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Get set for winter and save with our five top tips.

Posted 29 July 2015

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Five things to check to save on your energy bills this winter.

We know – it seems way too early to be thinking about winter. But, if you want to get through the cold spell without it having to cost the earth, now would be a good time to start prepping. And the number one reason to do so? Prices are falling. In fact, they are at a five year low and there’s a plethora of cheap deals to be had. The potential savings could be up to £301 per household, per year, so it’s well worth it.

So what can you do to make sure you’re not paying more than you should this winter?

1.       Check your tariffs

First, you should check what tariff you’re currently on and, if it’s a cheap deal, find out when it’s due to run out. If it’s soon, make sure you speak to your current supplier, or shop around, to find the cheapest tariff for you. You can do this quickly and easily using USwitch – an independent website that aims to help the consumer find the best deal for them, or a similar website.


This is important because when a cheap fixed tariff ends, energy companies are (1) taking advantage of people who forget switch to a new cheap deal, and (2) switching you to the ‘standard’ tariff, which is as you would expect, usually more expensive than the fixed tariff, sometimes up to 10% more.  So this means you could end up on an expensive tariff, up to £160 more expensive, and not even realise it.


And don’t think that being loyal to your current supplier will get you a good deal. Sadly, when it comes to this loyalty doesn’t count for much and could in fact end up costing you more. So, if your current supplier is charging more than the others, think of your bank balance and switch.


2.       Sign up to a fixed term deal

The best deals are often those that are fixed for a short period of time.  The longer term fixed price deals, usually for three years, can work out costing you more than taking three one-year fixed deals if you’re not careful. Of course, that would only happen if prices continued to fall. If they start to rise again, a longer-term deal may be more appropriate. At 15th July, the top ten energy tariffs are all fixed, except one. That one tariff also happens to be the cheapest available, however, it’s a variable rate, which means it’s vulnerable to price increases, if the wholesale price goes up. 


3.       Check the early termination fees!

If you want to switch supplier, before your current deal is up, check to see whether the early termination fees might apply to your account. For example, SSE charge £30 per fuel supply, so if you had duel fuel and you wanted to switch before the contract is terminated, you’d have to pay £60. Factor that into your calculations to make sure it doesn’t eat up any savings you’ve made. And, don’t forget to check the cancellation charges for the company you’d like to move to as well.


4.       Check your local council

This may be something you’ve not heard of before, but local councils are running schemes for the people who live in their area that enable bulk switching. This helps the council negotiate a better deal for its residents. These schemes only open for registration at certain times of the year, for example, York Council are accepting registrations from 4th August until 12th October this year, so check your local council’s website to see when you can sign up.   


5.       Pay by Direct Debit

This is very simple to do and could end up providing you with a 6% reduction in your energy costs – can’t grumble at that just for changing your payment method. And, if you have a Direct Debit set-up, you’ll never miss a payment. As long as you make sure you’ve got the money in your account each month to cover the payment, of course. And this is important for two reasons because if you don’t have enough money (1) you’ll probably be charged a fee by your bank and, (2) you risk your fixed rate tariff being cancelled. If you are on Direct Debit and you think you may not be able to make your monthly payment, call your supplier, at least a day before the payment is due to leave your account and let them know them. They may be able to move your payment to another date.     


So, there you have it, some simple things to check to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. Now go switch and save!    

by Shelley Bowers

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.