All of us struggle to balance household bills with our incomes. Energy providers have hiked bills by between 6% and 11% this winter, while water bills are to rise by an average of 3.5% according to Ofwat.
So here’s a novel idea. Is there any way we can get freebies just because we pay our bills? And if so, where do we look?
Here’s a rundown of some of the freebies and perks up for grabs.
The government has set out Energy Company Obligations for the largest energy firms to meet. These require them to spend money making UK homes more energy efficient.
But not everyone knows about these potential freebies. In fact, some energy companies are so desperate to meet their obligations that they offer the service even to non-customers and pay cash to people who recommend family and friends.
So, you could get free insulation, suggest a friend do the same and be paid a referral fee too!
For example, British Gas is offering some homes free loft and cavity wall insulation, which could save some homes hundreds of pounds a year. If you recommend a friend and they qualify then you could receive a payment of £50.
You have to be receiving certain benefits or live in an eligible postcode – ring the provider on 0800 086 1486 to see if you qualify.
Remember, British Gas is just one provider – the other big energy firms have similar offers. And some local authorities provide grants for energy efficient home improvements – ring the Energy Saving Trust on 0300 123 1234 for free, impartial advice on finding subsidised help.
I recently wrote about the money-saving benefits of reducing wasted water and one thing that surprised me was just how many freebies some of the big water companies offer their customers, especially when you consider that people can’t switch providers and don’t need incentives.
If you’re on a water meter, then bagging some of these freebies can save you real money on your bill. For example, Anglian Water customers can get a free shower regulator and a free ‘save-a-flush’ bag or hippo for those with a pre-1993 toilet.
United Utilities customers can get even more; a free shower regulator, free shower timer, a free toothbrush timer for kids and a free ‘save-a-flush’ cistern bag.
You can find out what your provider offers by visiting the savewatersavemoney website.
Most of us pay for a TV licence, but are you using all the perks? It’s not just TV and radio, the website has a tonne of information such as free recipes, educational resources and advice for teens.
You can even get free tickets to watch shows being recorded; just apply online.
It’s also worth remembering that if you don’t have a TV licence, you can watch the BBC’s programmes for free. The iPlayer website itself states: “You do not need a television licence to catch-up on television programmes in BBC iPlayer, only when you watch or record at the same time (or virtually the same time) as it is being broadcast or otherwise distributed to the public.” That does mean you need a licence to watch the news channel live online.
Some home insurance policies include legal advice and assistance. This isn’t technically a freebie, but it’s a service that many people forget they have. So if you’re ever wondering what your legal position is, on anything from cowboy builders to holidays from hell, this service should be your first port of call.
For example, Nationwide legal assistance insurance can be added to home insurance policies for £23.32. It provides legal cover up to £50,000 to negotiate your rights in employment contract disputes, property disputes, personal tax enquiries and a variety of other situations.
If you’ve got this cover as part of a policy then make sure you use it rather than seeking out expensive legal advice you don’t need.
Free stuff on sign up
Another way to blag a few freebies is to shop around when you come to replace your mobile or broadband service.
Some companies offer free gifts if you buy your contract through them, from cameras and consoles to laptops and SatNavs. It’s a way of enticing you to sign up through their websites so that they earn a fee from the contract provider.
For example, O2 offers a 24 month contract that gives the user 1,200 minutes, unlimited texts, 1GB of mobile internet and a Samsung Galaxy S3, all for £47 a month for 24 months.
However, if you buy it through one of the many affiliated websites, you can also get a free laptop worth £299.
Of course, the customers will be paying for these gifts somewhere down the line – and you shouldn’t let a freebie sway you to a contract that isn’t right for you. But if you’re about to sign up for new service, it’s worth looking online to see if you could blag a decent free gift without paying any extra.
What freebies have you found? Should these companies concentrate on bringing down bills, not offering gifts? Share your tips and thoughts with other readers using the comments below.