"In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony."

Friday, 11 March 2011

How I have saved £500 off our bills in the last two weeks...

Like a lot of people at the moment, I have been looking closely at our finances due to our outgoings increasing while our income is static or even going down very soon due to being on maternity leave.  As this is my last baby, I am determined not to return to work earlier than 9 months due to finances as I know I will never get this time back again.  I guess part of me is feeling rather pigheaded about that - why should I lose time with my baby because of the country's poor economic state which I didn't cause and have been paying enough taxes to try and help.

Chatting to a friend the other day, she suggested that I posted my savings and ideas on here in case it helps other people too, so here goes.

The first thing that I did was start an excel spreadsheet with everything on it for the next year.  I had to do a year budget as my maternity income will change over that time and so will our outgoings (e.g. more childcare costs and bus fares in term time).  Then I looked at where most of our money went.  Most of it wasn't on luxuries, but essentials but even so, I have managed to save money, so here's what I did:

Water bill
We got a bill through the other day increasing our bill by 10% from £110 a month (yes, that is a month!) to £120.  I rang them up immediately and explained that we simply couldn't afford that payment especially with our income going down shortly.  She read off a list of benefits and asked if we got any  - No.  Typically, we have always earnt too much to get any help yet not enough to afford foreign holidays etc.  Then, I remembered that I would be on less income and probably be eligible for Child Tax Credit/Working Tax Credit while my income was only going to be a third of the normal amount for 2011.  With three children under 19 (or five in our case) and tax credits, we could go onto a scheme that would reduce our annual bill from £1200 to £600.  It will be just for that year but that is a £50 a month saving.

Our Sky bill includes the broadband, telephone (evening and weekend calls free) and TV package, but not the line rental.  We pay on average £70 a month for this plus BT line rental of £12 so £82 in total.  Then I found out that BT were offering a better, as in cheaper, deal so rang Sky to tell them we couldn't afford their bills so were moving to BT for the broadband and phone.  Amazingly, within 30 minutes our average £82 total bill was down to £42 a month.   This was due to agreeing to paying Sky the line rental, matching BTs phone and broadband offer and giving us free calls all day (which costs an extra £5 a month but they said we were spending around £16 a month on calls).  So £40 a month saved from a 30 minute phone call.

Car tax, MOT, insurance and petrol
We currently run two cars and need to due to working in two different places and having our children in three different places.  However, the childcare pickups and work will not be a problem for nine months, so we have decided to SORN one of the cars and this will cut out £29 insurance a month, £150 (approx MOT), £170 tax for 6 month and approximately £15 a week in petrol.  Plus, my husband gets to be fitter by cycling to work!  So, that works out to be a £80 a month saving. If you can't get rid of a car (as we can't when we both work), try reading this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12664047  for tips on saving - features parents of a student of mine.

This is a bit of a drastic one but unfortunately one we have had to look at for the short term as I know other people have had to do.  I rang up our mortgage company (Nationwide) and asked them how we can reduce our payments while on maternity leave.  Unfortunately, we can not take a mortgage break due to being 2% short in their equity limit, but they suggested extended our term by a few years and changing three of our four mortgage accounts to interest only. Now, this isn't ideal as we have taken on debt over a longer period and we will have to find the capital at the end for the shortfall in the capital due to only paying interest only.  But, having looked at our pension forecasts, we have worked out we can afford it more in the long-term than the short-term and once I am back to work etc, we can move the term back down and the mortgage accounts back to repayment.  But for the next year, we will be making a saving of £250 a month.

Public Transport
Do some research.  We currently use a bus for our children for the days when I don't work and they have just doubled the fare so that it will cost us £7 a day for two children (or a massive £35 a week).  Checking out the train fares, we can save £4 a day (or £15 a week) when I am at home.  So a saving of £60 a month

Electricity and Gas Bills
Try ringing up your supplier and ask for their range of tariffs.  Often they do a reduced tariff for combined electric and gas, especially if you pay by direct debit.  We went on to special tariff that saved us £20 a month.  We did have to commit to stay with them for a set period but they were the cheapest anyway so wasn't a problem, plus they fixed the prices so no hidden shocks later.

At the moment, quite a few of the supermarkets are offering discount vouchers so keep an eye out.  For example, Sainsburys do a spend £50 get £5 off next time voucher.  News of the World had a spend £30 at Co-op and get £5 off voucher.
I managed to get two weeks groceries (including washing tablets and cat food) to feed six of us for £95.  How?  Well, I go in the evenings when it is quiet - Wednesdays at around 7pm or 8pm is a good time as this is when they start reducing the fresh food but there aren't a lot of customers to fight over it.  I also go with  paper and pen in my hand, which I have written down the basics we need.  Firstly, I go around the fresh food aisle and see what is reduced or on a good deal and then work out if I can make a meal out of it and write it on the piece of paper next to the day - it is not a good deal if you need to buy lots to make a meal.  For example, a pack of fresh meatballs were reduced from  £3.30 to £1.45, so I bought them, knowing that I had some long spaghetti and a tin of spaghetti sauce already at home and that will be a meal for six of us - spaghetti and meatballs.
So, get the bargains and make sure that you have all of the ingredients for a meal.  Do not buy anything else on a 'just in case' I need it.  You won't need it as you have your menu in your hand.  If you shop in this way, you will be surprised of how much you will save.  Bear in mind though that sometimes it is cheaper to buy one already made up than make your own (I know this isn't the PC way to do things but sometimes true) as if you need a lot of ingredients to m.ake a meal, it can cost you far more.

Martin's Money Tips
If you are not already a subscriber, please join up.  It is free!  He emails every week with  tips on how to save money and vouchers.  Well worth a quick read as I have saved a lot through him and it won't cost you a penny.

If you have not already signed up, then do it.  It is a place where people post things they want or don't want for free.  We have got rid of stuff that we haven't wanted to people that have needed it and equally, we have received some very useful things.  Recently, I got a baby bouncer and in the past we have had bookcases and even shower cubicles.  It can save you a lot of money although you sometimes have to wait quite a while for the thing you need to come up and you need to email people back quickly as things are snapped up.

So far a total of £500 a month saved!!!!
There are probably other savings that I haven't considered yet but am still thinking about ways to save and will post more as I think of them.


  1. Wow some great tips there hun, well done on the big saving, I will certainly be using some :) x

  2. great list! for things to do with children, you can also check out playpennies.com - there's often great savings there on everything from toys to wet wipes.

    we're moving house in a month and I'm rather terrified of all the new bills/tarrifs that we're going to encounter - thanks for this list. I think it's going to help!

  3. There are some really good ideas there - some of which I've already put into practice but I still have some savings to make looking at what you've achieved!

    It's a sad state of affairs when convenience foods are often cheaper than making everything from scratch but that's unfortunately the way it is now. Shame! Still possibly to eat nutritiously and on a budget by doing things like buying value ranges - especially things like canned tomatoes which are so versatile x