Beat the bills this winter with Anneka Rice
Energy bills are skyrocketing, and winter is about to hit. Faced with this double whammy, many of us are worried about what we see as our only two options: in a nutshell, heat or eat. A new survey reveals that more than half a million householders believe they won’t be able to pay their bills and don’t know how they will manage this winter. But it doesn’t have to be a catastrophe. Anneka Rice is famous for facing down tough challenges on TV, and now the intrepid presenter and mum of three is going online with practical advice designed to help you beat the challenge of winter fuel bills.
Most of us are on standby to make sacrifice on luxuries to make ends meet. Two thirds of people surveyed say they will forego new clothes; one in four will cancel digital TV while 30% say they will do without Christmas presents, according to the research by LloydsTSBCompare.com. Log on to the chat with Anneka and Helen Wylde from LloydsTSBCompare.com, and you can find out how, just by taking a few simple, easy to implement steps in your home, you can save pounds on utilities and take the sting out of the cash crisis this winter.
Anneka Rice and Helen Wylde of LloydsTSBcompare.com joins us to discuss saving on winter fuel bills.
For more information visit www.lloydstsbcompare.com
H: Lis Speight, host
A: Anneka Rice
K: Kat Chinnock, LloydsTSBcompare.com
H: Hello and welcome to the Consumer Advice Show, I’m Lis Speight. Now then you’re probably getting bored of hearing about the current economic climate, but with energy bills skyrocketing, and the winter about to land upon us, it’s no wonder so many of you are worried about your cashflow. A new survey reveals that more than half a million householders believe they won't be able to pay their bills and don't know quite how they will manage this winter. But it doesn't have to be a catastrophe because joining me on the show today is a woman not shy of a challenge, Anneka Rice, welcome along Anneka, lovely to see you, and also Kat Chinnock from LloydsTSBCompare.com, really great to see you today. Kat, some pretty worrying statistics in this research then. With so many people worried about sort of paying for the essentials –
H: tell us a little bit about the research
K: We actually found from the research how worried our customers are, and that’s why we’ve launched recently our comparison site. One in four of our customers are actually getting increases in their bills of over £50
H: Wow –
K: I know it’s huge
H: Is that a year or –
K: No a month
H: A month? In energy bills or just sort of general?
K: Yes that’s right, in energy bills
K: so it is a worrying time, there’s been a release today from the BBC saying that our energy prices are increasing and double that of the rest of the European Union
H: It doesn’t seem fair really does it?
K: No it doesn’t and it’s a real concern with our customers at the moment
H: And what are people doing, I mean to try and sort of cut back? Are they doing crazy things?
K: Yes they are doing crazy things. The obviously things like energy saving light bulbs, switching appliances off, but they’re also starting to cut back on things like Christmas presents and holidays and eating out, I think 8% actually said they were going to share bath water
H: Well it’s like the old days isn’t it?
K: I won’t be doing that!
H: Are you going to be sharing your bath water with anyone –
A: We’ve always shared our bath water in our family, it’s – see I’m not finding that strange.
H: Maybe it’s a generation thing
A: Maybe – oh God that makes me feel so old –
H: Maybe it’s a family thing though because you live on your own don’t you?
K: Yes I do
A: But if you’ve got kids of course you share – well once they’re old enough not to pee in the water – which they swear they don’t do
H: This is going to a base level already isn’t it?
A: But you know seriously things like sharing a bath water, I mean that is just obvious
H: Makes sense
A: If you’re having, if you’re all – obviously if you all want a bath at the same time otherwise it’s a bit confusing is you suddenly have to have a bath at 5 o’clock or something
K: But it seems sad that we have to sort of cut back on these sacrifices really because of these energy bills –
A: You see I don’t think it’s sad, I see – I’m not embracing this time of belt tightening but I think it’s inevitable, and in a way, in a lot of ways I think it’s about time because I think we’ve become so profligate with everything and wasteful
H: Yes you’re right
A: And I was very aware of it even before all this sort of credit crunch economic catastrophe happened. The wastage everywhere, you know you drive down the road there’s just lights on everywhere, and I think –
H: But it’s not like when we were growing up is it? When we were growing up you didn’t have as much money in your pocket. I mean I say we, you’re a little bit younger than us
H: But it’s true, we’ve got much more money in our pockets
A: My parents’ generation were out of the war generation, and so they grew up with having to tighten up their belts, that was how their childhood had been, that’s how –
H: No spare cash
A: They were prudent, sensible, that’s was sort of passed on to me, you know that you didn’t sort of leave lights on all over the house, you didn’t have the heating on in every room if you weren’t using it in every room, so I suppose I’ve just been brought up like that, so I brought my children up like that, and they’re terribly sensible
H: Well that’s good isn’t it?
A: You know my 10 year old son is really, really brilliant. He’s the one that will go and say look someone’s left all the lights on upstairs
H: The environment – kids are very into the environment aren’t they?
A: They are very into the environment, so in a way I’m embracing that and I think it is a good thing that we’ve all been sort of stopped short
H: Anneka’s a real trail blazer
A: Well you know I just think it’s timely and it had to happen in a way and I think it’s terribly sad for a lot of people who really are going to struggle this winter though, you know it’s all very well if you can afford to sort of take it on as a big adventure
A: But if you’re really struggling to pay that extra £40 a month that’s a lot of money
K: It is a lot of money
H:You went out and about didn’t you on the streets of London asking people what they actually thought about it, whether they were finding the credit crunch was hitting them?
H: Now – you took a film crew with you, so let’s take a look at what people had to say
A: How’s your bill paying going this winter?
Not very well
The bills are always getting more and more expensive
Well the heating and eating, everything’s gone up with the eating and the heating, there’s not much we can do except sort of cut back, keep cutting back all the time, you know
Do I eat, do I pay my bills? What do I do, you know?
A: Can I just ask you, have you ever used a price comparison website?
I have yes
Yes I have as well
Yes I have used a price comparison website and I have saved a few pounds on my energy bills
A: Well that’s really interesting because in fact LloydsTSBCompare.com who have discovered through their research that only a third of us have ever actually switched their energy providers, so we’re not doing enough to sort ourselves out really
Well the cost of living’s gone up in the credit crunch so I’ve been online, checked out a few comparison websites and I’ve managed to save some money combining my broadband and phone bills, so yes I’ll keep going and see what else I can save
H: Well done that man, he saved loads of money didn’t he? So Anneka were you surprised by what people were saying?
A: Do you know I was absolutely staggered because we just randomly popped into a London park, where people were sort of having a lunch break and –
H: That’s good to get a random cross-section isn’t it?
A: Complete random cross-section, and every single person we asked was concerned, you know which is unusual with box pops when you’re doing something like that
A: Because a lot of people just go –
H: Don’t know what you’re talking about
A: Don’t know what you’re talking about or it doesn’t bother us or – keeps their head down and wanders on. Everyone wanted to have the chance to talk about what they were experiencing
A: And you know when they say things like heating or eating – it’s extraordinary
H: It’s quite frightening isn’t it?
A: It’s really severe stuff. But this price comparison website thing which is – which we’ve all been aware of for quite a while now, it’s something that I just skirted around for ages, literally waking up in the middle of the night thinking I should be doing this, and had never done it, and I found it a revelation when I actually went online and did this comparison, and immediately I could cut my gas and electricity bills by £300 a year
H: Wow that’s amazing isn’t it?
A: And that’s just so much money
H: It is
A: That I’m wasting. And it’s just the principle, I don’t want to give it to those great fat cats who have got all that oil and not sharing the decent cost with us! You know it – I think everyone’s got that spirit behind them now
H: That’s right – it’s a wartime spirit maybe we’re getting back aren’t we?
A: You’ve got to beat the system and it was very exciting to do that, and I haven’t done it with other areas of my household things yet but I will do. But the website’s also got things, you know you can go and compare your supermarket costs locally or petrol, brilliant
H: So Kat this is the LloydsTSB
H: The new website that’s coming through. So tell us about it, how can it be useful, how can it help you save money?
K: Well like Anneka said the average saving is around £280 a year for people that are using the site for energy prices, and we’ve just created a really easy service that customers can use and save money. It is a bit daunting sometimes with all the websites and like you said you did skirt around it a bit, but this is really accessible for our customers, and it gives you a free impartial advice so you can look at your household bills, compare it across the whole market and really see if you’re getting the right deal for you
H: And is it difficult to use, I mean do you –
K: It’s so easy
H: I mean do you have to be a real brain surgeon – is it?
K: Yes it’s really easy. I don’t know how you found it but –
A: Even I –
K: But yes
H: Even Anneka could use it! She’s a bit of a technophobe
A: I am a bit of a technophobe – well I just get so irritated, you know. What was I doing yesterday? Oh trying to pay my TV licence –
A: I lost the will to live! Lost the will to live because you know I spent 20 minutes and then at the last minute, you know they
H: It all went wrong
A: Oh I don’t know – you’ve got to be fairly stoic to get on with it, unless you are of that younger –
H: Quite savvy
A: Generation that dos everything online, but you know it – it’s worth it. Considering it’s a website, I think it’s one of the better ones I’ve come across
H: You do have to put a bit of effort in, don’t you, if you want to save some money, because if you just sit there watching the telly and thinking oh watching all your pounds flying out, well then you’re not going to save any money, but if you make a bit of an effort, set an evening aside maybe to do it –
K: It’s not even much of an effort to be honest, you just get to put your personal details in, press a button and the site does all the work for you
H: Oh does it, that’s what we like to hear. As far as food shopping goes then, there’s actually supermarket comparisons on there as well – that’s a good idea
K: Yes there’s a link on there and – as Anneka mentioned –a petrol check just to see where the best deals are around your local area
K: Yes. And there’s also other insurance products as well as energy, so there’s motor, travel, van, motorbike insurance so it’s really –
H: Petrol prices as well you can check on there
K: Yes –
A: It’s great because it’s a real wake-up call for all these retailers
H: Well exactly
A: Who we have blindly followed and you know not been able to be involved historically, and suddenly I think the consumer is being empowered by these websites
H: And we’ve got a lot more choice these days as well –
A: And –
H: It’s not just one shop in the corner is there, we could go to here, there and everywhere so they’ve got to get their act together haven’t they?
A: Yes so I mean that’s empowering, so that can only be a good thing as well
H: Well let’s take some of your questions in. Lucy sent one in, she says “there’s nothing wrong with sharing bath water, but using a shower saves even more water, so I’ve been told.”
A: That’s true
H: What do you say to that
K: I would say that is true, definitely
A: No that is true, it saves something like a third I think. No definitely showers are good, but if you are having a bath, and often children, small children like baths at the end of the day
H: That’s right. My little girl won’t go in the shower, she’s frightened of it
A: No showers are quite overwhelming if you’re only that high
A: You sort of feel you’re in a tropical downpour. So I think it’s mainly you –
K: Shower’s definitely –
A: You’re sharing perhaps a child or something – I wouldn’t want to share, a child or a partner coming in from a game of rugby
H: No exactly – it depends how dirty they are. How smelly your partner is! But showers as well, you’ve got to be careful because you can stand for hours in the shower. I’ve got a teenage nephew, he stands in the shower until the water runs cold
A: Yes, yes
H: You know it’s all gone. You can get those shower timers can’t you that you can – if you’ve got teenagers you can just put that on and say right your 5 minutes is up. Out!
H: Otherwise you’re standing there all day. Now I’ve got another question in from Disarno, he said “how would you reduce the cost of cooking through using gas cooker oven for a family of four?” Maybe cooking in bulk, forward planning, that sort of thing?
K: Yes I’d say so. That’s probably the best way to do it
A: Yes because there’s a lot of room in an oven, there are several trays – actually that’s quite a good idea you know maybe just sort of think ahead and prepare two or three meals at one time
H: And maybe if you did a whole batch of spaghetti bolognaise or something like that and then –
K: Have it the next day
H: Make a chilli or make a lasagne or something so – just – and also I find if I – I don’t know whether you’ve got a microwave as well Disarno but I used to cook my jacket potatoes – this is a bit boring actually – but I used to cook my jacket potatoes in the oven and have it one for an hour, now I will do them in the microwave first for 5 minutes, put them in the oven for 20 minutes, and you think of all that gas you save
H: Top tips, you’re all here! Now David’s written in, he says “I’m worried about my mum’s heating bills going up. Where else can savings be made?” So presumably he’s looked at cutting down the heating bills – where else can you think about cutting costs?
A: Well I think a huge thing to look at is insulation, from windows which is what I’ve been looking at at home – you know it depends what sort of house you’ve got but most houses are a bit leaky round the windows
A: You can walk past a window on a cold evening and actually feel air circulating
H: Yes, especially older houses
A: So I think it – you know, you can either literally seal up your windows for the winter which is what my builder suggested to me funnily enough this week, literally seal them up, and I mean it’s very easy to unseal them afterwards
H: So you get that sort of squashy –
A: Squashy something that goes round
H: Yes, insulation tape
A: We’re so technical aren’t we, I love it. Just if you’re not going to be opening all your windows –
H: Well that’s right, probably not
A: You can choose some to seal up, or curtains, you know it’s amazing how just you know pulling the curtains as soon as the light goes, and you know all keeping heat in
K: Definitely. And things like insulating your water tank and energy-efficient light bulbs and like we were talking about earlier about switching things off if you’re not using them, it’s surprising what that saves
H: Yes you can get grants can’t you, from the government these days to insulate – what do they call it? Cavity wall insulation, and if you’re older, I don’t know how old your mums is but if she’s a pensioner you can get grants to do your loft and all that sort of thing to try and cut down on the heating bills. Another tip I heard the other day was to switch your radiators off upstairs and just have your downstairs ones on and then the heat goes –
A: Yes, heat rises anyway and it’s better not to sleep in a very hot bedroom anyway
H: Yes exactly
A: It’s what you tell everyone anyway, even if you don’t agree with it. I actually like sleeping in a cold room
H: I always have my window open actually, I hate being too hot. But say you’ve done all your heating, where do you go from there then? Food shopping is the next one I suppose to think about?
K: Yes – well you can use the supermarket checker on our site
K: I suppose that’s a good way to start, just having a look and find out which are the best shops for you, dependent on your basket I suppose.
A: And also, I mean again you know it’s so difficult to generalise –
H: Well that’s right, everyone’s lives are different aren’t they?
A: But I find it helps if I sort of almost avoid supermarkets if I can, if you’re lucky enough to sort of have local shops you can walk to and get to, and just buy what you really need, so really plan those meals and buy what you need because it’s so easy to go into a huge supermarket, and you go into sort of la la land
H: You go mad don’t you?
A: And you think I really do need that extra, you know plate of whatever
A: And the fridge is inevitably going to be groaning with stuff you’re just not going to get through
H: So make a list before you go out and stick to it. That’s quite hard though isn’t it –
A: Make a meal list
H: When you see those chocolate muffins on the shelf and you think
A: Oh no they won’t be wasted!
H: They’ll get eaten won’t they! It’ll be the salad that goes off
A: I didn’t mean things like that!
H: We all need a little treat, don’t we, now and again? Now we’ve got another question in from Sarah, she said “I’ve maxed out on my credit cards and am at the edge of my overdraft.” Oh dear – “what can I do?” Sounds like a lady in trouble. Needs to get a grip on it really doesn’t she?
K: Yes. I suggest going on things like the comparison site and just seeing what you can save, because it’s really surprising, just looking through your statements
H: Bank statements?
K: Just checking direct debits and finding out where you can save money
K: Be really surprising
H: So if you look at your house insurance, your car insurance and just – if each of those things you save £50 on –
K: Exactly – it all mounts up yes
H: But just generally day-to-day living, going to work I find costs you money, so you could save money by not buying your lunch out
K: And coffee
H: Yes, it does mount up though doesn’t it?
K: That’s a big expense a week I find at work
H: Are you finding that your life has been affected by the credit crunch?
K: Yes it is, even though I live on my own, it still is – I’m having to watch things, what I’m buying in the supermarkets or in general, like cutting down spending money on clothes and shoes and things
H: Yes that’s right
K: But I know it’s affecting the families and the older generation a little bit more
H: But if they go on the website then hopefully they’ll save some money.
H: And Anneka you’ve already made a start haven’t you?
A: Yes I’m so impressed with my mother when she came for lunch on Sunday she sort of said to me which garage should I go to for petrol on the way home
H: So it’s affecting everybody isn’t it?
A: People are really entering into the spirit of this now and you know as I said before it’s empowering –
A: And we’re sort of mad not to make the most of this information that companies like yours are providing for us
H: Kat and Anneka thanks very much for coming in, it’s really good to talk to you, some really good tips there. So if you don’t fancy a winter of discontent then the challenge is on, see how much money you can save. All you have to do is to go onto the website which is www.LloydsTSBCompare.com. It’s challenging times – challenge you to see how much money you can save. Thanks for watching, bye bye