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Like many people, I’m curious to know how others spend their money. That’s what makes online money diaries so popular. Yet when I read a monthly breakdown of someone’s spending, I often question whether they could be paying less for their phone bill, WiFi or other bills.

Below, I outline steps I’ve taken to lower my own regular outgoings. It often takes time to sort out, but the money saved is definitely worth it. 

Phone bills

When we buy a new phone, most of us take out a contact for 12, 18 or 24 months. After your contract ends, it often keeps running on the same price, even though you may be entitled to a discount on request.

Last year, I cut my SIM-only contract from £21 per month to £15 per month. This happened by accident when I went into the local store of my phone provider and an employee pointed out that I was overpaying on my bill. My contract had ended without me realising, which meant my provider could offer me a lower bill. The employee also suggested that I set up a block for chargeable numbers, such as directory enquiry services or premium-rate competition lines, to avoid extra charges on my bill.

If you have some spare time over lunch or first thing in the morning, try and speak to your phone provider to double check that they can’t offer you a cheaper deal.

It’s also worth checking that you’re not still paying for phones you’re no longer using. Phone companies won’t cancel a contract unless you ask them to, even if the phone number hasn’t been used for months. 

For Starling customers, it’s easy to check direct debits by going to the payments screen of your app and clicking ‘Scheduled’. You’ll also be able to see standing orders.

Starling app payments
Check your scheduled payments at a glance

Broadband

Similar to your phone contract, your WiFi contract often continues to be more expensive than necessary once your 12-month or 18-month contract is up. Many providers hike up the price and then let the contract roll on month to month, even if you haven’t actively chosen to stay with them. 

My advice is to ask about contract renewal when you first sign up and then shop around for lower deals from other providers when your contract ends. You can then either switch to a new provider or call your current provider to ask if they can match a competitor’s price. If you choose to switch, make sure that you do so after your contract has ended to avoid early cancellation charges. 

By asking my provider to match a competitor, I managed to keep my WiFi at £18 per month, a much lower price than what was automatically offered when my 12-month contract ended.

Subscriptions

At one point or another, most of us have signed up to a free trial. The week or month goes on and before you know it, you’re spending much more than you’d bargained for. 

Some subscriptions are set up as direct debits, which are usually visible in most types of bank account. Other subscriptions are processed as regular card payments and can be much easier to miss. That’s why Starling includes all recurring payments under the ‘Scheduled’ payments screen in your app - this gives you full line of sight.

Starling app regular payments
All your regular payments in one place

If you see a merchant under recurring payments and haven’t used them for a while, think about pausing your subscription, or cancelling and then restarting if you find you’re missing that service. It’s also worth paying attention to the real-time notifications from your Starling app - every time money moves out of your account, we send you a notification, so you’ll know when a subscription payment has been made.

Another idea is to set a reminder on your phone’s calendar to cancel something when you sign up for a free trial - that way, you won’t be charged for a product you only wanted to try, not buy.

Council tax

If you’re the only person over 18 living in a property, you may be entitled to a 25% discount on your council tax. People with disabilities or health conditions enrolled in the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) scheme may also qualify for a council tax discount. Those on Universal Credit or a low-income salary may also be able to apply for a reduction.

To apply, go to your local council website and follow their instructions. The discount may take a few weeks to come through - I checked mine had been received by sending a message to my local council via Twitter and received a reply instantly, while email responses took a few days. 

The day before a direct debit comes out of your Starling account, we send you real-time notification to let you know. We’ll also tell you if you don’t have enough money in your account to cover it, so you can top up your balance or move money over from your Goals, where you can set money aside as savings. Goals is a great feature to help you budget and keep money for bills separate from your everyday balance.

Energy

A quick Google or a search on a comparison website, such as USwitch or Compare the Market, could save you money on your monthly energy bill. The providers themselves sort out the switch so once you’ve signed up to your new provider, you shouldn’t have to do much, other than providing meter readings and paying your outstanding bill with your old provider.

I’ve moved both my energy and gas to Bulb, a renewable energy provider. Other renewable providers include Octopus Energy and Green Energy UK. Before you switch to a new provider, ping over a quick message to some friends and family to see if they also use them - they may well have a referral code that will give both of you £50 credit. 

Switching to renewable energy is one of many changes you can make to save money and help save the planet. At Starling, we’re really focusing on how we can become greener and more ethical, which is why all four of our offices run on renewable energy.

As always, feel free to share your money saving tips by tweeting us or tagging us in a story on Instagram - our handle is @StarlingBank.

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