Every well-done monthly budget should include your utilities, regardless of whether they’re fixed bills or always-changing amounts. Home utilities you need to budget for include big-ticket items such as your electricity and gas, but also smaller ones like your internet bill. Once you know what you’ve been spending, you can decide whether to make adjustments. Even small changes can help your finances over time. You may even be able to boost the amount of money you save for the future.
If this is the first time you’ve tried to estimate your monthly consumption, start by looking at your previous payments. Go back at least six months and write down the numbers. Understanding how much you’ve been spending will help you average your ongoing costs.
Here are four types of utilities to keep in mind when budgeting.
Electricity is perhaps the biggest of the home utilities you need to budget for. It’s also one of the most likely to fluctuate.
To figure out what electricity is costing you, spend some time going through past electricity bills. According to the energy comparison and switching service website UKPower, the average electricity bill is £23 a month for a 1- to 2-bedroom house and £49 for a 3- to 4-bedroom home. If you are spending more than the average UK household, consider switching electricity provider and/or look for ways to reduce your consumption.
While most suppliers in the market have similar prices, you might get a better deal if you switch. That’s because staying with a company for a long time means you’re probably paying a default price. When you switch, you instead have the option of choosing the most appropriate energy deal for your situation – and that may mean significant savings. You can always try using online comparison sites to find the best deal.
Don’t leave electronic equipment on standby and, when in doubt, turn things off. This goes for outdoor lighting, small appliances, and even the hallway light. When it’s time to replace your appliances, opt for energy-efficient ones for additional long-term savings.
If your heating is electric, just follow the directions above. If instead you use gas or an oil-fired boiler, again start by figuring out your average bill. In the UK, the average starts at £33 per month – so if yours is much higher, you may have a problem.
Luckily, there are two easy and quick things you can do. First, go around your home and draught-proof every window and door. Then lower your thermostat by just 1°C; this small change could help you reduce your heating bill by up to 10%.
If you own your property, think about investing in better home insulation down the line. In the meantime, you can get a basic smart heating control system so you can programme your thermostat to adjust throughout the day.
If you have an oil-based heating system, keep an eye out for price fluctuations and fill up your tank when prices go down.
If you have gas heating, you should also be able to switch providers, as with electricity. Call around or go online to compare prices and see if you can get a better offer.
The average water bill in the UK is £34 per month. While changing water suppliers is not possible, you may be able to reduce your costs. For homes without water meters, suppliers base the monthly water cost on the rateable value of the property. But if you live alone in a two-bedroom house (or larger), you’re likely to be using less water than the average household. If that’s the case, consider having your home fitted with a water meter.
According to Citizens Advice, consumers have a right to ask for a water meter to be installed free of charge. A meter will accurately measure how much water you use; therefore, going forward, you will be charged for the amount you use rather than being charged a flat fee. The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) has a free water meter calculator that helps you decide whether you can save with a meter.
If you’re part of the small percentage of homes that cannot be fitted with a water meter, ask whether you can be charged based on the Assessed Volume Charge instead. This is a fixed amount calculated based on the size of your property and the number of people who live in it. The amount should be closer to your real consumption amount than a flat standard rate that applies to everybody.
If your water bill is especially high, check your taps, shower and toilet for leaks. You can also try switching to water-saving shower heads – it’s a small investment that may pay off quickly. Never let water run as you wash things or brush your teeth, and when it’s time to replace your washing machine, make sure you get a high-efficiency one that saves both water and energy.
Cable and internet
These are perhaps the easiest home utilities to budget for, because they don’t fluctuate month to month. If the total monthly cost is more than you can afford, contact your supplier and ask for a discount. Maybe there’s a different tariff you can switch to. If not, see whether a bundle combining cable and internet would be a better way to save money. There are plenty of price comparison websites out there to help you find a cheaper deal.
Always make sure your contract fits your lifestyle. Maybe you don’t need all those extra channels if you’re never home to watch TV. Or maybe 108Mbps of internet speed is not necessary and you could make do with a cheaper 36Mbps connection.