The cost of living crisis is continuing to hit households and, with inflation recently reaching a 30-year high, I has laid out how consumers can save money on their mobile, broadband and TV bills. Inflation rose to 5.4 per cent in December, with ongoing economic issues continuing to plague the economy including hiked energy prices and supply chain problems.
Unfortunately, other consumer services and products also saw unexpected price increases, taking many economists by surprise. Food and non-alcoholic drink prices made a much bigger contribution to inflation than the UK is used to, while clothes prices bucked the usual December trend and got more expensive during the month.
Additionally, there were a number of increases seen in the elements of life which are not spent on regularly, but involve a lot of money when they are. This includes second-hand cars, furniture and general home improvements.
‘It’s costing us out of existence’
Kristian Losztyn, a full-time community worker from Wrexham, shared how the rising cost of living has affected his budgeting priorities.
“Costs have gone up across the board. The food bank queue before Christmas was the biggest I’ve ever seen,” he said. “And it wasn’t people on benefits – they were working.
“My gas bill has already doubled, but there aren’t fuel banks. Wages are stagnant. The taper rate change hasn’t helped me. I don’t see inflation rises reflected in my wages. It’s costing us out of existence. What 5.4 per cent means to me is that much more of my income is going straight into the essentials, into living.”
Fortunately, while costs rise across the board for consumers, there are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce what is spent on modern must-haves.
How to reduce your broadband bills
Rob Baillie, home services expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: “With the cost of living rising, your mobile, broadband and TV packages are a good place to start looking for savings. Recent research by MoneySuperMarket found that broadband is one of the least frequently switched household utilities due to many perceiving that there is insufficient competition in the market.
“However, our research finds that you can save up to £100 if you switch your broadband provider. It’s simple to do and there will be no interruption to your service.”
Lyndsey Burton, the managing director of comparison site Choose, also noted that switching deals could prove to be beneficial, adding that providers are obligated to provide certain key information to help consumers on their way. She said: “The broadband market is currently very competitive, so the best way to save money on broadband is to switch when you can.
“All providers must remind customers when they’re nearing the end of their contract so they can avoid the out-of-contract price hikes, which can be steep.
Plusnet Unlimited Fibre, for example, increases by 74 per cent from £21.95 per month to £38.20 after 18 months.
“It is worth being aware, however, that most providers will offer a price reduction if a customer is willing to recontract with them. So, if you’re happy with your current provider, while the cheapest prices will be found by switching, switching away doesn’t have to be the only option.”
Sarah Holt, head of partnerships at money app Monese, also detailed how bundling internet, phone and TV bills together can be a great way to save money, so it is “sensible” to shop around and research options when contracts are up. It should also be remembered that attractive deals are often offered for an initial time period only, after which the price can jump.
Ms Holt said: “Providers also include periodic price rises to compensate for inflation. It’s a good idea to ask if there’s another increase on the cards, before you commit to any new contract.
“Before you part ways, we strongly recommend you call around your internet, mobile and TV providers to see if they can offer you any deals. “This can be an easy way to cut your bill with your existing provider, particularly if you have been a long-standing customer,” Ms Holt added.
How to reduce your mobile bills
Unsurprisingly, many consumers may be overpaying for their tariff. Whether they are underutilizing or overutilizing their call and texts allowances, the extra costs involved can rocket. MoneySuperMarket’s Mr Baillie said: “Start by taking a careful look at your recent bills to see whether you’re on the correct tariff.
“Are you regularly using more minutes and data than your bill provides for? If the answer to that is ‘yes’ then you’re probably overpaying and you should look for a contract that accommodates your usage without costing you more than your monthly set rate.
“Conversely, if you’re using less data and minutes than your current contract provides, is your contract more expensive than it needs to be? Consider whether a contract with a smaller data allowance and fewer free monthly minutes would be more suitable for your needs. Such contracts are also likely to be cheaper.
“Ultimately, the most important thing is to shop around and look at the available deals in the market. If you already own your handset, you might find that a SIM-only deal is best for you. Some deals start from as little as £3.50 a month.”
Ofcom, the industry regulator, also revealed in July 2021 that it was cheaper to buy a handset and airtime plan separately than together. In fact, mobile handset contracts were the equivalent of a 23 per cent APR handset “loan”. Ms Burton expanded on this: “People will always save the most money by using an existing (or second-hand) handset and a SIM-only deal.
“Not only do SIM-only plans save money by avoiding a handset loan, but these plans are also getting cheaper generally – with prices in 2020 being 10 per cent cheaper than in 2019. GiffGaff, Asda Mobile, Sky Mobile, Plusnet, iD Mobile , Smarty, talkmobile, Lebara and Lyca mobile, all offer one-month plans from as
little as £5 per month for unlimited calls and texts.”
It is also “perfectly possible” to get good coverage and cheap prices by looking at smaller providers who piggyback on the bigger networks. Examples include
GiffGaff and Tesco Mobile, which both run on O2.
If you are looking to buy a handset outright there are ways to save money on this too. Many network providers – including GiffGaff and O2 – now sell reconditioned phones while mobile network 3 recommend Amazon Renewed whose products “are inspected and tested by qualified suppliers to work and look like new, and are backed for one year by the Amazon Renewed Guarantee.”
Online retailer eBay also has a Certified Refurbished Hub selling “manufacturer-approved refurbished products, supported by a minimum 12-month seller guarantee”.
An eBay spokesman said: “This service allows shoppers to save up to 30 per cent on a huge range of mobile phones from the biggest brands. Not only is buying refurbished better for your wallet but it significantly expands the lifespan of a phone, preventing it from going to landfill and reducing its environmental impact.”
How to reduce your TV bills
Assessing how much one uses the TV packages they are signed up to is also likely to be the first step needed to reduce one’s bill. Mr Baillie said: “The best approach to take with your TV package and subscriptions is to take a hard look at how much you make use of them. If, after careful consideration, you realize you’re not watching them as much as you thought you would, then look to drop expensive unused channels and streaming services.
“It’s also a good idea to check whether you’re seeing a lot of content duplication – with many providers offering similar content this can often be the case. If you find this is an issue, you could consider dropping the subscription that provides least value for money. You should also shop around to see whether there are better deals available. Lots of providers are currently offering attractive deals with some appealing sweeteners.
“For example, sign up for select BT broadband and TV bundles now and you’ll qualify for a £90 reward card, while Virgin Media is offering £200 bill credit on its high-end Bigger Bundles when you buy through MoneySuperMarket.”
Bundling broadband and TV deals together could once again also prove fruitful, with Ofcom detailing customers who do so could save between 27 to 41 per cent on average. However, Ms Burton warned there are notable changes to the offers in place these days.
She said: “Most providers, with the exception of Sky and Virgin Media, now just provide access to a TV box and an on-demand service, such as Now or Netflix. As such, it’s become easier to just subscribe to the content you want, and ditch the rest.
“Look out for TV add-ons that run on 30-day notice periods, as these can be added and removed throughout the minimum term. This is useful if you want to watch Sky Sports for just a season, for example. So be proactive in turning on and off TV add-ons to get the content you want without paying for things you aren’t watching.”
And if you do sign up to free trials or time-limited offers, make a note in your phone of the dates they end and set a reminder to cancel them.