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How to Beat Winter Bill Price Hikes

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Photo: Attribution Some rights reserved by atkinson000via Flickr

As households all over the UK switch their central heating back on, there are many who are resisting the urge despite the colder weather having arrived.

With energy companies announcing a further round of price hikes, many vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly, are once again facing a terrible ‘heat or eat’ dilemma, with not enough money for both food and a warm home.

Every year, charities warn of households that cannot afford their bills, with an increasing number falling into the bracket of ‘energy poverty.’  However, this number is set to climb even higher as firms push up their prices, insisting they are facing rising costs.

Watchdog Consumer Focus recently announced that as many as six million homes in the UK were planning on reducing their heating over the coming winter, due to fears that they will not be able to afford the costs.

British Gas and Npower are the two latest energy firms to increase their tariffs, with the more expensive prices due to take effect from November, just as households need to rely on using more energy.

British Gas has said the typical increase on a dual energy bill will be around 6%, a yearly increase of £80, which will be felt by approximately 8.5 million customers. Npower said that their electricity will be 9.1 higher, whilst gas will be up by 8.8%.

Despite both companies claiming that outside influences they are unable to control are the primary reason for the price rise, British Gas’ parent company, Centrica, has recently announced its half yearly results which showed a 23% hike in profits in its residential division.

Keeping your home warm is essential in the winter months and cutting back on food in order to pay for heating costs is not a solution which is advisable.

Therefore, if you know you are going to find it difficult to pay for the basics in the colder weather, it is absolutely vital to take a good look at your household finances, to identify any areas where you can make savings.

You may have been with your energy supplier for some time but switching is now easier than ever before and changing to a new provider might mean you qualify for a discount, or simply find a cheaper tariff. The best deals rarely stay with the same provider constantly, so it is a good idea to constantly shop around for the cheapest prices. Baines and Ernst offer a free price comparison service called Solve and Save that could help you find a better deal without you having to do the legwork yourself!

However, it isn’t just energy costs which you should examine. Take a good look at your other expenditure and see if there is any way which you could reduce costs. For example, could you switch to a cheaper supermarket or buy in bulk (as this often works out cheaper)? Alternatively, how about enjoying a couple of vegetarian meals a week as meat is particularly expensive? And if you normally drive everywhere, could you reduce the amount you use your car and perhaps walk? Or even buy online – this could save petrol costs, allow you the chance to shop around, as well as eliminate the possibility of you overspending whilst in-store.

Whilst these measures may seem relatively trivial, you would only need to find savings of less than £7 per month, to make up for the £80 yearly increase in British Gas charges. By implementing a series of smaller changes in your spending habits, you could be surprised at how quickly the savings add up.

If your finances are more stretched, or you have made all the cutbacks possible and are still struggling to pay for your essentials, do not be tempted to resort to payday loans or other types of high interest borrowing. In the long term, this will put you in a far worse position. There are a huge number of debt solutions available, regardless of your circumstances and getting help from a professional debt management company could help you identify the right route for you.

The winter months should not be a frozen misery and having to live in a cold house is something no-one should be forced to endure. If you can’t see a way out, seriously consider getting expert debt advice sooner rather than later, as it may be possible to get your outgoings reduced to a level you can afford.

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