How to help save money on bills

A utilities guide for movers

From negotiating the best deals to considering smart home tech, it’s best to avoid overpaying on the essentials.

Household bills can often increase when you move home, but they don’t have to. Here’s a quick guide to help you save money – and time – when you’re setting up your new home.

Switch energy suppliers

One of the simplest ways to save money on your gas and electricity bills is to consider switching suppliers, and moving home provides the perfect opportunity. According to independent price comparison service energyhelpline, households could save up to £4581 a year by switching. Ofgem, which protects the interests of gas and electricity consumers, has some useful switching tips on its website2.

You can only change suppliers from the day you become responsible for your new property. So, make contact as soon as you can and supply meter readings to make sure you’re not billed for the previous residents’ costs. Often when you move, you’ll be put onto a default tariff, which can be the most expensive, so try to arrange a better deal at the same time. New legislation allowing Ofgem to cap default energy tariffs came into play on 1 January 2019 3.

Be aware that, if you’re on a fixed-rate tariff with your existing supplier, you may face a termination fee if you switch provider before your contract ends.

If you decide to stay with your present supplier, check whether they can offer you a better deal, such as a fixed-rate or tracker tariff, or a dual-fuel discount.

When you move, let any providers know in advance. Take meter readings on the day you move out and send them to your supplier. Then they can issue your final bill. You may even find you’re in credit if you’ve overpaid. This can be the case if you pay by Direct Debit, as you may have paid for a period of time but only lived there for part of it.

Pay bills by Direct Debit

Most energy providers offer discounted bills if you pay by Direct Debit – this could mean a reduction of a few pounds a month, automatically saving you money.

Bear in mind that, if you pay by Direct Debit and have a traditional meter (as opposed to a smart meter), you’ll usually pay a fixed monthly rate that won’t take into consideration your actual usage. Check your meter readings regularly as you may be able to negotiate a cheaper rate or claim back overpayments if you’re using less than the estimate.

Don’t forget you can manage Direct Debits on your mobile phone with the Barclays app4. A useful tool to help you keep track of all your outgoing home expenses – and record any monthly repayments you need to make – is the Barclays Budget Calculator.

Be wary of prepayment meters

Prepayment energy meters get you to pay for energy before you use it, usually via a smart card, token or a key that can be ‘topped up’.

If the property you’re moving into has one of these meters, contact the current supplier immediately and try not to use the key or card until you’ve done this. Otherwise, you may end up paying for debts owed by the previous residents.

Prepayment meters are usually excluded from your energy provider’s lowest tariffs, and even the cheapest will probably cost you more than a Direct Debit deal5, so you may be better off replacing it. You can ask the energy provider at your new home to remove a prepayment meter, but bear in mind it can take a few weeks to get an appointment.

Make use of smart tech

If you turn your thermostat down by just 1 degree, you can save about £75 a year, the Energy Saving Trust says6, and smart technology can also help reduce your costs.

With smart thermostats and meters, you can control your energy use and track what you’re spending. As well as allowing you to switch the heating on or off remotely with an app, some smart systems can even ‘learn’ when the house is occupied and change their settings accordingly.

Smart thermostats range from about £150-£280 (plus installation) but may save you money in the long run7. A range of models is available, so do some research and read online reviews to work out which would be best for you.

Find the best broadband deal in your new area

Broadband contracts tend to be for 12, 18 or 24 months, so most people take their existing broadband contract with them when they move. But changing properties provides a good opportunity to try to negotiate a discount or better deal with your provider.

It’s also important to let your supplier know that you’re moving in advance. Check how much notice they need (usually around 2 weeks).

If it’s not possible to keep your existing provider at your new home, explore the best deals in the area. Comparison websites, such as broadbandchoices.co.uk, can be a good place to start. It’s also worth bearing in mind that broadband can take a couple of weeks to install.

When you move home, your TV licence doesn’t automatically move with you. You need to inform TV Licensing and change the address on your licence. You can do this online at tvlicensing.co.uk up to three months before you move.

Look for good-value bundle offers

Moving home could be a good time to look at getting a ‘quad-play’ bundle – an offer that packages up your home broadband, TV, landline and mobile SIM together. This type of deal is becoming more popular as families look to save time and effort by having all four services with one provider, but it can be restrictive. Make sure you do your research and compare individual prices for each service before you sign up.

Consider getting a water meter

On moving, you’ll need to identify the water supplier for your new property so you can set up your account. You can find out who provides water and sewerage services in your new area at water.org.uk.

Water suppliers are dictated by location. This means you can’t switch for a better deal, but it may be worth considering installing a water meter, if there isn’t one already there.

Water bills are an estimation based on the rateable value of your property; with a water meter, you’re only billed for what you use. You can request the free installation of a water meter by contacting your water supplier. Try using the calculator at ccwater.org.uk to see an estimate of what you could save by having a water meter installed.

Check your council tax

All homes are given a council tax band based on the value of the property at 1 April 1991. You can find out what band your property is in by entering your postcode in the ‘Check your council tax band’ section at gov.uk.

If you discover you’ve overpaid – either at your new or your previous property – you can contact the local authority and ask for a rebate (a repayment of what you’ve overpaid).

You might be entitled to a discount on your council tax bill. For example, if you live alone, you could be eligible for a single-person discount of 25%. Check with your council to find out if you’re entitled to a discount, which will reduce the amount of tax you pay.

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