We’re going back to basics in this post and having a look at the one of the most pervasive, yet somehow strangely overlooked “money sucks” your poor old current account has to deal with: Regular Monthly Bills. You all know how it goes, £40 a month here for the mobile phone bill, £90 a month there for the premium TV package, it all adds up horrendously quickly! Yes it’s sad but true, high cost recurring bills are a surprisingly popular sure fire way to ruin your personal finances.
The good news – if we can make many small or medium reductions on each bill, this can add up very quickly to tangible savings.
So pay attention gang: here are five of my best tips for destroying your household bills!
1. Open your bills and read them!
According to this handy infographic below (click for full size picture), over 1 million people don’t even bother opening their bills in the first place.
Talk about falling at the first hurdle!!! I would have thought that it goes without saying but given that stat, this has to be the first and most important tip: Open your bills and read them properly. There was a feature on watch dog just the other night in fact where a certain energy company was dishing out bills of ridiculous proportions; I’m talking in the region of £1000 and even up to £10,000!!!
Imagine if those people had not been checking their bills! If they had the money in their account the payment would have come out, not only would they be losing out on current account interest, it also might have left them short to buy their basic essentials until they managed to sort it out! In the case of the £10,000 bill, the payment may not have gone through and they could have ended up with extra bank charges which would have been even harder to claim back. Nightmare!
By opening and reading their bills they had extra time to ring up and get it sorted before any payment had been taken.
These are obviously extreme cases but hopefully you get the point, if you pay attention to your bills each month it will become very easy to spot an outlier of a higher bill than normal very quickly, and then you can take action to remedy the issue as soon as possible.
2. Track your bills
The next step after reading your bills is to track them. You can do this in a spreadsheet or by using online software such as Money Dashboard. Simply the act of being aware of your monthly spending on bills and how they changing over time will help you reduce your bills.
How? Well for example, if you notice your electricity bill getting a bit “Shardy” then you will be more inclined to make sure lights and other gadgets are switched off when not in use. Similarly if you monitor your mobile phone bill 1, the natural inclination is to watch your minutes and data throughout the month, resulting in lower bills.
3. Sign up to a cashback current account
You have to pay certain bills each month, there is no way around that, but if someone is going to offer you cashback to do it then why look a gift horse in the mouth!? The GrandDaddy of cashback accounts is the Santander 1,2,3 account. We’ve been using this account since March 2013 and so far we’ve earned a not insignificant £381.64 from cashback and interest!!!
Here’s a quick list of the benefits*:
- 1% cashback on water and council tax bills (and the first £1,000 on your Santander mortgage)
- 2% cashback on gas and electricity bills
- 3% cashback on communication and TV bills
- Interest: 1% if your balance is £1000+, 2% for £2000+ and 3% if £3000+ (up to £20,000)
*Please note there is a £2 monthly account charge but this obviously gets eaten up very quickly by the cashback and interest!
To get the best out of this account: Make sure all your bills go through it, have over £3,000 as your “base level” of cash (it’s a great place to store your emergency fund) and if possible get your mortgage through Santander as well. Just make sure they also offer the lowest or at least equal to the lowest interest rate. There is no point in going for a 3% Santander mortgage when you could get 2.5% elsewhere, as the 1% cashback on your monthly payment would get easily cancelled out by the higher interest rate.
4. Cancel unnecessary bills
So you have your basic household bills that most folk would say are unavoidable: Gas, Electricity, Council Tax, Mortgage. But what about the other monthly bills, is there any way you can restructure your household so you don’t need to pay “the other ones”? Some ideas:
- Home phone bill – Do you really need a home phone with all the cheap mobile deals out there?
- Sky Sports/Movies and other premium TV Services – Do you really watch all those channels? It is worth thinking hard about this one. More often than not I would say that most people don’t get true value from these services, and they can be upwards of £100 per month with all the bells and whistles. My personal opinion: Not worth it!
- TV License – You could even go one step further. With ITV Player, BBC iPlayer and so on, there is every chance you can ditch live TV and therefore do not need to pay for a licence anymore, while still enjoying quality programming via streaming services.
- Mobile Phone Bill – Any chance you could ditch the contract and go onto PAYG?
- Gym – Not a household bill as such but an obvious one to cancel, when it is so easy to get your exercise for free! I recently downloaded a Free App called Sworkit (There are loads of others out there though), which organises workouts for you. It’s pretty good IMO, so check it out if you need motivation and structure to your exercise but don’t want to pay for it.
- Cinema pass – Early readers of the blog will know what I think about this one! Just bite the bullet and cancel that mofo!
- Magazine subscriptions etc – Really? With all the free content on the internet and your smartphone in your pocket at all times, I cannot believe that people still buy these old fashioned waste of trees. I’d cancel any monthly subscriptions I had right now if I were you!
5. Cut down on remaining bills – Shop around!
It would be hard for most people to knock out every single bill in the above list, so why not look at how to reduce your bills in each category that is still remaining. This can be done simply by shopping around and researching all the various options available to you (this happens to be one of the corner stones of what being frugal is all about!). Some more ideas to get you going:
- Energy (Gas & Electric) Bills – Sign up to MoneySavingExperts Cheap Energy Club for automatic alerts when you are paying too much for your bills. Money Dashboard offer a similar service although I haven’t used that one yet, but also worth checking out!
- Mobile Phone Bills – Ring your supplier and negotiate a better deal. Threatening to leave normally works wonders here, especially if you back it up with research on what other deals are out there.
- Pay TV – You could cancel Sky with all the bells and whistles and move onto a much lower cost Basic TV + Phone + Broadband deal with Virgin or Talk Talk and save yourself up to £80 a month. The broadband on Virgin would be faster as well because it’s fibre optic, so streaming content would be more viable!
- Home Phone Bill – If you are still with BT (like me, unfortunately!) you can pay for a year up front and save about £5 per month on your line rental. You can also look at other pay up front deals here
Hopefully you can see that the small wins can quickly add up to substantial savings in the region of £100’s of pounds per month!
There are no doubt many other tips and tricks on shaving a few pounds off your bills, but hopefully that is more than enough ideas to get you started with.
As always… if there are any other tips that I’ve missed out, can you let us all know in the comments!? Thanks!