Gas, Electricity and Water: Staying Out of the Red
Written by Chelsea Potter on 12 April 2016
Utility bills like gas, electricity and water are a routine concern for many people, but often we’re complacent about how much we’re actually spending on these necessities. Staying with the same supplier can result in higher charges, as can those little day-to-day habits around the house. This can soon stack up and become unmanageable.
To stay out of the red it’s important you stay on top of your utility bills and manage them appropriately every month.
Find out what you are paying
A problem many people run into when it comes to utility bills is that they don’t know what they’re paying for – especially with gas and electricity. Taking the time to look at your unit cost and how much you are using and spending will do the world of good in the long run.
Even if you are moving home, find out who supplied the gas and electric for the previous tenant and see how price varies when compared to your previous contract. The same applies for water (if you are on a meter) and you should ask the landlord or previous tenants to provide a rough idea of the costs.
You will also need to find out if you are on (or going to be on) a fixed or variable rate with your energy supplier – which will be covered in greater detail later – and whether you are metered or unmetered for water.
Compare, compare, compare
Your heating and power can these days be considered an important commodity – but a commodity nonetheless. There are a wide range of energy suppliers out there, all offering different rates and perks. Sometimes the lowest price may not be the best option and it is worth finding out if there are any cancellation fees or other such charges.
Once you have shortlisted a few suppliers it is often best to contact them directly to get the best price. When it comes to water, your rate will be decided regionally by your local authority and will be set at a yearly figure or based on usage through a meter.
It is also worth finding out if the supplier you are looking at offers any government-based incentive – such as the Warm Home Discount (WHD) – that could reduce your bill further.
Fixed or Variable
Energy prices can vary greatly from year to year, and although it is safe to assume they will typically rise, there is a chance they can fall. Fortunately, most major gas and electricity suppliers offer a ‘fixed price’ contract that guarantee’s that you will not be charged more than the unit price until a fixed point in time.
The flip side is, as mentioned before, that you may risk overpaying if gas or electricity prices fall. However, the chances of you paying more than the variable rate in the long run is slim and fixed contracts make it easier to predict what you’ll be paying on a monthly basis. You may also find that your supplier offers you a batter rate if you choose to pay monthly by direct debit, as this represents guaranteed income for them.
Insulate to accumulate
The most efficient way to make sure that your energy prices stay low is to ensure that you are using (and wasting) as little heat, water and electricity, as possible. In fact, taking a few small steps around the home, such as not leaving taps running, lights on or devices on standby, as well as keeping doors and windows closed can save you a small amount each month.
Taking a step further you could choose to attach draft excluders to external doors, insulate the roof and walls or even install double glazed windows. Although these options are a significant one-time expense, they can save you hundreds of pounds a year in wasted heat.
Budget and keep up
This is the tough part: Once you know roughly what the utility bills will come to every month (after speaking to your chosen supplier(s)) it’s time to add that to your water bill and set up a direct debit(s). Setting a date when a fixed amount leaves your account seems simple but it’s ensuring that the money is there to pay it that can be hard.
Having a written budget of your monthly outgoings is an efficient way of tracking your spending and will help you keep up to date. If you feel that you are spending too much it may be time to cut back on the usage. In the case of gas, electricity and water, the suppliers will allow your account some grace in terms of payment but going into the red on something so important is not recommended.
If worse comes to worse and your circumstances make it very difficult to keep up than you can contact your supplier directly and they may be able to recommend a different tariff or arrange a payment plan to settle any money owed.
Filed under Money Management