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Do you leave your bills unopened?

Do you leave your bills unopened?

Category: Money

Updated: 17/11/2014
First Published: 17/11/2014

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

It's never pleasant when the latest bill flops through your door or pings into your email account, but how often do you actually take the plunge and open up that statement and get to grips with the costs? Well, it seems that far too many of us are happy to bury our heads in the sand, with a large number of UK households admitting to never looking at their latest bill.

The great disparity

According to research carried out by Santander Current Accounts, Brits aren't very good at getting to grips with bills, with 26% confessing that they never read their bills thoroughly. Another 13% admitted that they had never supplied a meter reading for gas or electricity or could not remember the last time they did. As a result, many respondents underestimated or overestimated how much they were spending on regular bills, putting them at risk of unnoticed irregularities or overspending.

In total, the research found that British households underestimated their main household bills for council tax, gas, water and electricity by an average of £770 over the last year. This is 65% (£303) higher than last year, when the average amount UK households underestimated their bills stood at just £467. This suggests that there is a growing disparity between how much households think they are spending and the harsh reality.

Bills for gas were particularly wide of the mark, with respondents underestimating their bills by an unwieldy £279. Electricity bills were also downplayed, with a gap of £91 between the real and imagined figure. Interestingly, bill payers were far more likely to overestimate their TV, broadband and phone bills, with respondents believing that they spent £386 more than their actual bill amount. This suggests that bill payers lack awareness of how much basic utilities now cost in relation to more 'luxurious' amenities, something that could give them a shock when they do open up a bill.

Commenting on the lack of attention given by British households to bills, Matt Hall, head of banking at Santander, said: "Increases in household bills have added to the cost of living in recent years, and it's more important than ever that households keep an eye on statements and call their supplier if anything is unclear.

"Bill payers should regularly review their supplier to make sure they're getting a good deal but should also consider the most cost-effective way of making payments."

What should I do?

Firstly, take that head out of the sand! Ignoring your bills or giving them the once-over every now and then is not going to save you money. Mistakes happen, and if you get overcharged, then you will want to know about it. When you get a bill, sit down and go through it carefully, holding it up against any previous bills you have had. If you don't understand something or you think you have spotted an error, give your supplier a call. Once you've got your head around it, file the bill away for future reference. This way, you can easily track your costs.

Another top tip is to provide regular meter readings for your gas and electricity supplier. Not providing regular meter readings will put you at the mercy of estimated bills, which usually err on the more expensive side. Try to make a routine by providing readings on the first of the month, for example. Managing your account online, or having a smart meter installed, can make this an even more painless process and you can rest easy knowing that you are only being charged for the energy you use.

It's also worth considering how you pay for your bills. Many suppliers offer a discount for paying by direct debit, so if you tend to pay quarterly, you may prefer to switch. However, just because you are paying automatically doesn't mean that you shouldn't keep an eye on those bills.

Sticking with the same supplier for years and years is another way of ensuring that your bills are higher than they could be. Sadly, loyalty is rarely rewarded, if ever, so you could instantly shed the size of your bill by checking out the market and switching your supplier. You can start shopping around for a great deal by using our handy comparison tool. You may be surprised by how much you could save!

What next?

Check out our comparison tool to find a better gas & electricity deal

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.