Bills, bills, bills
I wasn’t surprised to discover this week that the average British household spends £12,000 a year paying household and personal bills. According to research by Bacs Payment Schemes’ Bacs family finance tracker, the highest bills are in the south of England, running at £13,200 a year, £8,700 of which are household bills, and the lowest in Wales, where they are £11,100 – £6,400 of which are household bills.
I am so sick of the sight of brown envelopes that I am making sure I pay anything and everything by direct debit. I’ve even set up an online account to pay Katy’s after school club bill. They were getting so high I was in danger of having to send Doughnut to go and fetch her to save showing my deeply-in-the-red face.
I knew that direct debits were a good way of smoothing bills out so that you didn’t freak out financially when your August energy bill suddenly triples in December, but until I started to get truly nerdy about it, I didn’t realise they actually made your bills smaller. Bacs, the company that run online payments and also look after direct debits, are so determined to persuade all of us to use direct debits that they are offering us a chance to wipe out our bills for a year, simply by switching to it. They launched their “Big Break” campaign this week, designed to encourage people to switch to direct debit by entering them into a draw to win £12,000 – enough to take care of all of those bills for a year. You have to pay your bills to one of the 13 participating organisations, which so far include most of the main water companies with more companies getting involved all the time and you have until 30 June to sign up and be eligible for the draw.
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to win you should still end up saving money. Because so many companies prefer to take a regular chunk of your money every month they usually offer discounts to direct debit payers that, according to moneysavingexpert.com’s Martin Lewis, work out to a saving of about 6%. Of course, the secret is to set up an accurate direct debit, not simply rely on estimates that can be a real pain to correct later.
Click on www.thebigbreak.co.uk to see whether your utility company, social landlord or local authority is taking part in the “live bill free for a year” draw and – who knows – you might get lucky and end up using one of those “paying in slips” in the back of the cheque book that, strangely enough, never seem to run out as quickly as the cheques…