How to get financially fit for winter
The nights are drawing in, the winter coats are coming out of storage, and central heating is being turned on across the nation.
This means it’s a good time to make sure you and your home are ready for winter. From getting the right insurance to claiming all the money you’re entitled to, here are some easy steps to make winter cosier.
Around 11m households are on their energy provider’s highest tariff, meaning they are paying more than they need for their gas and electricity. What’s more, research from price comparison website MoneySuperMarket shows that almost a quarter of households have never switched suppliers.
Those who don’t shop around are being hit with the ‘loyalty penalty’, as they will have come off their energy supplier’s offer rates and will now be on their more expensive standard tariff. The Government’s energy price cap, which was introduced this year, has helped some of these people to save money, but they could still get a cheaper deal by switching.
It’s quick to switch. You’ll need your latest bill, so you can see your usage, and then use a price comparison website to see how much you could save. It’s important to not just go on price though, as you’ll want to weigh up how good the firm’s customer service record is too.
There are also lots of new energy providers on the market, so you might be wary of using a new firm with no track record. Those with an eye to making more environmentally-friendly life choices could also check out some of the ‘green’ suppliers that use renewable energy.
If all that feels too much hassle, you can just call your current supplier and get yourself onto a new deal with them. You might not save as much as if you switched, but at least you should pay less than you are now.
CLAIM YOUR FREE GOVERNMENT MONEY
If you’re over the age of 64 or on certain benefits you could be eligible for some handouts. The Winter Fuel Payment is for anyone born on or before 5 April 1954, and you could get from £100 up to £300. Apart from a few exclusions anyone of this age will get the payment as it’s not means tested.
If you qualify, you get £100 if you live with someone else who qualifies or live in a care home, or £200 if you live alone or with someone who doesn’t qualify. Someone born on or before 22 September 1939 would get between £150 and £300. You’ll need to claim it if you’ve not had it before, by calling 0800 731 0160, otherwise it will get paid automatically. Find out more information here.
People on certain benefits can claim extra allowances, have a look here if you’re eligible.
IS YOUR BOILER COVERED AND DOES IT NEED TO BE?
Some people don’t bother with boiler cover and instead prefer to self-insure, so effectively putting some money aside each month to cover any breakdowns or servicing. But if you’re boiler is getting older, you might want to think about getting cover.
You can go to a price comparison website and see how much cover will cost you. If it’s not included, most providers will want to ensure you’ve had the boiler serviced recently – and that’s probably a good idea if you’re due one as we go into winter and you use your heating more.
CHECK YOUR HOME INSURANCE
Winter means a rise in burst pipes. If not caught quickly, the resulting floods can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) found the average claim to repair a burst pipe was £8,800. You should check what your home insurance covers, and whether it covers the cost of finding out the cause of the leak, rather than just repairing the damage.
The ABI also has some top tips to help prevent burst pipes due to freezing: if you go away make sure you leave the heating on at intervals to stop pipes freezing; make sure you know where your stopcock is and how to turn it off; and check any pipes and water tanks that are in the loft are lagged.
GET YOUR CAR READY
You can get a free winter car check if you pop down to Halfords. Although only worth around £15, it will check your battery, oil levels, windscreen wipers and light bulbs, and top up your screenwash for free. However, if it flags any issues that need fixing then make sure you shop around for repair costs, to make sure you’re getting a good deal. Check here to see if you can get one in your area.
Also, while you’re at it, check that you’ve got good breakdown cover, as you’re more likely to get stuck in the cold weather. If you’ve already got cover see if you can get it cheaper elsewhere, or call up your current provider to get a better deal.