ve always been obsessed with it. But I digress.
What I was also going to say was that Faith lives in this really energy inefficient house. I live in a very energy efficient house. I live in a four-bedroom semi-detached house, which was only just extended in 2013. It used to be three bed semi and now it’s a four-bed semi. So, I’ve got one side of the house where I’m next door to my lovely neighbour. Who’s a handyman, so helps me all my little jobs! I’ve got a problem with my heating at the moment which is another great money saving tip I found out a year ago that my hot water was always on. Oh God, right! And that is such an easy saving if you can cut down the number of hours that you’re heating the water for, if you’re taking showers rather than baths.
It saves me so much money. It’s really annoying for the kids. They’re like “mummy, the water’s gone cold”. It’s annoying for me, because I’ve really hurt my shoulder, if I need a bath. I would limit baths if I didn’t have a poorly shoulder because baths use a lot of water and a lot of hot water. Now I just flick the hot water on when I need it. I know it’s enough water to last for three days’ worth of showers. Also, limit the amount of time in the shower. Get a shower timer. Four minutes in the shower versus five minutes in the shower is a huge difference in hot water. So that will save you.
One of the other things you can do about hot water, aside from thinking about how many hours you have it on; check your boiler flow temperature. This is the temperature that water leaves your boiler for your heating and hot water. Quite often it’s set higher than it needs to be. For a combi boiler, you want it to be 50 degrees C for hot water 55 degrees C for heating. Beware though, you don’t want it really low because there’s a risk of disease like Legionnaires. If you’ve got a hot water cylinder, you want it just over 60 degrees C for the heating or water. Set the hot water cylinder to 60 degrees C. That’s a really simple change. It just means that your tanks might take slightly longer to heat up. But again, it’s something that can really take money off your energy bill.
How long does it take for your hot water to heat up?
I don’t know because we’ve got it on a timer. So, we just run a bit of water.
I don’t understand how my timer works!
Maybe the handyman can help.
This is why I need the handyman to come out. Sorry, I’m not very good at the whole DIY stuff at home.
Have you checked the jacket on your hot water cylinder?
It was brand new in 2013.
That sounds good because again, Energy Saving Trust says that if you can put the jacket up from 25 millimetres to 80 millimetres that’s meant to save £20 a year.
Great tip. We’re bombarding you with loads of little saving tips. But the thing is, if you make little changes to 10 or 20 things in your house, and each saving is £10 or £20 quid each, that’s £200, that’s £300, that’s £400 you’re saving. I’m going to give Tesco credit here – “Every little helps” – I used to work for Tesco. Every little really does help with energy. Can we go also refer back? I just need to explain a little bit technical about standing charges and energy usage. With me, my bill is £165 a month, that’s my direct debit. I’m using way less than that at the moment, in the summer. But I’m going to use way more than that in the winter. I’ve built up a credit in the summer which will help pay for winter, it all balances out. Generally, I’m a fan of not letting the energy company sit on a load of credit. But I know that my energy bills are going to go up a lot. So, I’m doing that, and I know a lot of people doing that at the moment. With me, and this is different for Faith, a lot of my bill is the standing charge. Sort of 50% is standing charge, which you have no control over, it’s about 50p a day.
The standing charge, if you look at your bill, there’ll be two different amounts on it. One of them actually relates to how much energy you use. So, you’ll be charged a particular rate per kilowatt hour, depending on how many kilowatt hours you use. That’s one chunk of your bill. Then the other chunk, as Lynn says, is the standing charge and that is a flat fee that you get charged every single day, whether you use any energy or not.
Yes. So, when I’ve been on holiday, for like 11 days, I still got hit with the standing charge. You’ve still got the base amount that goes. Also, there’s just an inherent flow of energy that flows through your house – which you can minimise as much as possible. So, I’m going to rattle through some tips now. Don’t leave anything on standby. Don’t leave those red switches on plugs. Switch off your kettle, your toaster, maybe your washing machine and your oven? You’ve just got to remember to switch them on. The internet at night-time and the TV -does it really matter if you’re putting the internet on in the morning to power it up again? You’re saving all that energy overnight. Do not charge mobile phones, tablets and computers for longer than they need. I have a little alarm that comes off my laptop that says, ‘your battery is fully charged, unplug it’. Actually, it damages your phone if you leave it plugged in and overcharged once it’s at 100%. I also used to work at EE, so I know a lot about mobile phones.
Other things… Only boil your kettle for the one cup you’re making rather than filling up your kettle. Wash clothes on a low temperature. I always wash mine on 30 degrees, economy mode. I have a dishwasher, which I know is a luxury, but I hate washing up. I hate cleaning full stop. I have just got rid of my cleaner, big step. They weren’t very happy, but I literally said it’s a cost-of-living crisis. I can’t afford it and they just reply back ‘well, fine’. How can you argue with that? I know having a cleaner was a luxury. If you have a dishwasher, put it on economy mode. You’re going to be using less water as well as less heating. You’ve got more, go with your tips.
I think the kitchen is a really big one for me. For example, I’m using my slow cooker masses, because it is so much cheaper using a slow cooker than having a fan oven on. I think it’s about 3p an hour for a slow cooker versus for slow cooker versus 46p an hour to have an oven on.
Oh my gosh! Induction hobs – so greedy!
A delightful thing, just as I was embarking on Thrifty September, our big fridge freezer has decided to stop working. I could have done with that expense. But it does mean that when buying a new appliance, one of the things I really looked at was the energy rating. I am paying a bit more upfront to have something that should cost less in its running costs. So anytime you do replace those big white goods like fridges and freezers, particularly because they’re on 24/7, they need to be energy efficient.
You can’t switch off your fridge freezer!
Although, I know quite a few people that have that extra freezer. They like buying a lot of frozen foods and it’s out in the garage. But if you actually look at how much energy a freeze it consumes. We’re choosing to get a different fridge freezer, that’s actually got more space in the fridge, less space in the freezer, because I’m hoping to get rid of our little undercounter fridge.
I want to talk about an air fryer. That’s a really good energy solution. It uses a lot less energy than a microwave. Microwaves are also pretty greedy. Air fryers, I saw one in Aldi for like £50. They’re healthy and they use less energy.
I think it just depends. Make sure you get the right size. Because if you’ve got to run it four times to get enough food for a family of four it’s less of a saving. Microwaves – I know they’re quite energy greedy, but because you use them for such short periods of time, again, cheaper than having the oven on.
A good tip – rather than using a kettle, put your cold coffee into the microwave for 30 seconds.
Doesn’t it taste foul?
No. Totally fine. Any others for the kitchen?
I think those are the main ones; thinking about how you cook, thinking about your fridge freezer, switching everything off so o it’s not on standby.
It’s all the things about insulation and also this concept of heat the human not the home. So, before you get your central heating on, put on whose extra jumpers and the thick socks. We have blankets on our sofas when we’re watching the telly.
I’ve got an electric blanket. I have become seventy years old. I’ve got an electric blanket.
On your bed? No, it’s just for my sofa. Obviously, I’m not using it yet. We’ve got one on our bed that comes on and goes off after an hour. You can just put it on when you first get in. Also, hot water bottles, I swear by those, because you do not need the temperature in your bedroom as high as you might need in a room that you’re working in during the day. I have just invested in an electric throw for my teenager. The idea is that we can bring the temperature down in their bedroom in the winter.
So, I’ve got two of those really trendy radiators that don’t have a thermostat on them. So, I need to get a rad bot for them, which is what you’ve already referred to. A rad bot costs around?
I’d need to check. It’s like £30 or £40 a pop. So, it’s not cheap.
It’s not cheap. But, because I don’t have the ability to turn it on or off=, I need one. The other thing that I wanted to mention, I don’t have a hair dryer. I let my hair dry naturally.
Tumble dryers – let your clothes dry naturally too. Or, if you’re going to invest in anything, a heated airer.
I do have a heated airer that I got from Aldi. It was £40. I need to check on my smart meter, we need to talk about smart meters, I need to check how much energy it’s using. I worry that my heated airer uses a lot of energy
Have you got a cover for it?
Yes, that solves that! Smart meters very quickly, because I’m aware of time. A lot of us have smart meters. It’s that little thing that sits in your kitchen that you never look at, unless you’ve just got it and then you’re obsessed with it for two weeks. Then you forget you’ve got it, or you switch it off. What I will say is, full disclaimer I do work with Samsung as a partner, but they’ve got this really great app called Smart Things app, which is free. You connect it up to your smart meter and it gives you all your information on your energy usage on your I’ll phone. I can set a target. At the moment, I’ve said, I don’t want my electricity bill to be more than £50 a month, and I can keep check on it. It’s really clever. And it’s on your phone, because the smart meter, well you’ve got to look at your smart meter, haven’t you?
Well, you’re certainly not carrying it around.
Exactly. So, it’s the SmartThings app. It’s on Apple and it’s on Android, and it connects to pretty much every smart meter out there. It worked for mine, and mine is like four years old. I think we’ve covered a lot there.
I think we have. I feel so aware that for many people their energy bills are just completely unmanageable – even if they put all these things into effect. What I would say is that, if you’re experiencing problems, contact your energy company as the very first point of call. Talk to them about what you can actually afford. Some of them even have grants, discounts, or affordable tariffs.
Can I just say about the grants, they are all having to announce that they’ve got these million-pound hardship funds. They all have hardship funds. If you are struggling to pay your energy bill, do not cancel your direct debit. Do not cancel your direct debit. Please don’t. Do not, not pay your bill, that ‘Don’t Pay UK Campaign’. I’m very anti them. You might be for it, I’m not. Because if you cancel your direct debit and don’t pay your energy bill it could, we do not know this for definite, it could impact your credit rating.
Phone your energy company, as Faith said. Have a conversation. I know it causes anxiety. I know it’s difficult, talking to somebody about money, I really understand it. But please phone, your energy company. Say we can’t afford your bill. Say what you can afford, they might be able to top it up with some of the hardship fund. Prepayment meters let’s just do a little bit on that. For lower income people, they may well be on a prepayment meter, which is a more expensive form of paying for your energy. It’s follow the same kind of tips we’ve talked through. It’s just that unfortunately, this is just a classic example of where you’re in a lower income you pay more for something. That’s the crappy way our world works. I think we’ve covered everything.
I think we’ve covered some of the some of the major ways that you can save on your energy bills, and I think it’s just going to be painful for everybody. So good luck out there.
Faith and I, people like Debt Camel over on Instagram, Thrifty Londoner, there’s some really good people out there who share some incredible information, Debt Camel – she’s amazing on Instagram with energy saving tips. Just suck in all the tips, join the Facebook groups, but just be very, very wary of all these campaigns for ‘let’s just all cancel our direct debits en-masse. It’ll all be fine’. I don’t know. It’s up to you. We’ve all got free will. That’s where I stand.
There was a lot of tips there. It’s probably worth re listening to this podcast is scribbling down ideas. I’m going to be transcribing these podcasts as well. So, there will be a blog post to go alongside it which will sit on Faith’s website and my website. So that went on too long, but it’s a really serious area that I’m really passionate about. I’m just so angry and upset that we’ve gotten to this state and that the government, as far as we know and as of the recording date, haven’t done enough to help us. I’m angry. Thank you for listening to us with so many tips and money saving ways and explaining the bigger picture and the smaller picture. Thank you again to PensionBee for collaborating with us on this podcast. I am Lynn Mrs MummyPenny follow me on Instagram at @MrsMummyPennyUK
And I’m Faith Archer, so you can find me on @muchmore_less on Instagram and Twitter and www.muchmorewithless.co.uk as my website
You can follow Pensionbee at @pensionbee and just Google Mrs Mummypenny to find me. Watch out for us on TV and radio. Our next weekly episode, every Tuesday, is Episode Four on essential bills. Following on from energy how to get the best deals on your essential bills. Thank you for listening and we will see you next week.