Are money bloggers saving experts in household spend?

Blogger challenge - utilities - large

 

Emma Drew blogs at emmadrew.info  

For my element of the TSB financial challenge, I resolved to reduce my utility spending. My average spend was £115 a month. Dual energy (gas and electric) runs to £87 a month and we pay £28 a month for water. I planned to find out if I could save by switching energy providers, and to look into any grants available for insulation. I had hoped to switch to a smart meter but my area wasn’t yet eligible - however TSB’s deputy editor CJ had just had one installed, so she’ll share her savings from getting smart meters installed.  

Switch or stick 

The easiest job on this list was to compare energy prices and see if I could save money by switching energy providers. My first thought was a price comparison website like Uswitch, but first I had to find my bill to see what my estimated usage was.

On the statement, right there on the front page was a notice that I’d clearly ignored before. How could I ignore a sign that told me I could save an estimated £95.67 a year if I switched to a different tariff? When I looked into changing my tariff, I found that I could save a lot more than £95.67 over a year. In fact, my bill could be cut by £20 a month, or a massive £240 saving a year, just by switching tariffs.

I checked the costs of other providers through price comparison websites but my current provider was still offering the best tariffs for my savings so I did that. Switching tariffs can mean a big change to your terms and conditions, like entering a fixed price period with an early exit fee, so I made sure to check that I was happy with any changes. The whole process was really simple and took effect almost immediately.  

Insulate your home with a grant 

Next was to look into local schemes for insulation. I simply put 'home insulation grants' into a search engine and came across loads of results. I discovered that in the South East, the Green Deal Communities Fund offer a maximum value of £4,000 per property for the owner or landlord to put in insulation. However, any applicants must pay 25% of the cost themselves. There is limited funding available, so if you are thinking or pursuing this then act sooner rather than later.

We are now in the process of applying for the Green Deal funding and getting quotes for the work. There is likely to be green funding in your area through a similar initiative or your local council if you are inclined to go down this route.  

Has CJ saved with a smart meter?   

"Smart meters show you your usage in pounds and pence so you can easily see how much your energy is costing you," says TSB’s deputy editor CJ Montague. "You can choose to update your provider on your usage every 30 mins, hourly or daily. No more estimated bills."     

"I live in an old flat which is double glazed, but our previous flat wasn’t so we were used to paying £60 a month for gas and electric - which seems a lot for a one bed flat. When we moved in a year ago, I had no idea what difference double glazing would make, so although our provider recommended a direct debit of £30 a month, I opted to overspend and keep paying £60 a month to avoid any surprises. I work from home 1 or 2 days a week now, so I had anticipated that extra dual fuel spend.  

"Once you get over the shock of actually knowing in real money how much energy you use or waste, you’ll probably pop the unit in a drawer and forget about it, but you’ll likely still be saving money. Running the the washing machine, leaving the TV on standby, or leaving your mobile phone charger plugged in and not charging anything all add up.  

"We’ve only had the smart meters installed for a week, but the estimated cost for the month for gas and electric is around £40. That’s a £20 saving in winter - and a large part of that cost is central heating, so the saving should be even larger in summer. As we’ve been overpaying for a year, I'm also in credit by £209."     

Throwing money down the drain 

Is it possible to save by using less gas, electricity and water? The first thing we did was to set the thermostat at 1° lower to save an average £80 per year (£6.66 a month). In order to reduce our water spend, I compared the price of a bath vs a shower - to save money by showering, we'd have to shower for less than 7 minutes. It turns out that my weekly bubble bath isn’t as expensive as I thought.

We also watched videos to get ideas on how to use less energy, and have started switching our oven off 5 minutes before food is finished cooking, turning off the lights as we leave a room and unplugging our chargers when they’re not in use. All of these electric savings should help us to save an additional £85 a year (£7.08 per month).  

So with some small changes to our energy and water use and switching tariff, we’ve shaved £33.75 a month off our utility bills. This might not look like much but will add up to a saving of £405 a year. Plus we are still in the process of getting insulation fitted, so that could save even more money. On top of that, CJ expects to make a saving of £20 a month (£240 a year). It has been really painless and didn’t take much time at all for these gains.

I'm sure we can find a great use for the money we'll save. What savings could you make with these small changes?  

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