As if the threat of catching a global virus wasn’t bad enough, millions of households are also dealing with a huge cut in their household income.
The average family is £515 a month worse off because of coronavirus, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), which has calculated there’s a monthly fall of £14.2 billion in UK disposable incomes due to job losses, wage cuts and furloughing.
And while various measures are being put in place to help ease financial pressures, including mortgage, credit card and loan payment holidays of up to three months, many will still need to tighten their belts.
“It’s easier to save money at this time,” says personal finance expert Jasmine Birtles of MoneyMagpie, “because there are fewer temptations as nothing’s open. If you aren’t working because of the lockdown, embrace the time and go through your expenses to see what you can save. You should be able to save at least £1,000 a year just by doing things like changing your insurance and energy providers.”
While Laura McGadie, head of consumer advice at the Energy Saving Trust (EST) points out that small changes to household energy use will save money, and help the environment too. “It’s now more important than ever to follow the government advice and stay at home to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, but as we know this will impact household energy bills,” she says. “By undertaking small changes we can make a difference in reducing our energy bills, as well as make ourselves more comfortable and have a positive impact on the environment.”
10 money-saving tips to try now
Here, financial and energy experts give their tips on how to save money during the lockdown.
1. Switch off standby
The EST says research shows making even one small change, such as turning appliances off rather than keeping them on standby, could save households £690 million – or around £30 a year per household – and curb the release of 1.3 million tonnes of carbon emissions.
Almost all electronic appliances can be turned off at the plug without upsetting their programming. Unplug all chargers when not in use, especially any that have display lights, and turn off tablets, laptops and consoles as soon as you stop using them, ideally unplugging them. But check the instructions for any appliances you aren’t sure about – some satellite and digital TV recorders may need to be left plugged in.
2. Sign up for free trials
MoneyMagpie points out there are many subscription services offering free trials, but while they can save you money in the short-term, it’s important to note how long the free trial lasts and make a note to cancel before it ends and you start being charged. Examples of current free trials include the 30-day free trial from Amazon Prime 30-day free trial, a seven-day free trial of Disney Plus, and if you like audiobooks, Audible is offering a free 30-day trial.
3. Turn off lights and update lightbulbs
Turn your lights off when you’re not using them – and remind the kids to do it too. This will save you around £14 a year on your annual energy bills, says the EST. And you can buy LED spotlights that are bright enough to replace halogens, as well as regular energy-saving bulbs (compact fluorescent lamps). They say if the average household replaced all bulbs with LEDs, it would cost about £100 and save about £35 a year on bills.
4. Pause TV sport subscriptions
The digital banking service thinkmoney says that with most major sporting events cancelled, you can save £30 per month by pausing your Sky Sports subscription. While BT customers are encouraged to get in touch with the company about their sports packages.
5. Switch energy providers, insurers and bank accounts
Use comparison websites such as uswitch to reduce your energy bills, and look at changing your insurance and bank accounts too. “Try contacting your current insurers and asking for a better deal,” suggests Birtles. “And there are better deals to be had with savings accounts – you can get £50 by switching bank accounts.”
6. Change broadband provider
It may be worth investigating whether you can save money by switching your broadband provider. Thinkmoney says this can save £69 per year on average.
7. Take control of your heating
If your heating’s set for being out of the house during the day, think about what suits your new lockdown routine. If not commuting to work means you’re getting an extra half hour in bed, set your heating to come on later. Turning down your room thermostat by just one degree can save around £80 a year, according to EST – just wear an extra layer.
8. Get cashback on shopping
Money Magpie says doing regular shopping through cashback companies such as Quidco and TopCashback makes sense. Start an account with them and then check out the retailers they’re partnered with, click through to the shops, and when you’ve made a purchase you get some money back. Quidco and TopCashBack get money from the shops for referring you and then pass a cut of that on to you.
9. Be careful in your kitchen
The EST claims householders can save around £36 a year on energy bills just by using kitchen appliances more carefully. So use a bowl to wash up rather than a running tap and save £25 a year, cut back your washing machine use by just one cycle per week and save £5 a year, and only fill the kettle with the amount of water you need, saving around £6 a year. It doesn’t sound like a lot – but every penny counts!
10. Sell unwanted items
If you need to save money it might be worth trying to make a bit extra too, by using some of your new-found time to sell things you don’t need on ebay or Gumtree, suggests Birtles. “Now is a very good time for sorting out rubbish and selling it, or putting it aside to sell when the lockdown’s over so you don’t need to go out to post it,” she says.