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Saving Money

Page 8: Living: Household Bills.

Bust those Bills.

Switching gas and electricity to another company can save money. And its all thanks to Thatcherism, the ancient craft of roofing with hay!

Back in the eighties, the much-maligned PM, Mrs Thatcher, pioneered privatisation of certain public utility companies to make them ...fitter. Many new utility companies have appeared and are able to undercut the established providers which has in turn resulted in competitive pricing from the established firms, all to the benefit of the consumer. Which is cool. You may already be with the cheapest supplier but you can't be sure until you visit one of the many compare and contrast web sites.

This is a good place to visit to assess the competition. You will need to know how much you currently spend on energy each year as a basis for the comparison. This can be obtained from your present supplier. Should the comparison reveal a saving elsewhere, the new supplier will take care of the whole transfer business. That's it. it's really very easy and no roads need to be dug up!

For telephones, land-line and mobile, try our page for the recommended MoneySurgery telephone philosophy. It really does work.

Fundamentally, it all comes down to using electricity, gas and telephones sparingly and sensibly. The cost difference between one supplier and the next can be quite small. On the other hand, calling a loved one each night for an hour or using the gas oven for every meal can seriously dent our bank balance.

Changing ones lifestyle to get out of debt is fundamental to the MoneySurgery Way. Things like...

  • Use the microwave oven to heat food instead of the main oven on a regular basis.
  • In winter, keep draughts out with draught excluding foam door and window strips and wear an extra layer of clothing to give the central heating a break.
  • Switch off lights or use low energy lighting. Many of us have two 100 Watt bulbs on when we go up or down the stairs at night. Similarly, switch off TV's that are on standby.
  • Avoid full, hot baths every morning. Avoid using electric heaters: They BURN it up. Listen to your electric meter when these heaters are being used...Click, click, click...Scary! Even using the kettle gives the meter a good work out, like a mouse in a wheel!

Fighting against debt is continual. Every second presents an opportunity for Demon Debt to "Have a go". Even when you are relaxing at home, he's there, "Go on, have a nice hot bath, get the heating on, get the gas fire've earned it."

Turn the tables on him: Leave only the odd low energy table lamp on, keep your clothes on (See also here) and only heat the room you are occupying. Cover all the bases. DON'T relax until debt has withered away. You CAN do it!

Please read on.

More Energy Price Warnings

(22:00 Friday 24th June 2005 news story)

British Gas customers are facing more price rises in forthcoming bills. Factor-in a rise of 15% and you won't have any nasty shocks. And this doesn't affect just British Gas; Scottish and Southern Energy have also sounded warnings. So there is no escape from gas price rises.

This is something we at Money Surgery like to hear: You have to pay this - there is no alternative. Wanna bet?
First, consider switching supplier - this could save a third off your bill, see here.
Second, consider using a regular payment scheme like a direct debit to squeeze out another tenner or so a year.
Third, consider fixing or capping your energy rate. This could at least help you budget.
Finally, and most importantly, CUT DOWN on energy consumption. What do we do when we hear that the price of petrol is rising to record levels? Answer: Buy as much as we can, as soon as we can. Shouldn't we lock up our cars and start cycling instead? Which is the more sensible reaction?

Think laterally. Avoid using gas. Look for alternative energy fuels. Soon, we'll be adding solar panels and mini-wind-turbines to our Veluxes and softwood decking. I remember my old geography teacher predicting that we'd all have a mini nuclear reactor in our homes as a cheap energy source when we grew up. He did wear rather large glasses which may have been rose tinted but you never know.
We've pondered this in previous articles: Will fossil fuel prices ever come down when demand is never going to relax?

Kick the Coal. Get rid of the Gas. Say Oi! to Oil. Your time is up, my friends.

Useless Utilities

(12:00 Saturday 9th April 2005 news story)

Energywatch has condemned utilities for generating a "myriad" of problems with billing and causing misery for consumers. The energy watchdog got 40,000 complaints last year, including reports of bills not being delivered for months and sometimes years. Energywatch has consequently asked the industry regulator, Ofgem, to investigate the issue, in what is being perceived as the first energy, or utility, "super complaint".

At Money Surgery, we're aware of a sliding decline in responsiveness of utilities to amend bills, and to answer customer queries. The ratings at web sites like are also sliding depressingly. If they're all increasing their charges like they were charging for Council Tax, and their customer satisfaction ratings are all in the not satisfied at all, really category, what point is there in switching, or for that matter in having competition? Looks like switching is so 2003, and privatisation is like, sooo 1980s.

"Get-to-bed Early Day" Thursday

(Wednesday 23rd February 2005 news story)

Talking of winter...
We've just decided that Thursday 24th February is "Get-to-bed Early Day" because we've just heard the weather forecast. It's going to be very cold over most of Britain - the coldest of this "cold snap" - and we think what better way to beat the weather, and save fuel bills, than to get in on Thursday night from work or college and just ...go to bed. Radical, I know.

Imagine being tucked up in your cosy warm bed, reading, or listening to the radio, or even sleeping for the more rebellious of you. You'll wake up on Friday morning with ease, you'll have even saved money on some late evening snacks, and you'll have recovered from any sleep lost earlier in the week. It's cold, it's dark, it's f-f-freezing, so stop fighting it and hit snooze mode.

Cut out the cold, cut out your debts.
This is Money Szzzzzzzurgery.

First Class Price Hike

(Thursday 20th March 2003 news story)

Stamp prices are set to increase by 1p from May after a row between the Royal Mail and the industry's regulator was settled. The cost of posting a first class letter is set to increase to 28p, while a second class stamp will rise to 20p. The price hikes will generate around £170 million of extra revenue in a year.

The price rises, the first for second class stamps since 1993 and since 2000 for first class, have to be agreed formally by Postcomm, but they are expected to come into effect on 8th May 2003. The Royal Mail said Postcomm had made major changes to its three year price control proposals, although it was still worried about the future regulatory process and the protection of the universal postal service.

Adam Crozier, Royal Mail's new chief executive and former English Football Association boss, said, "After 11 months of detailed discussion with Postcomm we have seen real improvements to the package on the table and we are now able to agree to the new deal. We should now be able to get on and implement the modest 1p rise in postage prices we need. The original proposals left a 460m hole in Royal Mail's finances, rather than the £170m annual benefit from the penny price increase. The control now on the table corrects this." The extra revenue will help stem Royal Mail's £1 million a day losses.

"No Worries".

(2001 news story)

Despite the threat of a slowdown in the economy, most people aren't worried about their financial situation, according to a report by Lloyds TSB. The survey found that 52% of people in Britain had no money worries in the first three months of this year. The South West appeared to be the most satisfied at 60%, with the lowest in the North West at 45%.

What appears to be certain is that the economy is slowing down. How far and how fast the growth of the economy will fall is still to be seen. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown prefers a figure of 2.5-2.75% for the next two years, while the CBI estimates growth in the UK as low as 1%. Money Surgery has had an increasing amount of feedback from patients describing the shock of being made redundant and more job losses are likely in the next year. Our message, as ever, is prepare for the worst, try to cut out those debts and plan for survival...whatever the future brings us.

Please read our other pages.

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Please read on.
Saving Money: Switched on ways to keep hold of your precious cash.
Getting Money: Clever, barely legal ways of getting money.
How a house, open a bank account...
Future Dreams: Planning, after your debts have been eliminated.
Financial X-Ray: Let the nice doctors at Money Surgery X-ray your wallet.
Money News: The latest from the world of personal finance.
The best interest rates for saving and borrowing.
Feedback: Write to the Surgery.
Contacts: Other people who may be able to help, if we can't.
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