The winter months take their toll on most people's household budgets; mainly as a result of the increased amount of energy needed to heat and light our homes when it's cold and dark. Unsurprisingly this is a big concern for many of us, with a third of households worried about this winter's energy bills according to a survey by uSwitch, the online and telephone comparison and switching service.
Yet 1 in 3 people has never taken advantage of the potential savings from switching suppliers, says uSwitch. This may include many of the estimated 17 million energy customers in Britain who are on expensive standard variable tariffs, which offer the worst value for money.
Among those who have never switched, a third say they don't think it would save them any money. But financial experts claim you could save plenty on your monthly expenses: according to the government-backed Money Advice Service, you could save hundreds of pounds a year by switching energy suppliers.
But that's not all. The Money Advice Services also says you could also save a few hundred pounds on your phone and internet costs by shopping around for a better deal. And if you have a mortgage you could also potentially save hundreds – perhaps thousands – by remortgaging with a new lender.
Before you switch, here are some of the things you may want to bear in mind.
Gas and electricity
If you're 1 of the many people on a standard gas and/or electricity tariff, switching to a cheaper deal could save you around 20% on your energy bills. The process of switching energy suppliers is easier than ever these days, and at no point will your energy be cut off (the whole process shouldn't take more than 17 days, says the Money Advice Service).
Price comparison websites for gas and electricity
There are several price comparison websites you can use to find the cheapest energy supplier and see what energy deals are available – not all work with the same suppliers, so it's a good idea to look at a few of them before you decide which one to use, as different websites may have different deals.
The following comparison websites are all independent and approved by Ofgem, which means you can use them with confidence:
- Money Supermarket
- Switch Gas and Electric
- Energy Helpline
- My Utility Genius
- Simply Switch
- The Energy Shop
To choose your new supplier and tariff, just put your details into the price comparison sites and review the results – there should be an energy plan among them that will suit you. When you've chosen your new deal you'll need a recent energy bill as well as your bank details to apply. Your new supplier will do all the work – all you should have to do is provide them with meter readings. Once the process has been completed, you'll also receive a final bill from your old supplier.
It's also worth knowing that you can also switch energy suppliers if you have a prepayment meter, as many suppliers offer prepayment tariffs. Prepayment meters are 1 of the most expensive ways to get energy, so it might pay to look around and see how much you could save if you switched.
Home phone and internet
According to a 2016 survey by insurance company More Than, the average monthly TV, phone and broadband bill for an average 3 bedroom home was £47.40. But many people are thought to be paying £100 a month plus.
Sticking with the same provider could be a mistake if you want to keep your costs down, says uSwitch. You may have got a good deal when you originally took out your contract with your TV/phone/broadband provider, but your bill may increase dramatically if your contract rolls over and you don't negotiate a new one (according to uSwitch, some people's bills have jumped by as much as 400% when their contracts were rolled over). Switching your broadband bill alone when your contract ends could save you an average of £69, uSwitch adds.
Switching your home phone and broadband is simple, though how long the switch will take will depend on the provider you're moving from and the 1 you're moving to. But according to the Money Advice Service, it's unlikely that you'll spend any time without being connected.
Here are some of the things you should keep in mind when you're looking for a deal:
- Make sure your current contract has expired or you may have to pay fees to leave your contract early (most contracts last between 12 and 24 months)
- Once your contract is coming to an end, you should be able to cancel it free of charge by giving 30 days' notice (check your contract for details)
- Use a price comparison website to find out what's available in your area – the Money Advice Service recommends four websites:
- Look for the deal that's best for you – bear in mind whether or not you need line rental and how much data you may need (there's no point in spending money on an unlimited data deal if you don't use that much). You can ask your current supplier about your data usage if you're not sure how much you use.
- Once you've chosen a provider, it's also a good idea to check how well they fare in terms of customer service. The Choose website lists the best – and worst – customer service ratings for broadband, based on information from Ofcom and Which?
- Make the switch via one of the comparison websites, or get in touch with your new supplier directly and tell your current supplier that you're leaving them (if you change your mind you have 14 days to cancel before the new contract starts).
If you aren't locked into a fixed or discount rate mortgage deal that imposes an early repayment charge, it's well worth keeping a regular eye out for a better deal. The Money Advice Services recommends reviewing your mortgage at least once a year to check whether it would be worth switching. But it may also be particularly beneficial if you review your mortgage whenever there's a change in interest rates or – if you have a fixed or discount rate deal – when that deal comes to an end (the rate might increase if you don't do anything).
If you do have a fixed or discount rate deal, it's worth checking when the deal expires. Then set yourself a reminder to start shopping around for a new deal about 3 months before the expiration date.
A cheaper deal could save you hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds a year. For instance, the Money Advice Services suggests switching a mortgage with £175,000 left to repay could save you £144 a month or £1,728 a year if your current rate is 5% and you switch to a 3% interest deal (though remember there may be remortgage fees to pay – always check the small print and take these fees into consideration before you take the plunge).
The switching process itself takes longer than it used to because of new regulations, and if you switch to a new lender you may have to provide documents such as pay slips, bank statements, business accounts (if you're self-employed), household bills, details of debt repayments and details living other costs. So before you switch, check your current lender to see if they have any deals they can offer you, as it may be easier than changing to another lender.
Price comparison websites for mortgages
To compare available mortgage deals, the Money Advice Service recommends the following price comparison websites:
Signing up to a new mortgage deal can be more complicated than switching your energy or phone/broadband provider. So if you need more information about remortgaging and how it works, visit the Money Advice Service website.
CABA supports the wellbeing of past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and their spouses, partners and children up to the age of 25. So if you're having money worries or have questions about saving cash, please: