With rising inflation and costs of living, many are struggling to cover payments this year. Now, as Storm Babet has wreaked havoc across the UK, Brits are worrying about how expensive their utility bills will become each month.
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Martin Lewis, the founder of moneysavingexpert.com, has 5 top tips for you to check out now - which could potentially save you hundreds of pounds. These apply to England, Scotland and Wales but North Ireland runs on a different system. So, if you live in one of these places, check out Lewis’ advice below!
Is your Direct Debit too high?
The first thing Lewis suggests is checking your direct debit. Energy rates dropped on 1 October but some Direct Debit rates have still risen. If you pay by monthly direct debit, Lewis has an easy way for you to check roughly what you should be paying. You can plug your kWh usage from your bill into moneysavingexpert’s 'Is your Direct Debit right?' calculator and it will give you a ballpark figure.
If you find out that you are paying more than you should, you can challenge it. First, try ringing up your supplier and asking them to lower it over the phone. If this doesn’t work, write a formal letter and send it to them.
Are you owed money back because of your credit?
If you pay monthly direct debits, it is possible that at this point in the year you could have built up a few month’s worth of credit. If this is a significant sum - as long as your direct debits are correct - you can get this credit back. Unless suppliers can justify why they should keep the money, they have to give it back to you.
The first port of call is, once again, to call your supplier and ask for your credit back. If that doesn’t work, you should follow up with a letter. According to Lewis, this could make you £1,000s if you have that much stocked up in credit.
Is it a good idea to switch energy deals?
Martin Lewis says that, although there were better options for switching deals before the crisis, it is still a hack worth exploring. According to his research, the best suppliers for deals are E.on and Octopus. If you are interested in finding the best offers and comparing rates, head over to moneysavingexpert’s top energy deals list.
What can you do about high standing charges?
Lewis’s says on his website:
Outrageously, most people will pay £300 per year just for the facility of having gas and electricity, even if you don't use any. This is due to the high energy standing (daily) charges.
These are a moral hazard and should, at the minimum, be substantially reduced – something I am, again, campaigning with the regulator Ofgem to change.
Standing charges are used to cover a wide range of things that the energy companies need to function. Most of the money goes towards the energy network and operating costs.
Lewis reveals there is only one energy firm that doesn’t have a standing charge. Though it is ‘currently available as a priority for new prepay customers’, it may allow those on direct debit to switch if they call. The company is called Utilita, and instead of a standing charges, it places a much higher rate on the first 2kWh of daily use. This will often work out to the equivalent cost of a standing charge, but for those who are away for a substantial period of time, it could save money.
Are you due any financial help?
Check if you are due any financial support from the UK Government. Those on qualifying benefits, including Pension Credit, between 18 Aug and 17 Sept are due to receive £300 from 31 Oct. This is the second payment of three cost of living payments that will amount to £900.
Pensioners can usually expect to get£100 to £300 winter fuel payment. Lewis notes that ‘flat one-off £300 has been added again this year’. Also, for people on some benefits and Pension Credit, there’s the £150 warm homes discount - you could be eligible if you live in an ‘inefficient home’.
If you want to check out more of Lewis’ tips, head over to his website and browse his advice for the colder months.