Give yourself a financial health-check and inspect your regular outgoings. Are you getting the best deal from your mortgage and credit cards? Log on to www.uswitch.com and see if you’re with the cheapest energy suppliers in your area. According to Ofgem, the gas and electricity regulator, only 15 per cent of gas customers and 17 per cent of electricity customers switched provider in 2010. That means a lot of us are missing out on better tariffs that could save us up to £200 a year.
If you think you need to switch providers, whether it’s for a utility or your phone provision or your television and internet package, it’s worth ringing your current providers first to tell them you’re planning to leave unless they can make you a better offer. They want to keep their customers, so if you’re likely to leave they may well try to tempt you to stay. You’ll end up talking to the disconnections department, and they have more leeway to make a deal that will entice you to stay with them. The excellent Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert advises: “If you’re worried it’ll call your bluff and cut you off, an easy get-out clause is to say: ‘I’ll call back after confirming with the wife/boyfriend/son/dog/parrot.’ Though if you don’t get the deal you want, consider ditching and switching.”
It does work, too. Adam says: “I was paying around £80 a month for my HD digital television package plus broadband. I called them up to say I just couldn’t afford it, and they said how much would I prefer to pay. I said something nearer £50 and he offered me £54 for six months, confirming I’d have no new contract or commitment, so could leave at any time before during or after the six-month period.”
If you’ve been a loyal customer, that gives you even more leverage. Maria threatened to leave her television and broadband supplier of six years when moving house, having had a better offer from another provider. Her existing supplier immediately came back with an even better and cheaper package. “I think I spent about three hours on the phone to make this happen, and lost the will to live twice – but I think it was worth it in the end,” she says.
If they refuse to budge but you’ve not found a much better deal elsewhere and cannot afford to keep paying the bill, it might be time to think seriously about whether you need all the media services you subscribe to. Do you really need all the movie channels, or all the sport? Do you really need unlimited downloading on your broadband? Do you need that all-inclusive call package on your phone line? You could cut hundreds off your yearly bill with one fell swoop.
Think about your day-to-day spend. It’s obvious and a bit dull, but it’s cheaper to make your lunch at home than to nip out to the deli around the corner from your office every day, and cheaper to drink instant coffee in the staff room (or stick to water now that you’re cutting down your caffeine intake, of course) than to fork out for that fancy latte in the coffee shop. It might seem like a tiny saving, but it adds up over the course of a few months.