Emma Drewblogs at emmadrew.info
For my element of the TSB financial challenge, I resolved toreduce my utility spending. My average spend was £115 a month. Dual energy (gasand electric) runs to £87 a month and we pay £28 a month for water. I planned to findout if I could save by switching energy providers, and to look into any grantsavailable for insulation. I had hoped to switch to a smart meter but my areawasn’t yet eligible - however TSB’s deputy editor CJ had just had one installed, soshe’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 couldsave 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 otherproviders through price comparison websites but my current provider was still offering the best tariffs for my savings so I did that. Switching tariffs can meana big change to your terms and conditions, like entering a fixed price periodwith an early exit fee, so I made sure to check that I was happy with anychanges. The whole process was really simple and took effect almostimmediately.
Insulate your home with a grant
Next was to look into local schemes for insulation. I simplyput 'home insulation grants' into a search engine and came across loads ofresults. I discovered that in the South East, the Green Deal Communities Fundoffer a maximum value of £4,000 per property for the owner or landlord to putin insulation. However, any applicants must pay 25% of the cost themselves.There is limited funding available, so if you are thinking or pursuing thisthen act sooner rather than later.
We are now in the process of applying forthe Green Deal funding and getting quotes for the work. There is likely to begreen funding in your area through a similar initiative or your local councilif 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 chooseto 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 ourprevious 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 noidea what difference double glazing would make, so althoughour provider recommended a direct debit of £30 a month, I opted to overspendand keep paying £60 a month to avoid any surprises. I work from home 1 or2 days a week now, so I had anticipated that extra dual fuel spend.
"Once you get over the shock of actually knowing in realmoney how much energy you use or waste, you’ll probably pop the unit in adrawer and forget about it, but you’ll likely still be saving money.Running the the washing machine, leaving the TV on standby, orleaving your mobile phone charger plugged in and not charging anything all addup.
"We’ve only had the smart meters installed for a week, but theestimated cost for the month for gas and electric is around £40. That’s a £20saving in winter - and a large part of that cost is central heating, so thesaving should be even larger in summer. As we’ve been overpayingfor a year, I'm also in credit by £209."
Throwing money down the drain
Is it possible to save by using less gas, electricity andwater? The first thing we did was to set the thermostat at 1° lower tosave an average £80 per year (£6.66 a month). In order to reduce our waterspend, 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’tas expensive as I thought.
We also watched videos to get ideas on how touse 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 ourchargers when they’re not in use. All of these electric savings should help usto save an additional £85 a year (£7.08 per month).
So with somesmall changes to our energy and water use and switching tariff, we’ve shaved £33.75 a month off our utility bills. This might not looklike much but will add up to a saving of £405 a year. Plus we are still in theprocess of getting insulation fitted, so that could save even more money. On topof that, CJ expects to make a saving of £20 a month (£240 a year). It has beenreally painless and didn’t take much time at all for these gains.
I'm sure wecan find a great use for the money we'll save. What savings could you make with thesesmall changes?