The cost of living squeeze is biting hard. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t simple tips and tricks to help navigate your way around it.
Each Friday, we provide five tips we think are worth noting that can go a little way to helping you save money, or make money in the midst of sky-high inflation and rocketing bills.
This week, it looks at why you should buy an electric heater this summer to combat soaring energy bills, British Gas offering £250 off any new boiler, and how to haggle your subscriptions costs down, among other tips.
The cost of living crunch is biting hard – but there are ways to potentially navigate it
1. Haggle your subscriptions down
Loyalty rarely pays these days. In the same way that if you don’t ask your boss for a pay rise you won’t get one, if you don’t ask to cancel your entertainment subscriptions, you won’t get a discount.
Leave your subscriptions lingering for too long with services such as Sky, Now TV and Audible among others and you may begin questioning whether it’s all worth it.
Last year, those signed up to subscriptions spent an average of £620 a year, up 12 per cent from the previous year, according to Barclaycard.
These subscription services are often more interested in enticing new joiners with special offers than giving any concessions to loyal but passive customers.
For example, Sky is currently offering an 18 month deal for those signing up to sky sports and sky cinema. Sky sports is available for £20 a month, down from £32, and Sky Cinema is available for £12, down from £19 a month.
However, these subscription services also hate losing customers and will likely drastically cut your monthly cost if you do try and cancel.
Sky-owned Now TV is one such service provider that will offer you a discount almost immediately when you threaten to cancel.
For those that don’t already know, Now TV offers non-Sky customers the option to watch its content without needing a Sky subscription by selling monthly passes for its popular sports, movie, kids or entertainment channels.
Its entertainment membership costs £9.99 a month, its sports membership costs £33.99 a month, whilst its cinema package costs £9.99 a month.
If you an existing customer and opt to cancel, however, Now TV will likely offer you a big discount for anywhere between 2 and 12 months.
If you’re an audiobook fanatic, the same can be said for Audible. If you opt to cancel your £7.99 a month membership they’ll likely offer you a discount for a period of time to keep you signed up.
Of course, the hope is that you’ll remain and eventually return to paying the original amount. Well, just remember to do it all again.
Don’t leave: Now TV could offer you half price for a number of months to keep your monthly subscription
2. Buy an electric heater this summer
This may sound counterintuitive in June, but the summer months are the cheapest time to buy an electric heater.
The average price of electric heaters is cheaper between July and August than at any other time in the year, according to analysis by the comparison site Idealo.
For example, it found that the average electric heater costs £128 in July compared to £158 in March.
If you’re planning on buying one to help you through the winter months, then planning ahead could save you money.
Why an electric heater?
Many of us are trying to cut back on our heating usage after the energy price cap hike in April saw gas and electricity costs rise 54 per cent to £1,971 per year for the average household.
According to Ofgem, the price cap is due to rise again in October to a staggering £2,800, meaning it’s never been more important to get on top of your energy bills.
There are a plethora of ways to cut your energy bills, but an electric heater could be one solution – particularly for anyone living alone or working from home.
Energy bills: An electric heater could be cheaper to use as it only heats one room
This is because, rather than relying on your central heating, an electric heater allows you to heat just one room in your home.
Although they are by no means cheap to run, electric heaters can be turned off and on as and when you need and are typically portable.
If you purchase a heater with its own in-built thermostat it also will automatically turn off when the required room temperature is reached.
Taking into account the new price cap, a typical 1.5kw electric heater will set you back 42 pence per hour if permanently on, according to electrical energy efficiency website, Sust-it.
Based on six hours a day at maximum output with a thermostat automatically turning off when the required room temperature is reached, a 2kw electric heater will typically cost £3.36 a day, or £23.52 a week.
While that’s not cheap, it could be more cost-effective than running your central heating constantly for the same time – especially if your home is large or isn’t particularly energy efficient.
Practical: If you’re only heating one room and only for a short time, firing up the boiler and heating system may be a little over the top, and you could end up using considerably more gas.
Two affordable electric heaters currently available are the Russell Hobbs 2KW Convection Heater costing £39.99 and Curry’s Portable Convector Heater costing £19.99
Both are best buys on Which? and have 3 heat settings, whilst the Russell Hobbs heater also has a 24 hour timer.
For someone willing to pay more for style, the Warme designer electric heater is currently available for £99.95.
It can be controlled from your smart phone and has an in-built Thermostat.
All three of the heaters above would be effective heating a single room up to 20m2 in size.
3. Need a new boiler?
If your boiler is on its last legs and you’re considering upgrading, then it’s worth pointing out that this Platinum Jubilee weekend, British Gas is offering £250 off any new boiler purchased up until 13 June.
If you’re already planning renovations on your kitchen or bathroom then this could also be the perfect time to upgrade your boiler.
Upgrading from a G-rated boiler to an A-rated boiler can save you up to £580 on your energy bills, according to British Gas.
British Gas offers a wide range of boiler brands, all with an enhanced 5-year warranty and the option to spread the cost interest free over 3 years. You can check out the boilers available on its website.
All British Gas boilers are installed by an engineer and every boiler comes with a five year warranty
How do I pick the right one?
All new boilers come with an ErP rating to help customers understand efficiency when comparing products.
The highest rating for a boiler is ‘A’ and the lowest is ‘G’. A-rated boilers are the most energy efficient and most likely to help save money on heating bills.
It’s important to find the right power, though. This is usually shown in kilowatts. A boiler’s power shows how much heating and hot water it can supply. The more powerful it is, the more radiators and hot water a boiler can heat.
Radiant: A new boiler can lower your monthly household bills
It’s also worth future-proofing. To lower the UK’s carbon footprint, the Government is considering plans to blend 20 per cent hydrogen into the gas supply as a low-carbon alternative.
So it’s best to buy a new boiler that’s hydrogen-blend ready. That means it can continue to use natural gas until the change comes into play, and then seamlessly switch to the new supply without you having to do anything.
British Gas has a wide selection of A-rated boilers available, all of which are hydrogen-blend ready.
Finally, a new boiler is a big investment, so it’s vital it is installed correctly. All British Gas boilers are installed by an engineer and every boiler comes with a five year warranty.
4. Time to dust off your DVD player?
There are thousands of TV shows and films to scroll through on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney +, but if you want to save some money it’s worth considering how many you actually watch.
Netflix has the ability to bestow decision paralysis on the most decisive of human beings, and I’ve known people who spend longer choosing what film to go for than they spend watching one.
Old school: With rising costs, now could be the time to dust off your DVD player
If scrolling isn’t your thing, then it may be time to cancel your monthly subscription, dust off your old DVD player and return to the good old days.
Instead of having to scroll through a whole load of programmes you don’t want to watch, just buy the films and box sets that you do want to see.
Bargain: You can pick up the complete eight- film Harry Potter collection for less than a tenner on eBay
If you tend to watch older films and series rather than new releases, you could end up saving a small fortune as DVD box sets are available at bargain-basement prices on sites such as eBay.
For example, at the moment, the complete eight-film Harry Potter collection is selling for less than £10 whilst the Lord of the Rings Trilogy is selling for as little as £2.
The complete box set of the Wire and The Sopranos can also both be purchased for £10 on eBay. These will likely take you some months to get through.
In contrast, the big streaming services can charge anywhere between £7 and £16 per month, adding up to hundreds every year. This could buy you reams of used DVDs – and you won’t have to worry about them being removed from a streaming site before you’re finished watching.
You could even sell them on again once you’re done and make your money back.
According to Ziffit, a seller of used DVDs and Blu-Rays, there has been a 7.5 per cent uplift month on month in sales since Netflix’s big announcement with binge-worthy watches topping the list of bestsellers this year.
Harry Potter, The Wire, The Sopranos, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Dexter are all among the top 10 sellers of used DVDs and Blu-Rays this year.
|1. Harry Potter – Complete 8-Film Collection|
|2. The Sopranos|
|3. The Wire: The Complete Series|
|4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Extended Edition Box Set)|
|5. Max And Paddy’s Road To Nowhere|
|6. Phoenix Nights: Series 1 and 2|
|8. Game of Thrones: Season 5|
|9. Dexter – Complete Season 1-8|
|9. Dexter – Complete Season 1-8|
5. Use a savings platform to boost your interest rate
Savings interest rates have been creeping upwards in recent months, which can at least help savers limit the damage amidst soaring inflation.
Whilst rates are hitting five year highs in some cases, savvy savers can do even better by using a savings platform such as Raisin or Hargreaves Lansdown’s platform, Active Savings.
Both these platforms currently offer cashback incentives that enable savers to leapfrog the best rates on the market.
Healthy choice: Raisin offers competitive rates including easy-access accounts, notice accounts and fixed rate deals
For example, Raisin is currently offering a £25 welcome bonus to This is Money readers if they open a new Raisin Account via this link or any link originating from our website.
It offers savers the chance to boost their savings by £25 when they open and fund an account on its marketplace with a minimum of £10,000.
And for those with bigger pots, signing up to Hargreaves Lansdown for the first time will get them between £20 and £100 cashback depending on how much money is put in.
Those putting in £10,000 will secure £20, whilst those putting in £80,000 or more will secure £100. However, the biggest percentage point rate boost on savings comes at £10,000.
Ahead of the pack: Savings platform offer savers to leapfrog some of the best deals on the market via exclusive sign up bonuses
The best one-year fixed rate deal offered on Raisin’s platform is via Charter Savings Bank paying 2.34 per cent. A £10,000 deposit securing £25 bonus could effectively secure a 2.59 per cent rate.
It is also offering a market-leading 32 day Notice account, via Investec paying 1.51 per cent. Add the £25 welcome bonus on top of a £10,000 deposit and that makes for an effective rate of 1.76 per cent.
For those who want instant access, Paragon’s 1.25 per cent deal on Raisin’s platform could effectively become 1.5 per cent for a year after a £10,000 deposit and the £25 bonus is added.
Equally, using Hargreaves Lansdown’s platform allows you to leapfrog a host of fixed rate deals.
Savers depositing £10,000 or more with Kent Reliance’s 2.36 per cent deal will secure £20 cashback, effectively earning a one-year rate of 2.56 per cent – leapfrogging the best buy on our independent best buy savings tables.
Hargreaves Lansdown has partnered with 14 savings providers to offer its Active Savings account
Hargreaves’ best two and three year deals pay 2.75 and 2.8 per cent respectively, meaning someone depositing £10,000 for the first time via the platform could secure an effective rate of 2.95 per cent or 3 per cent.
Savings platforms enable customers to open multiple savings accounts with multiple providers, without having to go through a full application each time they open a new account via that platform – and keep track of how much they’ve got where through lots of online or paper statements.
It means that through a single online account, you can open multiple savings accounts with numerous different banks as and when you require without the usual form filling and admin.
THIS IS MONEY’S FIVE OF THE BEST CURRENT ACCOUNTS
Lloyds Bank’s Club Lloyds account will pay £125 when you switch. There is a £3 monthly fee but this is waived if you pay in at least £1,500 each month. You also earn monthly credit interest on balances up to £5,000 and can choose a reward each year, including 6 cinema tickets.
Virgin Money’s M Plus Account offers £20,000 Virgin Points to spend via Virgin Red when you switch and pays 2.02 per cent monthly interest on up to £1,000. To get the bonus, £1,000 must be paid into a linked easy-access account paying 1% interest and 2 direct debits transferred over.
HSBC’s Advance Account pays £170 when you switch to the account. You need to set up two direct debits or standing orders and pay in at least £1,500 into the account within the first 60 days.
First Direct will give newcomers £150 when they switch their account. It also offers a £250 interest-free overdraft. Customers must pay in at least £1,000 within three months of opening the account.
Nationwide’s FlexDirect account comes with up to £125 cash incentive for new and existing customers. Plus 2% interest on up to £1,500 – the highest interest rate on any current account – if you pay in at least £1,000 each month, plus a fee-free overdraft. Both the latter perks last for a year.