11 ways to cut your household bills - expert bill-busting tips

Go on a cost-cutting mission with these top tips and tricks for slashing your household bills

Young mother sitting at table looking at laptop while holding a baby on her lap
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Family budgets are already under extreme stress thanks to the cost of living crisis, and from October when the new energy price cap comes into play, households will have even less disposable income. 

If you haven’t blasted through your household bills to see where you can make some savings, then now is the perfect time to do it, especially if costs continue to rise. Making sure your household bills are as low as possible will also mean that you can maximise the benefit from any additional support from the government, like the £400 energy grant.

Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at investment firm interactive investor, says: “The nation is in the midst of a once-in-a-generation type cost of living crisis which is wreaking havoc on household budgets. Most of us have never spent as much as we do now on everyday tasks like shopping for groceries, taking a hot shower and fuelling our cars – let alone heating our homes. With even higher energy prices than previously predicted inbound, households already living on a shoestring are running out of options and face financial breaking point.

“With the worst of the cost-of-living crisis yet to come and the very real prospect of a recession, it remains important to take steps today to bolster financial resilience now to give you some peace of mind in the coming months.”

By going through your monthly outgoings it’s possible to identify ways you can reduce them and offset the rising costs, and even help you to understand how to save money

Myron Jobson adds: “Instead of making swingeing cuts to a couple of areas of expenditure, making smaller cuts across a broader range of spending can be a more palatable way of cutting costs.”

1. Know your budget in order to cut your household bills

Knowing what you’re spending, and how much money is coming in and out of your account is vital to budgeting. Use apps to help keep track of everything under one roof. For example, the Money Dashboard app helps keep track of your spending by connecting all your bank accounts and credit cards. You can then see all your outgoings in one place. For those concerned about security it is read-only, which means no transactions can be made.

You might also want to try the cash stuffing trend and see if that works for you to help you stick to your budget, and maybe even save a little too. 

2. Are you paying more than you need to for your home or car insurance?

The insurance industry had a shake-up in January 2022 which banned the practice of price walking when it came to home and car insurance. This effectively meant that your provider was not allowed to charge existing customers more than new customers for the same cover. This meant that renewal quotes would be less likely to suddenly rocket. 

However, while your renewals might be much more reasonably priced, it is good practice to still see if there are cheaper quotes elsewhere. Add a reminder to your phone for when your current policies end so you can shop around using comparison sites like our sister brand, GoCompare. If you find a better deal than you are currently on, your existing insurance is likely to match it. If not, switch.

If you pay monthly for your home and car insurance, it’s worth seeing whether you can afford to pay it annually to save some money. But if you can’t afford to, then stick with paying monthly. The saving you can make by paying annually will not be worth it if it pushes you into debt. 

3. Could you be paying less for your broadband? 

Similarly to car and home insurance, it is worthwhile keeping a note of when your broadband contract ends to see if you can be paying less, rather than letting your current contract auto renew (especially if you’ve noticed that your bill is creeping up by a couple of pounds at a time). 

Use a comparison site to see what kind of deal you could get and speak to your current provider. They may be willing to match it. If they won’t, then go through the cancellation process - you may find that the first person you speak to can’t match the price you want to pay, but that someone in the cancellation team can. If your current provider can’t match another deal you’ve found, then be prepared to switch. 

Depending on which provider you move to, your new provider may handle the switch for you. If not, you will need to inform your current provider of your intention to switch. Check your current provider’s website for specific details on what you need to do. 

If you are not yet at the end of your contract, it’s best to stay put until your contract ends to avoid any early exit fees. 

4. Reduce your mobile phone bill

If you have a mobile phone contract, and are coming to the end of the current contract period, it’s worth assessing your usage to see if you are paying for more than you use. Check your bill to see how much data you use. If you are paying for 10GB of data, but you never use more than 2GB, you could swap to a cheaper contract. 

Alternatively, if you got your phone with your contract, and don’t need to upgrade to a newer handset, you might benefit from a Sim-only contract that can offer significant savings. 

5. Do you qualify for a council tax reduction?

If you are the only adult in your home, or are on a low income, you may qualify for a reduction in your council tax. Check with your local council to see what kind of discount you could be eligible for. 

It’s also worth considering how you pay your council tax. If you pay your council tax over 10 months, you could reduce your payments but arranging to pay over 12 months instead. Again speak to your local council to amend your payment plan. 

6. Save on groceries

Waitrose supermarket shelves apples pears and other fruit

(Image credit: Alamy)

Switching to a cheaper supermarket and making sure you always take your supermarket loyalty card is a good starting point. 

Once you are at the supermarket, it’s all about shopping smarter. Supermarkets are designed to make you spend money, so you need to be savvy in order to keep your costs under control. 

Keep an eye out for the budget range at your supermarket and see if you can switch a few of your regular items to make some savings. Remember that cheaper ranges are often hidden away on the bottom shelves instead of a more convenient eye level. Make sure you browse all shelves – and look down!

You could also take a look at the CheckoutSmart app that gives you money off your groceries. When you shop a featured deal, keep the receipt, which you then snap and send to the app for the money back on purchases. The cash is paid back into your bank account which can add up over the month. There are also regular freebies available too.

Check out our handy guide for even more ways to save money on food.

Reducing food waste is also key to reducing how much you spend on food. An average family of four can save about £40 a month by reducing the amount of food they dump in the bin, according to Love Food, Hate Waste, a campaign run by the charity WRAP. 

To avoid waste, include meal planning to avoid buying food you won’t use, using leftovers to create new dishes or freezing them for another day and checking your cupboards before you shop to avoid buying unnecessary items. You might also create a “use up now” box in the fridge for items going out of date soon. 

7. Cut fuel costs

Try to fill up at the cheapest petrol stations to save on a tank of fuel. Supermarkets tend to offer the lowest rates and motorway service stations the highest, so plan your journeys carefully. Filling up at your local supermarket might also mean more points for your loyalty card which you can turn into money off elsewhere. 

Use this handy tool from GoCompare to find the cheapest fuel near you

Driving sensibly, making sure your tyres are correctly inflated and clearing out unnecessary junk from your car will all help to make your fuel last longer. 

There might also be ways you can reduce your mileage to save money. Working from home can help ease the cost of fuel bills if you normally drive to work. For days you’re due in the office, you could try and car share with a colleague or invest in a bike and cycle to work. 

8. Minimise energy bills

Finding ways to keep gas and electricity bills down is going to be more of a challenge than ever with more people working from home and colder, darker months on the way.

Alice Haine, personal finance analyst at investment firm Bestinvest, says: “But there are still plenty of measures to cut down on energy usage.

“There is little you can do about the price you pay for energy, as the volatility in the energy markets is a direct impact of Russia’s war with Ukraine. However, as well as surge in prices, there is also likely to be a surge in DIY hacks as households get savvy about retaining heat in their homes.”

Service your boiler which could both reduce energy bills and avoid having to pay for emergency repairs following a sudden breakdown. Waiting until a boiler is worn out before replacing it is a false economy as the boiler’s inefficiency will be costing more in monthly bills too.

You could also unplug devices not in use. From TVs to laptops, try not to leave these on standby. Instead, unplug them when they’re not in use as this could save you up to £55 a year according to the Energy Saving Trust.

By switching to LED lightbulbs, families can save up to £13 per bulb per year. While you’re at it, get the whole family into the habit of switching lights and lamps off in rooms they’re not using.

Check out our guide for more ways to save energy in homes to help you keep your bills as low as possible.

You should also take a look at how you pay for your energy. If you pay by cash or cheque, you could save more than £100 per year by switching to paying by direct debit. 

If you pre-pay for your energy, it is likely that you will be paying more than those with a standard meter who pay by direct debit . Speak to your supplier about switching to a standard meter instead of a prepayment one. You can also check out these prepayment energy meter tricks to see if you can save. 

9. Take a look at your debt

If you have an outstanding credit card balance that you are not clearing at the end of every month, and are paying a hefty interest rate, then you could make a big saving by switching to a 0% balance transfer card. Always use an eligibility checker before applying to see your chances of success to keep your credit score in good shape. 

If you have a large amount of debt, read our guide to how to pay of debt so you can clear it as quickly as possible. 

If you find that your debt is growing and you are struggling to pay your bills, help is available. Speak to your energy, mobile and broadband suppliers and see if you can change your payment plan or whether you might qualify for any financial assistance. You could also consider consolidating your debt to make it easier to pay off. 

If you have a mortgage and are on your lender’s standard variable rate (SVR), explore switching now. The average SVR now stands at 5.17% – the highest since 2008. It will climb higher with every interest rate rise so a fixed rate might save you money. Speak to a fee-free mortgage broker who can find you a better deal. 

10. Cut childcare costs where you can

Use the childcare support scheme – tax-free childcare as a tax-efficient way of paying for nursery or the nanny. You pay money into the online account and the government adds a top-up. For each 80p that you pay in, the government will add 20p. You can then use that money to pay any childcare provider on the government’s approved list, which includes childminders, nurseries, nannies, after-school clubs and play schemes. 

The top-up is capped at £2,000 per child, per year and £4,000 per child, per year if they are disabled.

11. Do you need a TV licence?

The TV licence costs upwards of £150 for the average household per year, but depending on how you watch TV, you might not need one and you could save yourself some money. 

But it is important that you understand the rules around when you need to have a TV licence, as if you are found to be in breach of the rules, you could face a hefty fine which would eclipse any saving you've made. If you're wondering do I need a TV licence, our handy guide explains what you need to know.

Beware false economies - resist cutting something you might regret

You can opt out of your pension, and instead take home more of your monthly salary. But the long-term impact of stopping payments to your pension could be detrimental to your retirement plans.

Calculations by Canada Life show that opting out of a company pension for just one year could reduce the value of your final pot by 4%.

Andrew Tully, technical director at Canada Life, says: “Affording food and heating in the present day will always take priority over saving for the future. However, it’s important that anyone who does decide to opt out of their pension remembers that they can choose to re-join the scheme as their financial situation improves.

“If you are in a company pension scheme you can often only choose to stop or start contributions once a year, and you will miss out on valuable payments from your employer as well as the government.”

Similarly, cutting insurances such as home contents cover or an income protection policy could be a false economy if you need to make a claim and you’ve stopped paying your premiums. 

Personal finance expert
Holly Thomas is a freelance financial journalist and writes across all areas of personal finance, specialising in investments. Holly’s work can mainly be seen in The Times, The Sunday Times and the Daily Mail. Previously she worked as Deputy Personal Finance Editor at The Sunday Times, Money Editor at the Daily/Sunday Express and also at Financial Times Business. She has won a number of professional awards, most recently Investment Freelance Journalist of the Year at the Aegon Asset Management Media Awards in November 2021. Others include Freelance Financial Journalist of the Year at the Headlinemoney Awards.
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