Tips to sort your bills... before the white stuff

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Don’t wait until you’re knee-deep in the white stuff to sort your bills.

Here, prevention truly beats cure – tackling your bills now means you can take the financial bite out of winter chills.

Free loft insulation and even boilers (for some)
While the loft insulation free-for-all’s ended, some will still be entitled to some serious free energy-saving measures.

Most of the big six energy firms offer free boilers, typically worth £2,000, and free insulation, usually worth about £300.

Crucially, you don’t need to be with the energy provider to get it, but you do generally need an income under £16,000, and to be on income-related benefits or pension credit. 

I can’t definitely say you’ll qualify, but it is worth checking.

Alternatively, the well-meaning but stuttering Green Deal initiative is designed to let you pay for things like underfloor heating, double glazing and solid wall insulation, from the ‘savings’ you make on energy bills.

Deciding whether it’s right for you is complex, so for full help read www.moneysavingexpert.com/greendeal

Save £100s and beat the hikes

Rather surprisingly, fixing energy, where you lock in a set rate, is now cheaper than a normal switch.

Five of the big six energy providers have now announced hikes, and their best new prices are costlier than the cheapest fixed tariffs. 

So right now you can get the very cheapest deals available, and it comes with no-hike certainty.
The only exception to this is a variable (ie, subject to hikes) tariff from minnow Spark Energy – though it hasn’t hiked (yet?), needs paying up front, and feedback ain’t great, so I’m ignoring it.

The cheapest fix comes from E.on for a year, but slightly longer and only a touch more are deals from EDF or Npower. Crucially, these two have no exit penalties. So on the off-chance the Prime Minister delivers the price cuts he’s promised, and the even more unlikely event that they’ll be so substantial that other tariffs elsewhere are cheaper, you’ll be free to leave.

However, always do the numbers for your own circumstances. To check if you can save (you may be on an older, cheaper deal), and who your winner is, you can use my Cheap Energy Club top fixes comparison at www.cheapenergyclub.com, or do a standard comparison on any Ofgem-approved comparison site – just search for The Confidence Code at www.ofgem.gov.uk to see the full list.
If you’re not online, use a comparison with a phone service, such as Energyhelpline on 0800 074 0745, or uSwitch on 0800 051 5493.

Paying energy bills by monthly direct debit is up to six per cent cheaper

If you can, do, as it’ll usually mean discounted bills of up to six per cent less, so contact your provider to check. Though always do regular meter readings for accuracy, as your bill is estimated. If it’s too high, you have a right to ask for it to be lowered.

Got electricity only? You can still save

With electricity only, you can still get a cheap fix to save - just follow the info above.  For those on Economy 7, assessing is trickier.

It’s only really a boon for those who use at least 40 per cent of their energy at night. If not – don’t bother. 

Full help to decide at www.mse.me/eco7

Can you find your stopcock?
No sniggering - winter frozen pipe bursts can create an average £7,000 of damage, often worsened as many scrabble round searching for their stopcock - the mains water off switch - for ages as their home floods.