Winter: like it or not, it’s here, and it's going to push up your gas and electricity bills. But you don’t have to roll over and fill your energy provider’s coffers ‘til they overflow. Take control and minimise your bills with these handy tips...

Wear an extra layer

Given we all have central heating systems in our homes, it can seem a little "19th century" to pull on an extra jumper when it gets chilly – yet this simple act could save you a good deal over time. For example, according to the Energy Saving Trust, simply reducing your home's temperature from 21 to 20 degrees could save up to £80 each year. The humble woolly jumper can make this possible. Other old-school but effective ways to keep toasty are hot water bottles and slippers.

Ditch "guestimates" and take control

Letting a company estimate how much you should pay for their goods or services simply doesn’t make sense – and yet millions of people let energy providers do just this. It's quick and easy to check your meter and send over your reading so you can get an accurate bill. You'll know where you stand financially.

You could even ask if your energy firm will give you a smart meter. This gives you a running update of what you’re spending. Give them a call and find out.

The fixed-fee option

Your energy provider may offer a deal in which the unit cost of electricity is fixed for an agreed term. This can help keep a handle on your energy outgoings. However, it only protects you from unit price hikes by your provider; if you consume more than usual, you'll still pay more. And on the downside, you won’t benefit if the energy firm drops its unit price (which these days is unlikely).

This option can end up being a little more costly over summer, but it evens out in winter – and you don't have to worry so much about cranking the thermostats up when temperatures drop. However, do spare a thought for the environment when you reach for that dial.

Shop around for the best deal

There's much talk of the "big six" energy companies in the UK – but don’t forget there are plenty of newer firms offering lower rates. Make sure you shop around and get a deal that's kind on your finances. It’s a good idea to switch to any new provider before winter sets in, so you can take full advantage of the lower rates. You could even switch to another provider after winter, but you may be charged an exit fee.

Comparison sites aren't always right

If you rely on comparison sites to find the cheapest energy deal, remember that not all providers work with them. Do a little research to ensure you get the best deal.

Invest in energy-efficient appliances

You're probably familiar with those energy rating stickers on everything from fridges to toasters. They range from costly G to super-efficient A++. In most cases these products will cost you more, but will deliver solid savings over the long run.

Even buying an A++ rated light bulb could save you up to £60 over its lifetime. Small money-saving decisions like these can really stack up months and years down the line.

Efficient use of washing machines

Small loads mean wasted electricity and water – so make sure you fill up your machine (without overloading) before you do a wash. The tumble drier mode should also be avoided since it costs a great deal. Instead, use clothes horses.

In winter, it’s not always practical to use the clothes line outside, but if it's dry and bright enough, this is still a great option.

Using radiators to dry your clothes is tempting when you need something to wear, but bear in mind that doing so regularly can increase the chances of mould in your home, and may even trigger some respiratory problems over time. Putting clothes on radiators also traps heat, making your home cooler.

Make sure your family/housemates do their bit

Needless to say, leaving lights, TVs, and other appliances on when they're not needed costs you money. Leaving windows open and doors ajar can also significantly push up your outgoings – especially in winter. As the bill payer you may understand this, but those you live with may be less well-informed. Make sure they know the score.

Get insulated

Loft insulation could save you £225 annually, while floor insulation could save up to £65 each year. How much you can save with cavity wall insulation depends on the size of your home, but ranges from £70 to £225 annually. The cost of insulating your home is likely to be covered in just a few years, leading to long-term savings. always recommend seeking the services of a professional tradesperson If you're not entirely comfortable carrying out repairs or maintenance by yourself.