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29 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Ten tips to cut costs on shopping, regular payments and household bills

From switching suppliers to cancelling your season ticket, find out how to minimise your outgoings during the COVID-19 outbreak

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is set to disrupt day-to-day life for a number of weeks - and possibly months.

With the majority of us now working from home and avoiding social spaces, you may be thinking about how you can cut down costs for services you're no longer using.

Here, we breakdown the main ways you can protect your pocket over the next few weeks.

    Updated on Sunday 29 March in response to new government measures

    1. Review your TV subscriptions

    The majority of sports fixtures have been cancelled, which means you probably won't be watching much BT Sports or Sky Sports over the next few weeks.

    Sky Sports is allowing you to pause your subscription free of charge. You can pause your subscription online, though a number of people have contacted us to say they've been unable to pause it, due to Sky Sports experiencing technical difficulties.

    BT Sports is now giving customers three options:

    • You can donate the cost of one month's BT Sport to the NHS.
    • You can claim one month's credit back.
    • If you have fibre broadband, you can sign up to BT's new flexible TV package and get BT Sport free for three months.

    If you've already exhausted Netflix, you might consider signing up to Sky, which is offering a number of free extras during the period of self-isolation.

    Sky is working with Universal Pictures to release new films, via Sky Store, at the same time as their cinema release.

    If you're over 75, the BBC has announced that its licence fee won't come into force until 1 August.

    2. Keep energy costs down

    You may notice your energy bills go up as you spend more time at home.

    The government has agreed measures with energy suppliers to support vulnerable customers through the outbreak.

    All energy customers facing financial difficulties will be supported by their supplier. This could include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced, or paused. Disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended.

    Customers with pre-payment meters who may not be able to add credit during isolation periods can speak to their provider about keeping them supplied during the outbreak.

    If you're looking to get a better deal on your energy while self-isolating, it may be worth looking at deals offered by different providers.

    Switching energy supplier could save a household using a medium amount of gas and electricity £388 per year if they switch to the cheapest deal on the market from one priced at the level of the price cap, and we've got a number of tips on how to find the best deal for you.

    While switching is a great way to save, it can take a while to notice the difference in your bank account, plus you'll have to wait for the 14 day cooling-off period to elapse for the switch to begin and then at least another week before you're fully switched.

    If you're looking for more immediate ways to cut costs, here are some tips:

    • Replace light bulbs
    • Cut draughts
    • Don't leave your gadgets on standby (this could save you up to £30 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust)
    • Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when they're full and use energy-efficient programs
    • Switch off radiators in rooms you're not using

    Compare gas and electricity prices using Which? Switch.

    3. Get a better broadband deal

    Broadband suppliers have confirmed they'll be able to handle mass-scale home-working, despite fears that networks might crash.

    That said, if you're out of contract, it's likely you could be getting a better service or deal.

    If you're happy with your supplier, you can ring it to negotiate a new deal for a lower price. We have some tips on how best to haggle.

    Or, if you're interested in switching suppliers, you can look out for cheap introductory prices, which are offered by most broadband providers.

    Most switches are unaffected by delays caused by coronavirus, so you're unlikely to be left without a service while you switch.

    However, if your switch does require installation, you may have to wait longer than normal for an engineer appointment. You can use the contact details on our site to check with your new provider whether that's the case.

    With more people working from home, you might want to look for faster fibre deals, which are often more affordable than standard broadband.

    Fibre is both faster and more reliable than standard (ADSL) broadband; useful if there's multiple people working from home at the same time.

    4. Remortgage your property

    Row of houses

    If you're coming to the end of your mortgage deal or your property has increased in value, remortgaging could save you thousands of pounds a year.

    Mortgage rates are low at the moment, so it's well worth looking into.

    You can usually lock in a new rate six months before the end of your current fixed-term.

    So, if your current deal ends this summer, you can already start to shop around for a new one, and avoid being passed on to your lender's standard variable rate.

    The government has also announced mortgage payment holidays for customers who face financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

    Some banks have also confirmed they'll let customers increase their credit card limits and access their savings accounts early.

    5. Lower your car insurance premiums

    As you won't be using your car as much, you can ask your insurer to switch the details of your policy from commuter use to social use.

    This may reduce your premium payments.

    If you don't think you'll be using your car at all, you can cancel your policy and register your car as being off the road, which will exempt you from vehicle tax.

    Remember to drive your car every so often, if possible, so your car batteries don't go flat.

    6. Late deliveries - your right to a refund

    Retailers are said to be struggling with a rapid increase of online orders, set only to intensify as more shoppers self-isolate.

    If your delivery is late or doesn't turn up, you still have consumer rights to get your money back.

    Retailers have to deliver within the timeframe promised in your contract, and if no timeframe has been agreed, the retailer must deliver it within 30 days of your order.

    So, if you've been waiting a long time for your order to get to you, you are within your rights to cancel it and get a refund.

    You can use our template letter to start your cancellation.

    7. Online groceries - reject strange substitutions

    Bread roll instead of loo roll?

    Supermarkets are experiencing a high demand for certain products, as well as an influx of orders, which means you may end up receiving some interesting product substitutions.

    If you have had product substitutions, this should be made clear to you either when you place your order or on your delivery note, which you can check when the delivery arrives.

    And if you're unhappy with the substitution, you can ask for it to be returned and refunded at no extra cost to you.

    The same goes for contactless deliveries. Asda has advised customers to leave any unwanted products in the totes they arrived in for a full refund.

    Ocado and Sainsburys have said they won't take back any unwanted substitutes, but will reimburse customers if they're not happy with them. You should get in touch with their customer services teams if you'd like a refund.

    Or, if you want to avoid substitutions altogether, make sure to untick the substitution option when you make your order.

    8. Cancel your season ticket

    Most public transport companies in the UK will let you cancel your season ticket if you're now working from home, refunding you the remaining portion of your ticket.

    City transport operators such as Transport for London, Transport for Greater Manchester and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport will also offer a refund on the remainder of your season pass.

    Some operators have restrictions on cancelling close to the season's ticket expiry date though, so it's important to look at your T&Cs as soon as possible.

    If you need to cancel pre-booked tickets, it's worth contacting the retailer or train company you bought them from. You could be entitled to a full refund.

    9. Freeze your gym membership

    The government instructed gyms to close 'as soon as they reasonably can' for an indefinite period of time from 20 March 2020.

    Some gyms we've spoken to - such as Nuffield Health and PureGym - have automatically frozen all memberships until their gyms can re-open.

    But don't assume your gym will have done the same. Others that we've spoken to, including Energie Fitness and David Lloyd, ask that you get in touch to freeze your membership.

    10. Check if you're entitled to free data and minutes

    A number of phone providers are offering free allowances to customers.

    As of Monday 23 March, Virgin Mobile pay-monthly customers will have unlimited minutes and an extra 10GB data boost for a month.

    Sky Mobile is also giving customers an extra 10GB of data, free of charge. The data will be added to your Piggybanks and can be shared across any SIM cards on the account.

    It's worth keeping an eye on your mobile provider to see if they offer something similar.