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AIBU?

To switch to "pay for only what you use"?

109 replies

lancsgirl85 · 05/09/2022 08:28

Apologies for posting in AIBU. Happy for it to be moved to a more appropriate section.

I contacted my energy company on FB after days of not being able to get through on the phone to speak directly with someone. I wanted to get a rough estimate of my bill for October.

They replied that they can't give exact figures right now and they would update in the next few weeks, but they advised to expect an 80% increase. We pay £269 pm already so we are looking at £480 ish pm. We can't afford this.

I replied to this effect and asked what options they could offer us?

They listed a few, the first of which was: "you can change your direct debit to pay for only what you use rather than spreading the cost over 12 months".

This confused me. Why am I not already just paying for what I use? Why would I pay for what I haven't used?

Looking at my last statement we used £155 worth of gas and electricity combined and paid £269. So we should be in credit, right? Therefore can afford to pay less in theory?

Sorry if this is a really stupid question but the whole thing has just really confused me!!

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GreenFingersWouldBeHandy · 05/09/2022 08:55

You need to look at ways to reduce your usage. I haven't had my heating on since last winter (and then only 3 times as it was so bloody cold). Can you not dry washing outside while it's still fairly warm during the day?

Hot water bottles and jumpers will be your friends this winter. Do you have a fire or log burner?

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JustTheOneSwan · 05/09/2022 08:55

I pay exactly what I use each month.
from March to September I put money in a savings that I use just for fuel.
I use it to top up utility and buy wood and coal.
the way I see it id I'd rather me have control of it that Shell but I am disciplined and have a standing order plus I need cash for the solid fuel.

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Zebedee55 · 05/09/2022 08:57

Bear in mind that if you stop paying by DD, you will lose the discount they give for this payment method.

www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/lower-energy-direct-debits/

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lancsgirl85 · 05/09/2022 08:57

GreenFingersWouldBeHandy · 05/09/2022 08:55

You need to look at ways to reduce your usage. I haven't had my heating on since last winter (and then only 3 times as it was so bloody cold). Can you not dry washing outside while it's still fairly warm during the day?

Hot water bottles and jumpers will be your friends this winter. Do you have a fire or log burner?

Yes we have a log burner in the dining room.

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Hugasauras · 05/09/2022 08:59

Our last bill was £150 too but we are still looking at huge winter bills because of the 80% increase (gas is doubling) and then another 50% in April and the fact the majority of your gas use comes over winter. It's very heavily tipped in that direction (for example £150 usage for us in July v £900 in Jan, £800 in Dec, etc.)

I think we will go up to around £450 a month DD from Oct as we are currently on £270 but that won't cover us over winter.

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BarbaraofSeville · 05/09/2022 08:59

lancsgirl85 · 05/09/2022 08:54

I do have a teenager who likes to take 30/40 min showers, though! That will be stopping sharpish!!

Definitely look at the cost of showering, especially if it's an electric shower.

At the current price cap, an electric shower can cost up to £3 an hour to run. That can work out at £50 pm+ for a family just on showering.

That single 30 min shower could be costing £1.50, or close to £50 a month just for the teenager, if it's a daily occurence.

Gas showers aren't quite so costly, but the same principle applies, most of your bill is heating and hot water, so concentrate your efforts on reducing wasteful use of this, closely followed by reviewing your laundry habits, the daily towel washers and tumble dryer users will need to reduce what they use or get a shock and also watch out for any gaming PCs left on for hours on end as that can be expensive too.

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lancsgirl85 · 05/09/2022 09:00

@Zebedee55

I wasn't aware my DD was being cancelled, tbh. It was all via FB messenger because I couldn't get through by phone for days. They didn't say they'd cancel my DD, just that they would change my account to pay for what I use. They actually still referred to it as a direct debit (see screenshot of my chat with them)

To switch to "pay for only what you use"?
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JustTheOneSwan · 05/09/2022 09:01

You can pay by variable DD you haven't necessarily cancelled the DD just the fixed DD

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Hugasauras · 05/09/2022 09:02

It sounds like variable direct debit? Which means your payments will change every month. Put as much as you can aside for winter!

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lancsgirl85 · 05/09/2022 09:03

@BarbaraofSeville

Thanks that's helpful. I'll tell DD she needs to either take quicker showers or get a job and contribute £50 a month for her 30 min daily showers!

We also have a toddler who we bath every day - guessing the daily running of a bath (albeit only a shallow one) isn't helping 🙈

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dandelionthistle · 05/09/2022 09:03

Zebedee55 · 05/09/2022 08:57

Bear in mind that if you stop paying by DD, you will lose the discount they give for this payment method.

www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/lower-energy-direct-debits/

(Haven't read the link)

  • and presumably the reason they offer a discount for DD payment is that it reduces their compliance costs (less time chasing non-payment or dealing with customers who are shocked by a large winter fuel cost) and that it allows them to earn interest on the money they hold through summer and autumn as credit.


Yes for some people the predictability of knowing utility bills will be £x every month helps with budgeting, but it always slightly annoys me to see that my money is sitting in someone else's account earning them interest rather than me, and then glibly suggesting this will help me budget. I don't care enough to change my setup (other than adjust my DD as low as they'll permit), but let's be clear it's about the energy companies' profits first and foremost.
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Blowthemandown · 05/09/2022 09:04

@lancsgirl85 what do you actually use? I always look at previous year’s usage. Say 4500 kwh electricity. Basically my annual bill will then be 4500 x the rate per kwh plus 365 x the standing charge.

I am sadly not on a fixed price per kwh so the cost per kwh has gone up so I have to recalculate - was on a fixed rate before moving but got caught out unfortunately so that doesn’t help. However, the usage and bill is easy to work out.

As others have explained, if I paid for each month’s usage the cost would vary considerably. I might have a £60 monthly bill through summer then £240 one in the winter.

I prefer to pay the same sum a month so take the total and divide by 12.

This means that my current monthly payment won’t cover the higher month in itself, but the overpayment during summer will cover it.

can you go online and look at your usage history, or download the company’s app and look back that way?

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lancsgirl85 · 05/09/2022 09:09

@Blowthemandown

Ahh v helpful, thank you. It is my project for the day to figure that out! I will report back 🙂

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lancsgirl85 · 05/09/2022 09:31

Just worked out my annual usage (based on Sept 2021 - Sept 22) - obviously I had to estimate the bill for next month but it's likely to pretty similar to last month as we've had similar usage (if not lower as we were away on holiday for 2 weeks):

Electricity is 5,887 kWh
Gas is 29,365 kWh

Is that a lot? 😱

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BarbaraofSeville · 05/09/2022 09:35

Sorry, yes, that's huge. It's almost exactly twice the electricity price cap and over twice the gas price cap. (2900 and 13000 respectively)

You're looking at nearly £8k per year for that usage at October prices, (£3550 ish for the price cap, double it and add a bit)

Are you sure that's right? £480 pm wouldn't be anywhere near enough to cover that much.

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lancsgirl85 · 05/09/2022 09:38

I'll double check it later but that's what I got from our bills online.

I was on maternity leave last year, too, and home most days with a baby between Sept-Dec 21. Not sure if that would have had a bearing on the bills as I'd have had the heating on over those winter months probably daily!

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BMW6 · 05/09/2022 09:44

lancsgirl85 · 05/09/2022 09:31

Just worked out my annual usage (based on Sept 2021 - Sept 22) - obviously I had to estimate the bill for next month but it's likely to pretty similar to last month as we've had similar usage (if not lower as we were away on holiday for 2 weeks):

Electricity is 5,887 kWh
Gas is 29,365 kWh

Is that a lot? 😱

Well we're a 2 bed Victorian terrace, 2 people.

2021 our useage was Gas 10540 Electric 1849

We are retired so both home all day, heating on 7am - 11pm. Thermostat set around 20c

We'll be cutting down on heating, cooking, no tumble drying etc

Looks like you ought to be able to massively reduce your useage!

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felulageller · 05/09/2022 09:44

It's not just the October price increases. They will spike up again in January. You could be looking at £10k pa!

You need to look at all the appliances you use and cut back.

Get teen a gym membership and shower there. No more daily baths. Cut the laundry. No tumble drying. Keep thermostat at 18 or below and only for 4 hours a day max.

Use the microwave and air fryer rather than oven.

Minimise kettle use.

Limit hairdryer etc use.

Monitor console etc use.

Try to charge devices out of home.

Wear clothes until they are dirty.

No ironing.

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Hugasauras · 05/09/2022 09:47

That usage equates to £638 a month from October. Perils of an old house I imagine as that gas use is very high.

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Idontgiveagriffindamn · 05/09/2022 09:48

I’m sorry I feel really bad saying this but you’ve not built up much credit during the warmer months if you started this month in debit. It could mean that the amount you have to pay is higher.
I’d recommend looking at your usage and how you can cut back.

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Ilovetocrochet · 05/09/2022 09:49

The amount of credit you have built up over this summer, even taking into account your September DD, is not as much as I have so you do not really have a big buffer ahead of your winter use. So by paying for what you use each month might be a shock!

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HairyKitty · 05/09/2022 09:50

Because if you can’t afford to pay £450 monthly how will you afford to pay £750 in the 3 winter months. If we are on a budget I think it’s best and safest to stick to a fixed monthly amount and cut down on usage as much as possible, as well as cutting back on any other unnecessary expenses eg holidays clothes subscriptions etc.

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Getoff · 05/09/2022 09:53

If you are on a standard variable rate, the bottom line is that you can't change what you're going to have to pay in total by phoning up and changing you direct debit. All that will ever do is affect when the money flows out of your bank account. The only way to affect the total amount that will leave your account is to change how much you use.

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BarbaraofSeville · 05/09/2022 09:55

For usage that high, if your house is hard to heat rather than just a result of being indulgent/wasteful up to now, it might be worth investing in energy saving measures even if it means borrowing money to do so.

Extra insulation, new windows, more efficient boiler, even solar panels, whatever it takes. Even if it costs £10-20k, at current prices, such improvements could pay for themselves in a few years, add to the value of your home and benefit the environment and mean you are doing your bit towards reducing usage, which is why prices are currently so high, because gas is expected to be in such short supply over winter, it could need to be rationed.

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lancsgirl85 · 05/09/2022 09:55

Off the top of my head, things that are likely to have contributed to those insane bills include

  • Being home all day most days with a baby on maternity leave Sept-Dec 2021 with heating on probably a lot of the time.


  • very frequent kettle use to make baby bottles


  • teen taking 30-40 mins showers - she has been told this will be no more!!


  • daily baths for baby


Looking at my usage it's ridiculous over those winter months in particular. I'm now back at work 4 days a week. Usage since April of this year has been literally a third/quarter of those months in some instances.
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