These Martin Lewis savings tips are about to change your finances. Sounds bombastic, but Lewis knows what he's talking about where it comes to maximising your finance potential. Since the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have seen our personal finances suffering, whether it's because we've taken on more debt, have seen our household bills rising, or have struggled to pay our mortgages.
With the economy remaining slow and interest rates not in savers' favour, what can ordinary savers do to get the most of their money? Right now, these are the top 5 things you should be doing, according to Money Saving Expert.
1. Find out if you're overpaying for your energy bills
Everyone's energy consumption has gone up over the past year, simply because we're all spending most of our time at home, and the winter has not been kind to our wallets with record-breaking cold temperatures. No, Lewis isn't advocating turning the thermostat down; instead, he advises to regularly check with your energy company that you're not overpaying them via your direct debit payments. Lewis explains: 'Most issues are because monthly direct debits are based on an estimate of your usage. These estimates can be way out, especially when new to a firm and it has little to go on.'
It may well be that your estimate was set too high, and you've built up too much energy credit over the warmer months. You can find out the balance of your energy account by writing to or calling your energy provider, in case you don't receive regular bills. You can then change your direct debit amount if it's too high (or too low, for that matter – you don't want to discover you're hundreds in debt by spring).
2. Consider installing a water meter
Everyone knows they can save money by switching energy suppliers – but that only applies to electricity and gas. You can't choose your water supplier, so most assume that what they pay for the water bills is just what it is. Not so, Lewis advises, pointing to savings of anywhere between £50 and £300 that can be made by installing a water meter at your property.
Of course, it's not always worthwhile getting a water meter, because the estimate water usage your bills is based on may well be close enough to not make much of a difference. However, Lewis has this golden rule for deciding whether you will save by switching to a meter: 'If there are more bedrooms in your home than people, or the same number, check out getting a meter.'
3. Clear your credit card debt – even if you have to use your savings
Lewis has spoken about this many times, but it's especially relevant now that credit card is rising for many of us during a pandemic. With most savings rates 'crap', as Lewis bluntly puts it, 'first consider using them to clear expensive debts, including your mortgage.' It may feel counterintuitive and even scary to clear out your savings account, but if the interest rate of your debts is higher than that of your savings (and currently it will be), then you're not actually saving anything by not clearing your debts as soon as you can.
Can't afford to clear your credit card debt? Lewis advises to get a balance transfer to a zero-per-cent card: 'you can't afford not to', he says.
4. Work out if it's worth your while remortgaging
Of course, remortgaging can be expensive, especially if there are exit fees concerned, but if you are 1) on a long-term fixed rate that is no longer competitive, or 2) coming to the end of your current fixed term, you should look into remortgaging. 'It's worth a look, as someone on a 4-per-cent standard rate, borrowing £150,000 over 25yrs, could save £2,000 a year switching to the cheapest deal.'
Find the best mortgage rates using our guide.
5. Give your savings accounts a shake-up
If your savings are sitting in accounts that are earning 0.5 per cent or lower, you need to look into what other accounts you could use with better returns. Lewis advises to check out regular savings accounts ('it's still just about possible to earn 3 per cent interest on savings tax-free), premium bonds (if you have over £5,000), and Lifetime ISAs, which can give you a 25-per-cent boost if you're planning to buy your first home.