10 tips for keeping your household expenditure under control this winter

Household bills can be a major source of stress. 

Household bills can be a major source of stress. - Credit: Alamy/PA

Spiralling energy costs and other bills are set to put pressure on household budgets this winter.

Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of adults across the UK are concerned by inflation or the rising cost of living, according to research by insurer Aviva.

To help ease the squeeze, here are some suggestions to help reduce the increase in outgoings…

1. Make small changes to your routine

Traditionally, people would have shopped around for their energy to make big savings. But with cheap deals having vanished, there may be changes you could make to your routine to offset some household bill increases.

By taking a short shower instead of a bath, someone could potentially use around 70 fewer litres of water each time, according to Smart Energy GB.

It also suggests drying clothes outside on sunnier days rather than always using a tumble dryer, and washing clothes at 30 degrees to save on electricity.

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Turning off standby appliances before going to work, at night and when generally not in use could help, Smart Energy GB says. Cutting draughts and insulating around the home could also help.

2. Make sure your boiler is efficient

Having a boiler serviced will help to minimise energy bills by helping it to run more efficiently and reducing the risk of a future breakdown, according to gas registration body the Gas Safe Register.

Although money may be tight, it’s vital to make sure gas appliances are safe. Warning signs include lazy yellow flames, pilot lights that keep going out, black marks or stains on or around gas appliances and increased condensation inside windows, according to the Gas Safe Register.

3. Check out grants and benefits

Regulator Ofgem says some people could be entitled to Winter Fuel Payments, Cold Weather Payments or the Warm Home Discount, for example.

Some home workers may also find they can claim tax relief by checking at www.tax.service.gov.uk/claim-tax-relief-expenses/only-claiming-working-from-home-tax-relief.

4. What other bills could you cut?

Jo Thornhill, a money expert at MoneySuperMarket, says: “If your car or home insurance is coming up for renewal make sure you shop around. And if you’re paying interest on any outstanding debts, consider moving your balance to an interest free credit card. Just don’t forget to pay off the required balance every month.”

5. Cut commuting costs

Jo suggests: “Can you do car shares with a friend or neighbour, or could you make savings by getting a season train ticket?”

6. Save on food

Taking a shopping list with you to keep you focused, and visiting your local supermarket at a time of day when it is making reductions could help keep bills down.

There may be other ways to save – for example, users of the ‘Too Good to Go’ app buy food from their local shops and cafes that may otherwise go to waste, at a discounted price. You won’t know exactly what food you’ll get until you collect it.

The way food is cooked could also keep costs down. Smart Energy GB says one-pot meals mean fewer items to wash up, cutting heating and water costs.

7. Could you be on a cheaper mortgage deal?

For many people, their mortgage is their biggest regular expense. Even for some people who think they would have difficulty switching, it may be worth checking.

Switching your mortgage could save you money.

Switching your mortgage could save you money. - Credit: Alamy/PA

The Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association (IMLA), says many providers will lend to applicants with ‘non-standard’ financial circumstances. The IMLA’s research among mortgage providers found 88% would accept applications from self-employed borrowers and 71 per cent would consider borrowers with irregular incomes.

Recognising the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, 16 per cent of lenders have reduced the periods for which self-employed borrowers need to show earnings records.

8. Sort your savings

If you do have any leftover cash, make sure it’s earning some interest. Tina Hughes, director of savings at Yorkshire Building Society, says the Society estimates people typically have a £7,220 shortfall between the amount of cash savings they have and what they need to feel secure.

She suggests making sure money isn’t sitting in a zero interest current account when it could be earning at least some interest in an easy access savings account, or even a fixed term account if you can lock your money in for a while.

9. Take your time when Christmas shopping

Doing small amounts of Christmas shopping as and when you see a cheap deal, rather than panic-buying at the last minute or over-spending on Black Friday, may help you save money in the longer run. It will also give you more time to research prices.

10. Book Christmas train travel tickets in advance to make savings

Trainline says advance tickets for popular journeys during Christmas week have been made available. It also has a free ‘ticket alert’ service, where people can input their desired journey. Some people could also save by using railcards.