We cut our bills by £2,376
HAVING to welcome twin babies into the world, paramedic Samuel Crowe and his partner Clare Holmes were finding it harder than ever to keep up with the bills.
But after The Sun intervened – with the help of comparison site MoneySuperMarket.com – the couple learned they could cut more than £1,600 from spending.
The news couldn’t have come at a better time for Samuel, 31, and receptionist Clare, 29, who live with eight-month-old twin daughters Evie-Mae and Esme-Rose near Woodbridge, Suffolk .
The new parents together earn £50,000 a year and their daughters are due to start daycare in October, which will cost up to £1,200 a month in fees.
And despite being careful with their money, the family is still struggling.
They have a smart meter to monitor their energy expenditure and shop at Aldi to keep their food bills as low as possible.
Samuel opts for shifts that pay extra and even noticed that their house was in the wrong council tax bracket when he moved in, resulting in a lower bill.
But there are also great pressures. They have a fixed rate energy deal with Octopus until August when that will increase.
They have £10,000 in credit card debt – split between one card at zero per cent and another at 20% interest – and are paying £270 a month on a car loan.
“The card balances just went up,” says Samuel, the family turning more to credit since Clare is on maternity leave.
“It’s really difficult trying to manage the different demands. With the National Insurance increase, I feel like I’ve taken a pay cut this year.
Having twins is also expensive.
Samuel says: “Buying a double pushchair alone costs £1,200. We prepare their meals from scratch because it is cheaper to do so than to buy sachets. But the cost of formula has gone up, which adds up when you feed two.
“All this causes a good deal of anxiety. We know there must be savings to be made.
Luckily, it is possible to reduce their expenses considerably by going to the MoneySuperMarket.com website.
They currently pay £972 a year for a combined TV, broadband and landline package with Sky.
But they could save £642 with a £330 TalkTalk TV and broadband package.
Samuel also has leeway on his bank card repayments.
Although half of the £10,000 balance is on a zero per cent card, he is charged 20 per cent interest on the remainder.
He tries to pay £500 off every month.
Jo Thornhill, money expert at MoneySuperMarket, says, “You can have more than one low interest credit card, as long as you get approved. If Samuel paid a small fee to transfer that balance to another zero-rate card and continued to pay £500 a month for 24 months, he could save £513, or around £207 a year.
“With a very good credit score of over 900, he is in a good position to be able to get another low or no interest card.
“To reduce his monthly payments by £500, he could take out a card with a longer interest-free term, although he might have to pay a higher fee up front. He just has to remember to pay it before the end of the term.
While the couple searches for the best deals, they don’t base their choice solely on price.
“We also look at the benefits that could come from a package,” says Samuel. “With our Vitality car insurance, which costs us around £34 a month for my Mitsubishi Outlander, they monitor our driving with sensors and then we get cash back for safe driving.
“Things like that make us want to stick with them.”
Just looking at price, however, Samuel could save £190 a year by switching to AA insurance.
Clare, who paid £300 upfront for her Nissan Qashqai cover, could save £45 if she too made the same change.
With their cellphones, Clare pays £14 a month on SIM-only, while Samuel pays £38 for an unlimited plan, both with EE. Together they could cut their annual bill by £230, with Clare moving to O2 and Samuel to Three.
The couple pay £70 a year for contents insurance with More Than but could save £18 if they swap to cover with Swift Made.
Overall, Samuel is amazed at the amount he could save.
He says, “It’s amazing. We will certainly rethink some of these big bills when they come up for renewal.
Another couple who need to save are Hannah Galliers, 30, a self-employed accountant, and her fiancé Michael Williamson, 31, a funeral director.
They live with their 18-month-old son Dax near Cheltenham, Gloucs, and earn around £70,000 a year.
“Fight to Save”
They want to set aside £6,000 for their wedding in May next year, but rising bills mean they’re struggling to save anything – and Hannah is worried.
She says, “Sometimes when I go to get gas, I feel like I’m freaking out.”
They used to pay £75 a month for their energy bill but locked themselves in on a flat rate of £100 a month last summer.
Hannah is already dreading that it will end next year.
She says, “If things don’t get better by then, I have no idea how we’re going to afford it. When I was a student, I got caught up in payday loans and it all came together.
“I buried my head in the sand, then I received debt collection letters. I even had my cell phone cut off. I never want to be in this situation again. »
When it comes to trying to get the best deals, Hannah’s attitude is typical of many. She says, “The first time we release something, I look around using online comparison sites to get a good deal.
“After that, however, I tend to let things automatically renew themselves. Life is busy and finding the best insurance deal falls at the bottom of the pile.
But after The Sun showed how they could save £738 a year on insurance, broadband and mobile bills alone, the couple will take longer to compare in the future.
Hannah pays £248 to insure her Toyota Aygo, while Michael pays £416 for his Citroen C4, both with Direct Line.
But Hannah could save £95 if she prepaid a policy with Lancaster, while Michael can cut £200 using Swiftcover.
Jo says, “That’s good savings already, and they might be able to cut it even further by looking at their excess amount or any add-ons they have on their policy. But they obviously have to weigh whether they can take that extra risk.
“The savings really add up”
There are also savings to be made on broadband.
Currently paying £540 a year with Virgin, they could bring that down to £360 a year with Cuckoo fast broadband, pumping an extra £180 into their wedding fund.
The couple must wait until next year to change their mobile phone contracts. But based on current figures, Michael could save £83 a year by switching from an unlimited data contract with Three to 100GB with iD Mobile, and Hannah could pocket £123 by switching her contract to O2.
Jo says, “Everyone should check they’re using their data quota, and if they’re not, they can save money by reducing it.”
The couple have already transferred their £4,000 credit card balance to a zero per cent card. They could transfer their checking accounts to HSBC and get £170 each as an incentive.
They could also cut £35 off their home insurance by switching to Right Choice and paying in advance.
And they could buy a travel insurance policy for £32.35, up from the £55 they spent last year.
Hannah says of comparing utility bills: “I was guilty of thinking it wasn’t really worth saving a few pounds a month.
“But now I can see it can really add up over a year.”
- The comparisons are based on basic information and show the estimated savings that could be made on the offers available on MoneySuperMarket.com at the time of printing.