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Energy bills: could going abroad this winter save you money? | Domestic bills

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SRising energy bills mean many Britons are dreading the onset of winter and are considering big lifestyle changes to cope with the financial pressure. So, if your personal situation allows it, how about escaping abroad during the colder months of the year?

Tom Church, the co-founder of the savings community LatestDeals.co.uk, is one of them. He says he plans to pack his bags after concluding that his rising gas and electric bills will cost him more than renting somewhere in Europe this winter.

“I thought to myself, ‘What if I close the house, turn everything off and go for the dearest months? “, Church said. “If you are a tenant and can cancel your contract to move abroad for a few months, you can save hundreds.

Apartments are cheaper to rent and energy costs are often much lower, he adds.

The shift to flexible working introduced by the coronavirus pandemic means the idea isn’t as radical as it would have seemed a few years ago. The ability to do this of course requires a great deal of flexibility and is more likely to appeal to singles, couples, young families and retirees who work remotely than those with school-aged children. You must also be able to afford the initial accommodation and flight costs.

However, Church is not alone in considering his options, with online searches for “moving abroad” surging in recent months amid mounting pressure on the cost of living.

Last month, the UK energy regulator confirmed an 80% increase in the consumer price cap from October, which will take the gas and electricity bill of a typical household to £3,549 per year. The next cap, for the period January to March 2023, could be even higher at over £5,000.

A typical energy bill will increase by 80% in October. Photography: Paul Marriott/Rex/Shutterstock

The new cap, which comes into effect on October 1, equates to a direct debit of almost £300 a month, although some will pay significantly more. Church says his projected bill for December alone is over £500.

A lot will also depend on the configuration of your accommodation. You will still have to pay rent or mortgage costs while you are away, unless, for example, you are prepared to give up your tenancy and find new accommodation when you return. That said, some people are lucky enough to currently have very low mortgage costs.

The latest research from estate agent chain Hamptons International shows that the average rent for a one-bed flat in the UK is £929 per month – and is considerably higher than in London. Analysis of the figures suggests some people could spend three months in Europe for less than £2,000, including flights, accommodation, wifi and energy costs, and enjoy cheaper living costs by general.

However, Church adds, “I want to clarify something. I don’t think that’s a good option for anyone. It’s absurd!

“We are in dire straits – I see in my savings community that people are struggling. Saving on your energy bills by going away for a few months shouldn’t be an option at all.

Before you leave

If you decide to follow Church’s example, there are several things to consider when closing your home for the winter.

Let your supplier know that you are going away and that you will not be using gas or electricity for several months.

Suppliers such as British Gas and Octopus have confirmed that direct debit bills will be reduced if you tell them you are leaving.

You’ll still have to pay the ongoing charges if there’s a meter on your property, so your bills won’t go down to zero.

Inside a refrigerator with the door open
If you close your house and go away for the winter, empty your fridge and freezer – and defrost the latter – before turning off electrical appliances. Photography: incamerastock/Alamy

Daily electricity and gas charges will be capped at 46p and 28p from October. However, these rates are “average and vary by region, payment method and type of meter”.

Empty your fridge and freezer – and defrost the freezer – before turning off electrical appliances.

However, while turning off your boiler while you’re away would clearly save you money, it’s a risky move during the winter that could cause problems – for example, if your pipes freeze.

Most boilers can be programmed to fire one hour per day. E.ON recommends scheduling it between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., which is usually the coldest time of the day.

Alternatively, you can drain the heating system and shut off the water supply.

Renting out your home while you’re away is one way to recoup costs, but be sure to double-check the terms of your contract if you’re renting, as many landlords won’t allow you to sublet.

If you are a landlord, you will need to take into account the additional costs you may incur by becoming a temporary landlord and hire a local person as a point of contact for your tenants while you are abroad.

It’s also worth asking a friend or neighbor to check in on your home while you’re away, whether to water the plants or for added security.

Also check your insurance policy to see if it becomes void if your home remains unoccupied for a certain number of days. You may need to purchase an add-on policy.

Lodging

Airbnb allows guests to book stays longer than 28 days, and energy bills are usually included in the total price. But check the house rules carefully before booking as they may include additional information about bills – for example, if you will have to pay more in certain circumstances.

Contact the host to come to an agreement on bills and be sure to get it in writing to avoid any disputes later.

Airbnb property in Spain.
Airbnb property in Spain. Photo: Perla Requejo/Reuters

If a host tries to charge for something that wasn’t included in the listing description or house rules, guests can open a dispute with Airbnb.

When booking through other platforms such as Booking.com or directly with the owner, make sure you have details of how you will be charged for gas and electricity.

We checked how much a three-month stay in or around Malaga in southern Spain would cost on Airbnb.

How much you pay will depend on your needs – for example, if you’re happy staying in your host’s guest room or if you prefer the whole place to yourself.

When we looked, a small apartment with a terrace and sea views in Torremolinos, west of Malaga, would cost £2,701 for the whole trip. Meanwhile, a room in a flat 15 minutes from Malaga beach would cost £1,476 for the full three-month period, although you would have to share the bathroom and kitchen with other guests.

Church found that some of the cheapest rentals were in France, but there were also some great options further afield in places like Montenegro and Romania.

Many apartments abroad offer free cancellation, so you can book now and cancel later if you change your mind.

Flights

When we checked flight comparison site Skyscanner, you could get direct return flights between London and Malaga for £58 with Wizz Air and Vueling, departing 1 October and returning 31 December.

These figures do not include the cost of checked baggage, which you would probably need for a three-month stay and would have to pay extra.

Check your destination’s Covid rules before booking.

working abroad

After Brexit, British citizens can only stay in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein for 90 days or less out of a 180-day visa-free period.

This is mainly for tourists, but there are some work-related allowances, such as attending a business meeting or a conference.

Check the visa requirements in the country you plan to visit to avoid breaking the rules.

Spain is considering introducing a visa for people working remotely for foreign companies – sometimes called “digital nomads” – but this has not yet been introduced.

This means that UK passport holders may need to apply for a visa at the Spanish consulate if they plan to work remotely for a UK company while in the country.

Sybille Steiner, Employment Law Partner at Irwin Mitchell Lawyers, says: “Individuals should not enter an EU country as a tourist and then start working there, as this is likely to violate EU rules. ‘immigration. The rules here will differ by country, and I recommend that local advice be taken.

There could also be tax implications for your employer, Steiner says.