Archives for posts with tag: money saving

by Maya Robert

As living costs go up, and the value of a penny goes down, people are going to extreme lengths to save money.  We examine some of the most shocking money saving tips that have come our way over the past year.

1)      Bubble-wrapping windows

Image: *ejk*via Flickr

Energy bills aren’t cheap these days, so for those of us without double glazing the money is literally flying out of the window. Bubble wrap from packages and presents can double up as heat insulation and stop your home from losing heat in the winter

2)      Camp in your living room

Image from sean dreilinger via flickr

Another heat saving tip: try camping in a tent in your living room! Or so suggested one of our customers, who told us in a survey that they tried setting up a tent in their living room to keep the heat in and the gas bill low.

3)      Swap the brands for the cheap stuff

Image: osde8info via flickr

Convinced brand names are a con but can’t get your family on board? Why not keep the branded boxes and refill it with the cheaper alternative. After all, you know it tastes exactly the same…

4)      Re-use binned envelopes

Image: djhsilver via Flickr

Office bins are full of discarded envelopes, so why not rescue them and replace the label? You’ll be saving trees as well as your pennies.

5)      Use your dog as a draft excluder

Image: striatic via flickr

This appeared in a uSwitch survey about how we try and save on our gas and electricity bills. One genuine suggestion was to train your dog to sit by your living room door and stop all that hot air escaping.

6)      Collect rain water instead of flushing the loo

Image: Another Pint Please… via flickr

Saving money and the environment can only be a good thing right? Pop a couple of buckets in your back garden and use any rain water you collect to flush the loo and save on your water bill (if you have a meter).

7)      Animal fat candles

Image: ax2groin via flickr

…and while we’re collecting – why not collect the animal fat from your grill and turn it into candles; simply leave to set in a jar and add a wick! It’s not as uncommon as you think, the fat is called ‘Tallow’ and is used to make both candles and soap…

8)      Take your wallpaper with you

Image: swan-t via flickr

If you like your wallpaper and don’t want to pay to have your walls redecorated when you move, try taking the wallpaper with you. It’s amazing what some steam and a bit of care can save you!

9)      Animal fur jumpers

Image: c.a.muller via Flicker

While you might see cat or dog fur on your sofa as a nuisance, some see it as a wasted opportunity. Why not brush away those pesky hairs and save them to knit your very own fur jumper? This is not that uncommon – there are even people you can send your stored strands to if you’re whizz with the knitting needles.  Some pet owners see animal fur jumpers as a fitting way to commemorate the death of their favourite pet and save money. At least you can be sure no one else will have the same one…

10)   Reheat (someone else’s) leftovers

Image: djjewelz via Flickr

Last but certainly not least, our number 10 most shocking money saving tip will surprise even the most frugal among us. When unexpected guests turned up for the weekend with a KFC in tow, Hester had nothing to feed them the next day. That is, until she spied the leftover skins and bones left to waste and decided they would make a delicious soup for all the family. Word to the wise: add lentils and no-one will know the difference.

See Also

Blog: Top ten inflation beating tips


A few months ago, I saw that my energy supplier, npower, was giving away electricity monitors for customers who sign up for its ‘my npower’ online account management.

It sounded too good an offer to miss out on, so I went for it.

In all honesty, I’d probably never have bought an electricity monitor for myself. I’m already fairly energy conscious (I never leave anything on standby, I turn lights off when I leave the room, I do my washing at 30 degrees, and I even keep my fridge and freezer full of bottles of tap water to keep the running costs down) so I wasn’t sure how much difference it would make to my electricity usage.

A few weeks later a red box turned up at my door:

A free electricity monitor? For me?

I was concerned that it was going to be a pain to get up and running, but the set up was surprising easy. The instructions were clear and I didn’t have any trouble following them, and finding the right cable to clip it to by my electricity meter was far simpler than I expected. One thing I wished I’d thought of was to copy down my unit rates to before I started getting the display unit configured, as it was a pain to have to stop to go and grab my laptop to check them.

The display unit shows how much energy you’re using at that time in £s, kWhs or carbon emissions. You can see what you’d use in an hour, and keep track of your daily and weekly usage. You can even set weekly electricity usage targets to try to stick to.

The electricity monitor display unit

Childishly, as soon as it was working, I went round switching everything in the house on to see how high I could make my hourly spend go – which kind of defeated the object!

It was interesting to see how much it costs to do everyday things, like sit and watch TV (3p per hour) or keep my fridge and freezer running (2.5p per hour).

It was also interesting to see what the real energy guzzlers in my home were. I’d assumed the washing machine would be the worst culprit, but because I have it set to 30 degrees, it’s not as expensive as I’d thought. The real shockers were my kettle and Hoover – both of which sent the needle on the monitor sky-rocketing towards the 40p per hour mark (still not that expensive really!)

I also found that I spend about £3.70 on electricity a week. I’m quite happy with that, but it really did put into perspective just how much I spend on gas. I don’t think it had ever dawned on me before, because I’m on a dual fuel tariff and pay one single Direct Debit each month.

Now if someone could just make me a gas monitor, I’d be very happy!

Pound Coins

Image by wwarby via Flickr

The VAT price rise kicked in yesterday – and the potential cost to the average household bill is under the spotlight as politicians debate the impact of higher tax.

It has been described by some as ‘necessary’ and others as ‘regressive’ and cost estimates have varied from £158 per home per year to as much as almost £600, leading to widespread confusion over the real effect a 2.5% increase might have on our incomes.

So which figures are accurate and what are they based on? With costs rising across the board, many will be struggling to get a grasp on which numbers to trust as they grapple with budgeting for the New Year.

Here are some of the figures you may have seen in the headlines and what they actually refer to:


Source: various charities

This is the figure that charities including Barnardo’s, Save the Children and Oxfam estimate many households will now pay in total VAT cost, claiming that a low-income family could spend as much as £1,600 per year on their VAT bill. Save the Children says that this figure is based on official Office for National statistics data which suggests that the bottom 20% of households will be paying a higher VAT bill.

However, this is an average weighted estimation, meaning that it takes in to account a large range of homes, including large families on low incomes and therefore may not be applicable to those with smaller annual VAT bills.

£561/ ‘nearly £600’ increase

Source: Deloitte

Figures released by the accounting firm Deloitte have revealed that a family earning a total income of £70,000 will pay an extra £10.80 per week equalling £561 per year.

However, many households in the UK will struggle to make up this kind of annual income so its relevance is dependent on your personal circumstance.

£520 increase

Source: Kelkoo

According to the independent study, commissioned by price comparison website Kelkoo, the increase of 2.5% in VAT will cost £212 per person or £520 per household per year.

This is an updated figure from the original study, which took place in April 2010 and estimated a figure of £425 per household per year.

£389 increase

Source: politicians

Making quite a few headlines was the estimation that the VAT hike would put up household spending by £359 per year.

Labour leader Ed Miliband was careful to announce that this figure was originally featured on a Lib Dem election poster, warning of a Tory VAT ‘bombshell’ of £389 additions to bills per household.

There doesn’t as yet seem to be any clear source on how this figure was calculated, however, this Lib Dem figure was based on the projection that the Conservative government would raise VAT  by 3%, not 2.5%, which it did not. Therefore, this figure at these calculations would be reduced to £324.

£158 (£7.50) increase

Source: uSwitch

uSwitch predicted that the VAT increase would add an extra £158 per household per year.

This figure is based on household essentials only, calculating annual increases from the tax rise in comparison with the typical monthly household spend, as explained in the table below.

Bill Typical monthly household spend December 2010 

Typical monthly household spend January 2011 Annual increase from tax rise
Food £100 £102.75 £33
Gas & electricity £103 £103 £0
Water £30.08 £30.08 £0
Phone/broadband/TV bundle £33.36 £34.19 £10
Mobile phones £84.75 £86.88 £25.43
Buildings insurance* £17.42 £17.59 £2.09
Contents insurance* £9.25 £9.34 £1.11
Car insurance* £104.14 £105.18 £12.50
Petrol £245.37 £251.50 £73.61



Image from ItsLassieTime via Wikimedia Commons

2011 is just around the corner, but what were the top stories of 2010? Image from ItsLassieTime via Wikimedia Commons

As 2010 draws to a close, here’s a look back over the most popular uSwitch news stories of the year:

1.       UK worst place to live in Europe: Quality of Life Index

It’s hardly a surprise that this story comes in at number one.  Our annual Quality of life Index – which named France the best place to live, and the UK and Ireland the worst – made the headlines and stirred up plenty of debate.

2. Why the cheapest energy supplier isn’t always the cheapest

Earlier in the year, the energy companies were in constant competition to be crowned ‘the cheapest energy supplier’. So we looked at what these claims really mean, and explained why the cheapest energy supplier might not be the cheapest energy supplier for you.

3. Why where you live means you could pay £189 a year more for gas and electricity

The headline says it all really…the differences in regional energy prices caught the attention of plenty of our readers, who were shocked to see just how much of a difference where they lived could make to how much they paid for their gas and electricity.

4. Tax changes for 2010/11 and how they affect you

This story about upcoming tax changes for 2010-11, which featured and interview with John Whiting, Tax Policy Director at the Chartered Institute of Taxation, was a surprise hit. Who knew tax could be so interesting?

5. O2 launches iPhone 4 on pay-as-you-go

It seems fitting that our top communications story should be about the iPhone 4, almost certainly the most talked-about mobile phone of the year.

6. 10 things you didn’t know about your gas and electricity

We sometimes take it for granted that when we flick the light switch or turn on the hob there will be electricity or gas there for us. This story looks at the things that go on behind the scenes to make sure we have power when and where we need it.

7.       Boiler scrappage scheme takes off

The government’s boiler scrappage scheme, which offered £400 towards the cost of a new boiler, was big news in January 2010.

8.       First Utility launches new Smart as Standard smart meter tariff

In 2010 smart meters started to work their way into the public consciousness, so it made an impression when First Utility announced that it would be offering free smart meters to homes nationwide with its Smart as Standard tariff.

9. Big banks beaten by supermarkets in uSwitch credit card awards

Our credit card customer satisfaction awards crowned M&S and Tesco joint winners. Look out for the results of our next survey in the New Year.

10. Pay-as-you-go car insurance: The pros and cons

Plenty of readers were intrigued by innovative new ‘pay-as-you-go’ car insurance schemes and the potential savings they could offer.

Our top blog post was:

Anyone for free solar power? – Lots of people read this post by guest blogger Emma Hughes, Editor of the Solar Power Portal, which explained how people could get ther hands on free solar panels for their home.

And finally, our most popular video of the year:

How to take a meter reading