January wasn't a good month for households trying to start the New Year by getting on top of their finances - but now it's time to fight back. From the increases in fuel duty and VAT to rising inflation and more energy bill price hikes, there's been enough bad news to undermine all but the most determined efforts to cut costs.
But there are still ways to lift the financial gloom. Just by making the best of the money-saving opportunities the internet has to offer, you can save hundreds, perhaps thousands of pounds. Internet access remains far from universal, but those able to log on can make bolster their finances by identifying their biggest costs and taking advantage of the many websites that can help cut them.
More than 1.7 million internet searches were made in October for insurance products alone, according to marketing and technology firm Greenlight, which predicts that use of comparison sites will rise further this year as households look to cut costs.
Here's our guide to saving more than 2,000 a year without leaving the comfort of your own home.
STEP ONE - ENERGY BILLS
Since the end of November all but one of the biggest six energy suppliers have increased their prices, with the last of those increases coming into force on Friday. It means the average annual energy bill is now around 1,250 - but, unless you've changed supplier in the last few months, you can cut your bill by switching tariff.
If you're still on your incumbent supplier's standard tariff, you can save up to 350 a year by moving to the cheapest online, dual-fuel deal on the market.
Even if you have switched before, you may be able to make further savings by doing so again, because suppliers restrict the lowest prices to new customers. All you need is your most recent energy bill or statement, then you can use one of the many comparison websites - such as energyhelpline.com, comparethemarket.com or confused.com - to find out how much you can save by switching.
SAVING: Up to 350
STEP TWO - HOME INSURANCE
Home insurance premiums reached a record high last year as insurers passed on the cost of a rise in claims related to bad weather. The average premium for buildings cover is now 224, while contents cover is 113. The typical cost of combined buildings and contents insurance is now 287, according to the latest figures from AA Insurance.
The average cost when shopping around for buildings cover is 143 and for contents cover 72, with a combined shoparound cost of 200. But the cheapest deals available on price comparison websites can chop that further to 114 (buildings), 66 (contents) and 163 (combined).
However, it's also worth checking individual insurers for their prices, as some of the best offers are only available direct.Providers including Churchill, Direct Line and Tesco are currently promoting heavily discount home insurance deals or offering sweeteners.
SAVING: up to 124 (combined buildings and contents insurance)
STEP THREE - COMMUNICATIONS
If you have TV, phone services and broadband internet at home but pay for them separately, you could well be paying too much. Households using separate services could save 260 a year by bundling them into one package from one provider, Consumer Choices estimates.
Websites such as broadbandgenie.co.uk and broadbandchoices.co.uk allow you to compare bundle prices in your area - just enter your address or postcode to find out what services are available to you and which are the cheapest.
The current best buy is from Virgin, at a 9.50 a month for six months. However, the full contract is for 18 months and the price rises to 19.25 a month after the introductory period expires.
Check your existing contracts don't tie you into payments before you do anything and be careful to ensure any deal you get is the best for your needs.
SAVING: 260 a year
STEP FOUR - MOTORING
The cost of comprehensive car insurance for drivers who shop around for their cover rose by more than a third last year to an average of 842, according to the AA. Those not shopping around faced average premiums of more than 1,332 (the highest prices are typically on renewals).
But the AA's figures also show that the average premium that could be found using comparison websites was 619 - some 223 lower than the traditional shoparound price and a massive 713 lower than the average price offered on automatic renewal.
Bear in mind, however, that the cheapest isn't always best and may mean your level of cover is compromised. Read the small print and compare the details.
SAVING: up to 713 a year
STEP FIVE - MORTGAGES
The mortgage is the biggest expense for most homeowners and even a modest change can make a difference.
Millions of homeowners have enjoyed low variable mortgage costs since interest rates dropped to 0.5 per cent in early 2009 and the low base rate still offers a good chance to make extra payments, depending on your wider financial circumstances. For example, you could take years off your mortgage and save thousands on interest charges by raising your monthly payments by 10 per cent.
Upping the monthly payment on the typical 25-year, 150,000 repayment mortgage of 3.75 per cent from 771 to 848 a month would not only cut more than three and a half years off your term, but also save interest charges of almost 12,800.
If that leaves you with 15 years left on your term, the savings equate to 853 a year. (This assumes a rate fixed for the term of the deal and the increased payment staying in place, for the purposes of a simple example).
And like the other steps covered here, you can make the change online.Just check your lender's overpayment limit, dig out the account number and sort code for your mortgage and use your online banking services to make the adjustment.
Online mortgage overpayment calculators can be found at www.whatmortgage.co.uk/calculators/fleximortgage.html and www.lcplc.co.uk/calculators/effect-of-overpayments/
SAVING: 853 a year
TOTAL SAVINGS - UP TO 2,300
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West