Colder weather means more heating. Darker evenings means more lights on. Christmas time means evenings out.
And what this all adds up to is big, big bills.
This time of year really has a knack for squeezing every cent out of us. But there are a few very quick ways to save money before you find yourself in the depths of winter this year.
And I’m not talking about doing things like not buying presents, swapping out wine for water or taking cold showers.
No, I’m going to tell you ways to save money that won’t cost you anything, expect a few minutes of your time.
Most health insurance premiums come up for renewal in December or January. And your car insurance, life insurance or mortgage protection insurance may all be in need of review over the winter months too.
These items can really turn up the heat on your winter budget.
Many health insurance premiums increased by 14% this year, motor premiums have doubled for some drivers and a huge number of people are unknowingly overpaying for their mortgage protection insurance.
It might sound like a pain to do, but shopping around for insurance premiums is a must for anyone looking for ways to save money. And it’s much easier than you might think.
It should just take a few phone calls and five simple steps:
Rinse and repeat for all other insurance premiums you pay. Especially mortgage protection insurance - most people are paying way more than they have to for that one.
Of all of your monthly bills, it’s gas and electricity that have the greatest tendency to soar at this time of year.
You’re spending more time indoors, meaning you’re probably watching more TV, leaving the lights on for longer and, of course, cranking up your home heating.
Switching to the cheapest gas and electricity suppliers is a really quick way to save money. Once you have your MPRN, GPRN and a meter reading to hand, it takes just 7 minutes to switch online and there’s over €300 to be saved on average.
The majority of suppliers offer big discounts to new customers, but those discounts usually quietly expire after a year, leaving you on what are known as “standard rates”.
And let me tell you – expensive standard rates will not make your lights shine any brighter than cheap discounted rates this winter.
Interest rates have been tumbling for some time and most banks are now offering next-to-nothing to savers who lock money away with them.
And to make matters even less exciting, Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) now stands at 41%. Though this is due to come down a bit over the next few years.
It’s a sad state of affairs for people who diligently put a chunk of their payslip away every month for this pricier time of year.
But there are a still a few decent rates floating around, if you know where to look.
A couple of banks are offering rates of around 3%, and they allow instant access too. It won’t make you rich overnight, but it’s probably better than what you’re getting now and is certainly better than leaving your money gathering dust (and fees!) in a current account.
Bank statements can be a scary sight. All it takes is one outgoing expense that I don’t immediately recognise for me to go into full-blown ‘victim of a scam’ mode.
But it’s very worthwhile to carry out a direct debit audit at this time of year.
We pay so many bills automatically now, that it’s easy to forget about smaller items that you may no longer want and need.
It should only take a few minutes to look through your outgoings from the last month or two and, chances are, you’ll spot something in there that you no longer want or need. Think of it as spring cleaning for your finances. (Or maybe that sound be 'winter cleaning'?)
The satisfaction you’ll feel from cancelling those unwanted direct debits will make you feel like a money-saving superstar for the rest of the day :)
One of the biggest ways people end up wondering where all the money went by the end of the month is by paying for things they don’t actually want.
The biggest culprit here is broadband, TV and landline bundles. Many people are paying a big monthly bill for all three services, but in reality may only be using the broadband.
Thankfully, most providers are now offering broadband only deals to customers for a fraction of the price of a bundle. If you’re already paying for Netflix, you may have all of your entertainment needs cared for through broadband alone.
Winter time can be expensive, but by making a few smart moves now, you can spend less time worrying about your bills and more time wondering what you're going to buy the person who has everything for Christmas...
...or maybe, just maybe, you could reward yourself with a little gift for taking the time to get those big winter bills down.
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