The Budget part II

The Budget

So many of you gave me a super response on part I of The Budget, thank you for that! I’ve lost count of how many photos of cupboards, lists and shopping receipts I’ve been sent; it’s all really positive so try and stick to it! It’s important you get your other halves on board. My husband went to the cash machine yesterday and said, “Do you need anything? A magazine or something?”. This is where it all falls down. Instead of just retrieving cash he would have gone into the shop for a magazine and ended up paying £30 for crap we had not budgeted for.

It’s all well and good writing lists and menus and keeping an eye on your supermarket shops, but what about everything else? If you save £30 a week for being more savvy on your groceries, do you really want to be handing that over to utility companies who have been raising their prices for the past decade? I most certainly do not.

I live in a very rural part of the country where we don’t have gas mains. This automatically means we have oil. Oil deliveries are costly (about £500 a time). We are careful with when to use the heating and are currently interviewing builders about opening up the original fire place to burn excess wood we have lying around our grounds. Being “on oil” means that we can fall into the trap of using more electricity; plug-in heaters and electric blankets for example.

Do you keep an eye on your utility bills? Are you ensuring that your direct debits are being set up at the right time of the month that you’re not left out of pocket? Or are they going out two days before you get paid and knocking you into your overdraft (authorised or otherwise?).

The only thing in my home that is an unnecessary drain on electricity is probably my oven. This is being rectified once our kitchen is replaced in the next few months. We have the option of an oil powered Aga, which my plumber had assured me is very costly, or a gas run one. If we opt for gas then we would have to buy bottled gas and knock through a wall, this would probably save us a lot in the long term. Enough about me. Some simple facts about electricity:

i) anything that heats up while on is using more electricity than your standard bulb; examples being, kettle, iron, washing machine/drier, oven, plug-in fires, hair dryers etc.
ii) unless you’re using energy saving bulbs those fashionable multiple spotlights add up!
iii) leaving your TV/sky box on standby can cost on average £96 a year.

There are a few simple things to combat extortionate billing. I found the following most effective:

i) When you’re due an upgrade go to http://www.uswitch.com with your latest statement and see what other companies are offering. Some will offer you their first born if they think they will get new custom.

ii) switch from quarterly to monthly billing. I hated receiving bills for £400 at a time and with a monthly tariff simple cutbacks on your groceries can be enough to cover your electricity bill!

iii) set your direct debit up to how you can afford to, don’t be bullied by the salesman. My Swalec bill on average a month is £77. When it comes to November I up this to £100 until March. Mainly because it is darker so lights go on earlier, we tend to spend more time in the house due to weather, and of course  we have the heating on. I know my bills don’t rise the additional £23 a month but I like to be blanketed and the last thing I want is a huge bill come spring while I’ve been naive.

iv) ring up on the same day every month and give your supplier your meter readings! Otherwise they estimate it, and it’s rarely estimated in your favour.

An example of this is myself last week. I received a bill from Swalec for £333.27. Happily in the knowledge I’ve been paying a direct debit I rang them up to query it. I then saw the words ESTIMATED READINGS. While on the phone I clambered outside into the little electricity box housing and gave them an up to date meter reading. This the response I received:

“Oh sorry Mrs M, it appears you’re in credit by £17.53 to come off your next bill. Sorry about that.”

Sorry indeed. Had I not queried it or not been able to locate my electricity box or was perhaps not of such a suspicious nature I would have paid it, merely to avoid any further action. I have now put in my diary on the 21st of every month to give a meter reading. With Swalec you can do this either online, through an automated phone service or directly to a staff member over the phone. If these methods aren’t convenient ring them and they will send someone out free of charge.

Now for some good advice; listen up!

There is something called the Warm Homes Grant Scheme. This comes with lots of options from draught exclusion (including insulation capped at £1,500 per household) to a £130 one-off payment to your supplier (or to be put onto a card/stick for anyone using a pre-paid meter). From what I understand the £130 is available to most households who receive, JSA, WCT and or CTC amongst war pension type benefits. All you have to do is ring up your supplier and they will send you a form to fill out. You don’t have to provide paperwork but they do require your NI number to check with HMRC if you are eligible. You don’t have to be on “full-time” benefits either. Those with children under five can qualify too!

Other schemes include new boilers (if your home is assessed and proven to be not energy sufficient), attic lining, wall lining, new windows and doors and draught exclusion. I am under the impression that you do not have to be on benefits to receive this, but you’d have to check.

Warm Homes Plus is an allowance of up to £6,500. This is for homes that don’t have central heating in place, or cannot use bottled gas or are classed as economy 7.

You can apply like this:

Phone: 08009880559

Or go to the website: http://www.warm-homes.com

Or call your supplier and ask them; I doubt they’ll mention it if you don’t ask!

If you get as far as getting a grant and having the work done, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ensure the tradesmen are accredited and CORGI registered when it’s involving your gas mains. Don’t take a risk.

That’s probably enough for you to be going on for the time being. The next instalment is how to lower your unnecessary bills such as telephone, Internet and any television packages!

Keep that wallet shut!

 

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