Gas and electricity Updated:
A change in seasons can only mean one thing – the argument over when to put the heating on is edging ever closer. Some people head for the thermostat as soon as there's the slightest chill in the air while others steadfastly wait until the big freeze sets in, but given that energy bills are taking an increasingly large chunk out of the household budget, more people could be turning to the latter option…
According to research from Co-operative Energy, 49% of consumers put energy bills as their single most important expenditure in winter – even before Christmas (the most important outlay for 16% of those surveyed) and the weekly shop (16%). Concerns surrounding paying those bills are growing, too, with 46% of those surveyed being more worried about meeting their energy bills this winter than they were in 2013.
Ramsay Dunning, of Co-operative Energy, commented: "What our latest research shows is that, despite a supposed upturn in the economy, consumers are still fearful of their energy bills in the winter. Our findings indicate that bill payers are assigning more of their household budget to pay for their energy than they did two years ago: over half (54%) of consumers are now doing this, compared to just 11% who are apportioning less budget for energy than this time two years ago."
It's a stark reminder of how rapidly energy prices are increasing, and how much of an impact it's having on household budgets. A lot of people are finding they need to tighten the purse strings just to have enough money to cover their winter bills – something which applied to 41% of those surveyed – but that doesn't stop people worrying about them.
In fact, the fear over not being able to meet their energy payments has led to 51% making spending sacrifices, with many changing the way they manage household expenditure. While some cut the family holiday from their routine (37%) and others cut back on clothes and electrical goods (68%), just under half plan ahead from the summer to avoid big winter energy bills.
Arguably, this kind of forward planning is a sensible move, as it means those bills won't come as such a shock. And, even though we're creeping closer to winter already, it's not too late!
If you're coming to the end of a fixed tariff – which could well be the case given that a lot of the most popular deals are coming to an end in the next month or two – it's time to start looking for an alternative. Fail to do so and you could be automatically rolled over into a new (and more expensive) tariff, so don't wait – start comparing deals and see how much you can save.
Of course, finding the right tariff isn't the only thing you can do to cut your bills down to size. If you get into the habit of being more energy efficient now it could pay dividends in the winter months – the Energy Savings Trust estimates that an energy-savvy home could cut as much as two-thirds from their energy bills, and that means you may not need to set aside such a huge chunk to pay them after all. Here are a few things you may like to try:
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Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.
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