Everyone is seeing the cost of household bills and shopping increase. Whilst some are preparing to weather the storm, for many, the choice between heating and eating is becoming a stark reality.
There are things we can do to reduce our outgoings and help stretch our money that little bit further. As part of Advice Direct Scotland’s Consumer Spending and Financial Awareness Campaign (#simplifyspending), we will be looking at ways we can reduce our bills, and what to do next when these options have been exhausted.
With mounting energy costs, conserving energy is still important in our efforts to save money. Although it might seem like a drop in the ocean, by making some smaller considerations, we can help the bigger picture when it comes to energy costs.
Some ways we can reduce the amount of energy we use includes –
- Timers – If you have a timer on your central heating system, set the heating and hot water to come on only when required: for example, 30 minutes before you get up in the morning and set it to switch off 30 minutes before you are due to leave.
- Reduce the temperature on hot water tanks – If you have a hot water tank, set the cylinder thermostat to either 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Cylinder thermostats are usually fitted between a quarter and a third of the way up the hot water cylinder.
- Draughts – Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows and check for draughts around windows and doors.
- Turn off lights when not needed – Always turn off the light when you leave a room.
- Standby – Don’t leave appliances on standby and remember not to leave laptops and mobile phones on charge unnecessarily.
- Washing – When you are doing the washing try to fill up the machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher. One full load uses less energy than two half loads.
- Boiling water – Try and ensure that you only boil as much water as you need.
- Fix dripping taps – A dripping hot water tap can waste enough energy in a single week to fill half a bath. Fix leaking taps and make sure they are fully turned off.
- Dry clothes outside – Dry your clothes outside during nice weather so you don’t need to use your tumble drier.
Although the traditional practical ways of saving money on household costs, such as avoiding leaving electrical gadgets on ‘standby’ and turning heating down on washing can help, the situation we find ourselves in now means that these efforts often don’t even put a dent in the deficit we face.
Yesterday, we looked at understanding energy bills, and the sources of support that are available if you are struggling with energy costs.
Many energy companies offer help to their customers who are struggling with heating and lighting their homes.
Additionally, earlier this year, the Scottish Government announced several measures as part of the annual budget that could help those who need it most.
- The first is to offer £150 to every household in receipt of council tax reduction in all bands.
- Secondly, funding will be provided to local authorities to pass on £150 to other occupied households in council tax bands A to D (Applied for many from April 2022).
- Lastly, additional funds will be supplied to continue the Government’s fuel insecurity fund to help households most at risk of self-disconnection or who are self-rationing of their energy usage due to unaffordable fuel costs.
It has also previously announced by the UK Government that households will receive a £200 discount on their energy bills this autumn, which will need to be paid back at a rate of £40 per year over 5 years.
Subscriptions (Apps, TV Channels / Providers, Music)
We’ve all signed up for a free trial of the latest app, music platform, or new TV channel, and forgot to cancel before the trial period is over.
Cancelling subscriptions for apps, and TV services that we don’t use can be a good way of reducing our costs with the click of a few buttons.
Some of the more modern gadgets and software updates can make cancelling a subscription more difficult (take it from someone who has had difficulty cancelling).
For Apple devices –
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap your name.
- Tap Subscriptions.
- Tap the subscription you want to manage.
- Tap ‘Cancel Subscription’. Or, if you want to cancel an Apple one but keep some subscriptions, tap ‘Choose Individual Services’. If you can’t see Cancel, the subscription has already been cancelled and won’t be renewed.
For Google Play / Android devices –
Important: When you uninstall the app, your subscription won’t cancel.
- Open the Google Play app.
- At the top right, tap the ‘profile’ icon.
- Tap ‘Payments and subscriptions’ and then ‘Subscriptions’.
- Select the subscription that you want to cancel.
- Tap ‘Cancel subscription’.
- Follow the instructions.
You can check with the provider of your handset by visiting their website and searching for instructions.
It is important to remember that we can challenge any subscriptions that has been charged because of forgetting to cancel a subscription. Although we are not guaranteed a refund in these situations, many providers will refund as goodwill for any oversights.
Broadband, TV, Mobile and Telephone Subscriptions
Shop around to save pounds
Even in the current climate, telecoms companies are still offering deals to entice new customers to switch to them.
It is always a good idea to look at the current services that we have and consider the alternatives out there in terms of what we can get for the money we are already paying, or cheaper.
Additionally, our existing provider may honour a match of the price they are offering to new customers to help stop us switching away from them.
Several internet service providers are offering ‘Essential’ packages to customers who are in receipt of Universal Credit or other benefits.
These packages offer consumers the option to pay a reduced amount each month, with providers offering guaranteed average speeds and flexible 30-day rolling contracts.
Many of these offers are also available to existing customers and reaching out to broadband providers to make them aware of your situation can be a good first step.
Plan for Success
Planning is key to saving money and reducing food waste. Making a list before going to the supermarket is a top tip to save on unnecessary purchases, reducing the chances of buying items that we don’t need.
By looking at meals over the course of a week or month, we can get a better idea of what we need to buy and when we will use it.
Sometimes we end up in the supermarket by accident and ultimately over-purchasing items, taking the ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ offers, or picking up an item on special offer that we don’t particularly need.
In circumstances where there is food leftover after cooking, think of alternative recipes that could put an interesting spin on your traditional dishes. Think of it as an opportunity to be creative and do something different with leftovers, or if safe to do so, portion it up and freeze / store it for later.
Freeze it, cook it, eat it
When shopping for groceries, it is always a good idea to consider whether we will use items by their expiry date, and if we can freeze them.
By reading instructions carefully and following safety guidelines on freezing, defrosting, and reheating food, we can help to save ourselves money and reduce waste. By thinking beyond our next meal, we can plan more effectively for the week ahead.
With apps such as Just Eat, Deliveroo, and Uber Eats allowing us to purchase dinner for delivery in a few clicks when we want to treat ourselves, or when we just can’t be bothered cooking, it’s no wonder that so much food is wasted. Factoring in these ‘wee treats’ and taking our own eating / ordering habits into consideration before hitting the supermarket can also be helpful.
As well as the takeaway apps, technology is also allowing us to consider food waste differently, with several apps offering food for reduced prices, or in some instances free-of-charge, which can make a cost-effective, eco-friendly alternative.
Technology – Sustainable and lower cost options
In November last year, as part of our ‘Safety and Sustainability’ campaign, we looked at the ways consumers can save money, whilst being more sustainable and helping to save the planet, focussing on technology, specifically apps that offer reduced price or free food locally.
The ‘Too Good To Go’ app allows consumers to buy food that many cafes, restaurants, hotels, shops and manufacturers throw away when the items haven’t sold in time. The app offers the product(s) at discounted rates to customers, allowing both consumers and businesses to save money and help the environment.
Another app which can be helpful in allowing us to reduce our carbon footprint, whilst saving money is OLIO. The app shows people locally who are giving away food and other household items to their neighbours for free.
Once the app is downloaded, people can share (or select) items locally. This includes local ‘Food champions’, volunteers who are saving items from landfill at local supermarkets and uploading pictures / information to the app for others to request the goods.
Supermarkets can help
We’ve all noticed the prices going up in many of the stores that we go to. Many of the larger supermarkets are still offering deals on items when purchasing multiples, as well as deals for customers who are part of loyalty schemes with them.
By shopping around, we can save the pennies here and there, with some supermarkets offering points for the money we spend, and further savings as part of these loyalty schemes.
You can also usually see the deals that are available on retailer websites before hitting the shops, allowing you to plan for shopping trips and save money.
Sources of Support
These are just some of the considerations we can make in relation to our spending as consumers when faced with increases to the cost of living.
There are sources of support out there that can help if you are struggling.
We have previously looked at the ways Advice Direct Scotland can support Scottish citizens, offering advice and information in a range of areas.
If you are struggling, the important thing to remember is that you are not alone, and help is available.
For more information on the various sources of support available, visit .advice.scot, or contact one of the team on 0808 800 9060 (Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm).