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How I saved a small fortune

1. Don't 'bundle' bills without doing your own figures

All claim to offer better value if you 'bundle' your gas and electricity together, but actually, this isn't always true. You may have to do a little work in finding out which service suits you. For instance, if you use your utilities at night (saving the washing until then, and use storage heat, you can save money with a nightsaver meter), but it's not always practical and your 'day' costs will be higher.

2. Do switch to direct debit

What is definitely cheaper is paying by direct debit because it takes some of the work away from the company -- if you can do this, you will save up to 20pc, so it is definitely worth it. If you are not disciplined enough to arrange your bills by direct debit, you will suffer bank charges if they bounce -- so don't save on one only to be clobbered by the other.

3. Do become a utility tart

Some providers offer you a discount if you sign up for at least one year. I'm not convinced this always gives savings, and you're locked in if there's a surprise price hike like this one. Better to keep an eye on your bills and switch often -- your supply will not be affected regardless of who you're paying. Become a utility tart!

4. Do your own sums

Do not be hassled by door- step salespeople. All three operators use them. Firmly tell them you're making your own comparisons and shut the door.

5. Do look at Flogas prices

Don't forget the new minnow in the gas market. Flogas is the cheapest gas supplier, so worth checking out. I compared a standard rate Bord Gais bill of €720 a year paying by direct debit and saved €91.56 as a new customer. Switching is easy and instant.

6. Take control.

The main thing is not to be passive, shrug your shoulders and claim there's nothing you can do. The companies depend on that, so defy them.

My savings on moving electricity from Bord Gais to ESB were €122 if I was prepared for paperless billing and direct debit. But it could be different for you.