Shop smart to save a lot

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Times are tough. You only have to open a newspaper, turn on the television or take a walk down your local high street to realise we are not out of the current economic crisis just yet.

No one seems to be able to accurately forecast when things will take a turn for the better, so it is up to us to take steps and put measures in place which will allow us to keep our heads above water until things start to pick up again.

The Energy Saving Trust in Scotland is just one organisation which is ready and willing to impart good advice on simple ways we can save money - many of the tips are also designed to allow us to live a more environmentally friendly existence.

The path to savings, like most journeys, starts from home – there are literally dozens of easy money-saving tips you can follow to make a big difference to your bank balance.

An Energy Saving Trust spokesman said: “You start off asking how your home is heated. Gas heating costs a lot less to run and is more energy efficient than electric alternatives.

“Loft insulation is one of the most efficient ways to keep heat from escaping in a home. A third of the heat in an uninsulated home is lost through the walls.

“A home with uninsulated cavity walls could cost up to £135 more to run each year than one with insulated cavities, so it’s worth finding out the state of play.

“Even something as simple as double glazing can save up to £165 on heating bills every year compared to a single-glazed property. Heavy lined curtains can also help keep the heat in if double-glazing can’t be fitted.”

The Trust say it’s all about the little things, which, when added together, make massive savings.

“Draught proofing is also important – check around windows and doors for gaps. If it’s a windy day and a home is particularly draughty, you can often hear the whistle of wind as it sweeps through the property.

“It’s quite easy to draught proof homes and it can save up to £55 a year on heating costs.”

Here are some simple steps from the Trust’s advisors:

1) Turn it down - Many households have their central heating set higher than they need it. Try turning your room thermostat down by one degree. Every degree you turn down could save you around £60 a year on your heating bill.

2) Turn it off - Make sure you turn off your lights, appliances and chargers when not using them. A family could save around £40 a year just by remembering to turn things off.

3) Careful in the kitchen - You can save another £35 a year just by changing the way you use your kitchen. Set your washing machine to wash at 30°C; only use your tumble dryer when you cannot dry your clothes outside; do not fill your kettle right up every time, just boil the amount of water you need.

4) Lighten your load - Use LED spotlights bright enough to replace halogens, as well as regular energy saving bulbs. If old-fashioned bulbs were replaced with LEDs it would save around £55 a year.

When it comes to travel, there are just as many ways you can have control over cost – even when the price of petrol keeps going through the roof.

Natasha Byrne, Energy Saving Scotland transport support officer, said: “It comes as no surprise to hear drivers in Central Scotland are now slowing down to reduce the amount of money they spend on fuel – the faster you go the more fuel you use.

“There are other ways to save too, however. Fuel efficient driving tips like switching of fair conditioning and shifting to a higher gear as soon as possible all have a part to play.”

Here are some more fuel-efficient driving tips:

l With the car in gear and the accelerator released, a modern car uses virtually no fuel at all.

l Maintain a steady speed in as high a gear as possible, avoiding unnecessary acceleration and heavy braking.

l The most efficient speed for the majority of cars is between 45 and 50 mph. Driving at 50 mph rather than 70 mph reduces your fuel consumption by 10 per cent at a stroke.

l Carrying excess weight in a vehicle increases fuel consumption. Heavy or large items, such as tool kits and golf clubs should be removed when not required.

Visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland for more information.