Bills – How to save on household bills (energy, food, banking)

This section looks at how to make savings on household bills.

Food shopping

Over half of the food that we throw away can be eaten. Follow our shopping tips to save money and reduce waste.

Before you go shopping

  • Do a stock take of your cupboards and fridge to see what you have;
  • Plan the meals you are going to have for the week and think about using up leftovers;
  • Make a shopping list and stick to it;
  • Set yourself a target budget;
  • Do not go shopping on an empty stomach; and
  • Remember to take your bags for life.

Shopping tips

  • Downshift your brands
    If you normally buy premium brands try shifting to a ‘regular’ band, supermarket own-brand or the economy range.
  • Buy loose items
    Pre-packaged and prepared items can often cost more. Save yourself some money and buy loose fruit and vegetables in the quantities you will use.
  • A not-so-special offer
    Do not assume offers are good deals – look at the price per unit and work out which represents the best value for money. Remember though, it is only a good deal if you need it.
  • Use it or lose it
    More than half the food we throw away can be eaten. Eating anything past the ‘use-by’ date can be risky, but ‘best before’ date is just for guidance. Use taste, sight and smell to decide, but if in doubt throw it out.
  • Reuse and recycle
    Consider buying refills to cut down on price and waste.
  • End of aisle promotions
    Beware of end of aisle displays and promotions in prime areas of a shop. Check to see if they really represent good value and ask yourself if you actually need them.

Energy bills

Switching your energy supplier and being more energy efficient could help you to save money on your energy bills.

Switching energy supplier

The Consumer Council have developed an energy price comparison tool that will enable you to compare electricity and gas tariffs for every supplier in Northern Ireland.  By switching supplier you can save money and you may also get a better service as competition encourages suppliers to improve service.

You can switch if you are a homeowner or you rent your home as long as you pay the bill. During switching there will be no interruption to your supply of energy and no change to the quality of your supply. You can switch as often as you wish but you may incur an early exit fee if you are on a fixed term contract.

You can check the latest tariffs on The Consumer Council’s online energy price comparison tool

See also our Switch On Electricity and Gas guide for all the information you need to know about electricity and gas.

Home heating oil

The Consumer Council carries out a survey of heating oil prices across various locations in Northern Ireland. These details are published on our website and are updated every week.

Tips when purchasing oil include:

  • Buy the largest amount you can afford as the larger refill you buy the less you pay per litre of heating oil;
  • Avoid using emergency oil drums if possible, these should only be used in emergency situations where you have run out of oil.  This is because a 20 litre emergency drum could cost 65% more per litre than the cost of the average oil refill.
  • Only sign up to a payment scheme such as direct debit if it suits your needs.
  • Prices quoted over the phone and on company websites must be accurate and reflect the price paid at the point of delivery. A quote over the phone or online is a contract unless otherwise stated, and is therefore legally binding.

See our Switch On Home Heating Oil guide for all the information you need to know about home heating oil.

Energy efficiency

There are a number of actions we can take to make savings on our energy bills.

The Energy Saving Trust recommends the following tips:

  • Only boil the amount of water you need for your cup of tea and save around £6 per year;
  • Spend one minute less in the shower each day and save around £7 per year;
  • Change to bulbs to LED ones and save around £35 per year;
  • Switch off appliances at the wall instead of leaving them on standby and save around £30 per year; a
  • Insulate your hot water tank and save around 10% per year; and
  • Lower your thermostat by just one degree and save around £75 per year.

Energy Efficiency Grants and Schemes

You may be able to get some help to update your heating system and add other money saving measures to your home.

Making sure your home is well insulated can significantly reduce unnecessary heat loss and therefore save on home energy bills.

Comparing and Switching Bank Accounts

Only 3% of consumers switch their current account. You may be able to make savings by switching your current account and ensuring that you are getting the best deal.

The Consumer Council has developed a current account comparison table that will allow you to compare the current account products available in Northern Ireland (NI).

This will help you to compare offerings from different providers in NI and check if you are getting the most from your account. It will allow you to check:

  • What interest (if applicable) you are earning on your current account or could be earning if you switched;
  • The fees and charges on your account such as account fees, authorised and unauthorised overdraft fees and charges;
  • Any eligibility criteria such as minimum monthly funding requirements;
  • How you can access these accounts; and
  • The account provider’s website for further details and terms and conditions