HAVING just welcomed baby twins to the world, paramedic Samuel Crowe and partner Clare Holmes were finding it harder than ever to keep up with the bills.
But after The Sun stepped in — with the help of comparison site MoneySuperMarket.com — the couple learned they could slash more than £1,600 off their outgoings.
The news could not have come at a better time for Samuel, 31, and receptionist Clare, 29, who live with eight-month-old twins Evie-Mae and Esme-Rose near Woodbridge, Suffolk.
The new parents together earn £50,000 a year, and their daughters are due to start nursery in October, which will cost up to £1,200 a month in fees.
And despite being careful with their money, the family are still struggling.
They have a smart meter to keep an eye on their energy costs and shop at Aldi to keep food bills as low as possible.
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Samuel opts for shifts at work that pay extra and even spotted that their home was in the wrong council tax band when he moved in, which led to the bill being reduced.
But there are big pressures too. They are on a fixed-rate energy deal with Octopus until August, when this will then shoot up.
They have £10,000 in debt on credit cards — split between a zero per cent card and another with a 20 per cent interest rate — and pay £270 a month on a car loan.
“The balance on the cards has just crept up,” says Samuel, with the family turning to credit more since Clare has been on maternity leave.
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“It is really tough trying to manage the different demands. With the rise in National Insurance, it feels like I have had a pay cut this year.”
Having twins also costs a lot.
Samuel says: “Buying a double pram alone cost £1,200. We cook their meals from scratch as it is cheaper to do it that way than buy pouches. But the cost of formula has risen, which adds up when you are feeding two of them.
“It is all causing a fair amount of anxiety. We know that there must be savings to be made.”
Fortunately, there is room to chop a big chunk off their spending by going to the MoneySuperMarket.com website.
They currently pay £972 a year for a combined television, broadband and landline package with Sky.
But they could save £642 with a TalkTalk TV and broadband package at £330.
Samuel also has room for manoeuvre on his credit card repayments.
Although half of the £10,000 balance is on a zero per cent card, he is charged 20 per cent interest on the rest.
He tries to pay £500 off from it each month.
Jo Thornhill, money expert at MoneySuperMarket, says: “You can have more than one low-interest credit card, as long as you get approval. If Samuel paid a small fee to switch that balance to another zero per cent interest card and kept paying off £500 a month for 24 months, he could save £513, or around £207 a year.
“With a very strong credit score of more than 900, he is in a good position to be able to secure another low or no-interest card.
'This is incredible’
“To bring his monthly payments down from £500, he could take out a card with a longer zero-interest term, although he might have to pay a bigger fee up front. He just needs to remember to pay it off before the term ends.”
While the couple look around for best deals, they do not base their choice solely on price.
“We also look at the benefits which might come with a package,” says Samuel. “With our Vitality car insurance, which costs us around £34 a month for my Mitsubishi Outlander, they monitor our driving using sensors and then we get cashback for driving carefully.
"Things like that make us want to stay with them.”
Looking at price alone, though, Samuel could save £190 a year by switching to insurance from the AA.
Clare, who paid £300 up front for her Nissan Qashqai cover, could save £45 if she too made the same switch.
With their mobiles, Clare pays £14 a month sim-only, while Samuel pays £38 for an unlimited package, both with EE. Together, they could reduce their yearly bill by £230, with Clare switching to O2 and Samuel to Three.
The couple pay £70 a year for contents insurance with More Than but could save £18 if they swapped to cover with Swift Made.
Overall, Samuel is staggered by the amount they could save.
He says: “This is incredible. We’ll definitely be rethinking some of these big bills when they come up for renewal.”
Another couple needing to save are Hannah Galliers, 30, a freelance accountant, and her fiancé Michael Williamson, 31, a funeral director
They live with son Dax, 18 months, near Cheltenham, Gloucs, and earn around £70,000 a year.
'Struggling to save'
They want to put aside £6,000 for their wedding in May next year, but rising bills mean they are struggling to save anything — and Hannah is worried.
She says: “Sometimes when I go to get petrol, I can feel myself going into a panic.”
They used to pay £75 a month for their energy bill, but locked themselves in with a fixed deal of £100 a month last summer.
Hannah is already dreading that coming to an end next year.
She says: “If things aren’t better by then, I have no idea how we’ll afford it. When I was a student I got caught up in payday loans and everything spiralled.
“I buried my head in the sand and then got debt collection letters. I even had my mobile phone cut off. I never want to be in that situation again.”
When it comes to trying to get the best deals, Hannah’s attitude is typical of many. She says: “The first time we take something out, I look around using online comparison sites to get a good deal.
“After that, though, I tend to let things renew automatically. Life is busy and finding the best insurance deal falls to the bottom of the pile.”
But after The Sun showed how they could save £738 a year on their insurance, broadband and mobile bills alone, the couple will make more time to compare in future.
Hannah pays £248 to insure her Toyota Aygo, while Michael pays £416 for his Citroën C4, both with Direct Line.
But Hannah could save £95 if she paid for a policy up front with Lancaster, while Michael can cut £200 by using Swiftcover.
Jo says: “These are already good savings, and they might be able to bring them even lower by looking at the amount of their excess, or any add-ons they have on their policy. But they obviously have to weigh up if they can take on that extra risk.”
‘Savings really add up’
There are savings to be made on broadband, too.
Currently paying £540 a year with Virgin, they could bring that down to £360 a year with Cuckoo fast broadband, putting another £180 into their wedding fund.
The couple have to wait until next year to change their mobile phone contracts. But based on current figures, Michael could save £83 a year going from an unlimited data deal with Three to 100GB with iD Mobile, and Hannah could pocket £123 by changing her contract to O2.
Jo says: “Everyone should check they are using their data allowance and, if not, they can save money by bringing it down.”
The couple have already moved their £4,000 credit card balance to a zero per cent card. They could switch current accounts to HSBC and get £170 each as an incentive.
They could also shave £35 off their home insurance by moving to Right Choice and paying up front.
And they could buy a travel insurance policy for £32.35, instead of the £55 they spent last year.
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Hannah says of comparing utility bills: “I’ve been guilty of thinking it’s not really worth the hassle just to shave off a few quid a month.
“But now I can see that it can really add up over a year.”
- Comparisons are based on basic information and show the estimated savings that could be made on deals available on MoneySuperMarket.com at the time of going to press.
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