Gas and electricity Updated:
Autumn is with us, temperatures are dropping, and the nation is battling with one key question – when should I put the heating on? For some it'll be an easy answer, but others may have more to think about, with many wondering how they'll be able to cover their winter heating bill.
Research from Debt Advisory Centre shows that half of respondents are worried about how they'll pay for their heating this winter, with one in 10 saying they were "very" worried about the cost. Given that the annual gas bill reaches £714, many are taking drastic measures to cover it, over and above taking slightly longer to switch their heating on than they'd like.
For example, 60% of respondents said they'll cut back on their regular bills to pay for heating, while 27% will cut back on their food shop, highlighting that the "heat or eat" scenario is a very real issue for many. A further 23% said they'll juggle their bills by part-paying (or not paying at all), and 10% said they'll take out credit just to heat their home.
An even more worrying 18% said they'll be forced to go without heating at times because they can't afford it – rising to 28% of young people surveyed – showing that many will be faced with some seriously difficult choices this winter.
Debt expert Melanie Taylor, of Debt Advisory Centre, commented on the findings: "Like the rent or council tax, the gas and electricity bill should be treated as a priority cost and paid first. If this means that there isn't enough money left to cover unsecured debt repayments – such as credit cards and loans – then the best advice is to let your lenders know that you are in financial difficulties."
If you're one of the many who are worried about paying your winter heating bill, the best thing to do is make sure you're paying as little as possible – and that all comes down to finding the right tariff. If you're on a standard variable rate tariff you're probably paying too much, and with winter right around the corner, now's the perfect time to compare the options and see if you can switch to a cheaper fixed rate deal.
The same applies if you're coming to the end of a fixed term contract – don't be tempted to save time and stay with your current provider without checking what else is out there, as if you're switched to a variable arrangement, your bills could ramp up.
And, if you're struggling with debt and will need to make some difficult choices this winter, don't suffer in silence. Speak to your lenders to see if there's anything that can be done, and get independent advice if need be. Those struggling with numerous repayments may want to look into consolidating with a low-cost personal loan, or even switching credit card balances to a 0% balance transfer version to save huge amounts of interest. Whatever you do, don't be forced to choose between staying warm or paying other bills; as Melanie says, "nobody should be going without heating because they are in debt".
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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