Bills can be stressful – so managing them effectively is a great way of getting peace of mind.
It can be tempting to ignore bills when you know it can be a struggle to pay them. But the last thing you want is for them to start piling up. Missing bills can also affect your credit score.
Here are some ideas to help you stay on top of your money by keeping your bills under control.
Check if your bills could be cheaper
You might also be able to save money by comparing your bills and seeing if you can find a cheaper supplier for utilities like gas, electricity and water.
There are so many providers that it can be daunting to choose. But there are comparison websites you can use to you find the best deal.
The energy regulator Ofgem has a list of accredited sites that comply with the industry code of practice.
MoneySavingExpert has also launched an autoswitch service, which allows you to switch automatically to the cheapest deal every year.
If you receive Pension Credit or are on a low income, you could get a discount on your electricity bill.
The Warm Home Discount Scheme means you could get a winter discount on your heating bills if you receive Pension Credit or are on a low income.
The Government says it intends to extend the scheme to the winter of 2021-2022.
If you don’t qualify for this scheme but find your utilities are still hard to afford, you could look at ways of cutting back your usage. We have useful everyday tips on how to save money on energy.
Broadband bills can be a big part of your outgoings too.
Millions of households faced price increases from 31 March 2021 by suppliers including Sky, BT and EE.
If you’ve gone beyond the minimum term of your contract, you can switch to another provider without paying a penalty. Check first about how much notice you need to give.
The regulator Ofcom says customers can also leave mid-contract without being charged a penalty - but only if a provider raises prices by more than the Retail Price Index (RPI) rate of inflation.
Choose the best way to pay
It's worth thinking about which way to pay bills suits you best. You could save money, or give yourself more control over when you pay, depending on which method you choose.
Direct Debit is often the easiest way. It automates your payments – so you don’t have to think about them each month – and ensures your bills are paid on time. It can also be cheaper as some companies offer a discount if you pay by Direct Debit.
By post, or in person
If you prefer not to use digital banking, you can often post a cheque to pay a bill. Remember to allow up to 5 days for the recipient to process your cheque and for the money to go out of your account.
You can also pay many bills at your local Post Office. This can be convenient if you don't have a chequebook, as you should be able to pay by cash or card. But bear in mind that there may be a fee.
Make sure you pay your bills on time
If you haven’t automated all your payments, make sure your bills are organised, and set a calendar reminder so you won’t forget when each one is due. That way, it's easier to make sure they don't mount up. You'll also avoid any late payment charges if you pay on time.
If you have paper bills, it's a good idea to keep them all together.
Remember also to make sure you've got enough in your account to cover your bills. That could help you to avoid any overdraft charges.
Check all your bills carefully. That's the best way to spot mistakes and keep an eye on whether any bills are going up, or down.
Try choosing one day a month and setting a reminder to check all your bills on that day.
Budget with tools
Balance After Bills estimates what you'll owe for the month ahead, based on your regular bills. It then shows you how much you could have left, once scheduled bills (standing orders and Direct Debits) are paid.
This can help make it easier to budget successfully from one payday to the next.
It’s part of the HSBC UK Mobile Banking app, so you’ll need to download the app to your mobile device to use it and register for mobile and online banking.
There's also a wide range of other mobile banking apps which can help you organise a payday budget.
Some allow you to put money for bills into a pot and keep it separate from your other spending.
Find out more about managing your money with tech and tools.
See if you can save by paying annually
Some bills can be paid either once a year, or in monthly instalments. This usually applies to things like car, or home, insurance.
Paying your annual premium in one go can be the cheapest way to do it. But it can be difficult to afford lump sum payments – not surprising when you consider the average cost of car insurance is now £755.1
Paying in monthly instalments makes it easier to spread the cost over the whole year. But research suggests drivers opting for monthly premiums are paying an extra £55.36 on average compared to those paying annually.2
With that kind of potential saving, it’s worth looking to see if there’s any way you can pay the annual premium in full. But check first, because not all insurance policies charge interest on the monthly payments. For example, with HSBC Home Insurance, there's no interest on monthly instalments.
Council Tax is another bill that can seem daunting when it lands on your doormat.
The full amount for the year is usually payable in 10 monthly instalments rather than 12. This means you get a 2-month council tax break in February and March. That could give you valuable wiggle room to pay any other outstanding bills that you might have been struggling with.
Most Council Tax bills in the UK went up April 2021, with rises varying greatly depending on where you live. Scottish councils froze their rates for 2021/22 but several councils in England and Wales increased theirs by over 6%.
If you're finding it hard to afford the monthly amount, check to see if your local authority can help to spread the cost further. Many councils offer the option of making 11 or 12 payments a year instead of 10.
If you’re struggling to pay your bills, it’s best to get help straight away. If you’re going to be late with a payment, get in touch with the company you’re paying to discuss your options. You could also speak to your bank about an overdraft or loan.
You can also use our budget planner to take control of your spending. It’ll help you work out where your money goes and see if you can start saving more.