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How can I save money on my bills?

From time to time, it's worth checking your gas, electricity, phone, tv and broadband online to see if you could pay less.

Online comparison sites like Money Saving Expert's Cheap Energy Club (opens in a new window) are really easy to use and could save you hundreds of pounds. They'll do a full comparison of all energy deals and email you if you're overpaying. They'll also tell you who's cheaper.

Get a cheaper deal from the same supplier

Energy suppliers charge a number of different tariffs. So if you're on a standard tariff (and 66%) of people are), you're likely to be able to save money just by switching to a cheaper deal.

Your supplier will often tell you about special offers and deals but it's also worth calling them and checking for yourself.

Pay by month direct debit if you can

See if you can pay your household bill by direct debit each month, as this often makes it easier to manage a budget and avoids the quarterly bill.

If you're worried you might overpay if you pay a fixed amount every month, particularly with energy bills, remember you can ask anytime for an over-payment to be refunded and some companies do it automatically.

Read your meter at least every three months

Energy bills are often estimated which could mean you have been under or over paying. If you've been underpaying, your supplier will help you work out how to pay back what you owe.

If you've been overpaying, they'll have your money rather than you. So it's worth taking two minutes to read your own gas and electricity meters, and provide your supplier with monthly readings.

Think about getting an energy monitor

An energy monitor (not to be confused with a smart meter) is a gadget that gives you a real time estimate of the amount of electricity you're using. Some energy suppliers will give you one for free, but you can buy them yourself. They're easy to set up (they clip to your meter cable), and show you at a glance how different appliances affect your electricity consumption.

By seeing what makes your electricity consumption go up, you'll know where to cut back if you need to. They're to help you and you alone as it doesn't send the information to your energy supplier.

Look for better deals on your TV, broadband and phone

It's all too easy to stick with one provider simply because it's too much effort to change, but you could be overpaying by hundreds a year. Use comparison sites like uSwitch (opens in a new window) to see if you can get your package cheaper.

It's always worth asking your provider whether they have any offers available - often these aren't advertised. It may even be cheaper for you to have a different provider for your TV, broadband and phone.

These links are to non-Ulster Bank websites. Ulster Bank is not liable for the accuracy of the information provided on these websites.