Cars are expensive to run but cutting your regular outgoings is straightforward, says our financial expert.

My partner and I recently visited the wife of my former chemistry teacher, who sadly died last summer at the age of 89. He was incredibly well read and loved watching and talking about rugby, a game he played with some distinction as a young man.

He was an absolute gentleman who I got to know a little better over recent years after we were luckily re-introduced by his wife, also a long-retired ex-teacher who taught two of my sisters. Small world, eh?

We enjoyed tea and carrot cake with a woman who has the looks and demeanour of your favourite aunt and benefits from having a large family living close by, as well as many friends who have rallied around over the past nine months, which was encouraging to hear.

I suspect that selling the house she and her husband bought in 1972 will, if that’s what she decides to do, come as a huge wrench, but I was struck by the frequency with which she mentioned burgeoning fuel bills and the need, especially during the afternoon, to turn off the central heating. My wife and I reiterated the absolute need for her to stay warm.

We’ve seen a barrage of evidence which suggests that fuel bills could start rising again after April. I’ve mentioned before that my biggest concern is for the elderly: each winter, thousands die from hypothermia – a national disgrace in a rich Western democracy – but the situation could worsen. It’s imperative, therefore, that we all keep an eye on elderly relatives and neighbours, some of whom might be concerned about turning the heating up for fear of being hit with a hefty bill.

Some people admit to borrowing to pay their energy bills. However, temporarily suspending the payment of so-called ‘green levies’ and other, ‘social levies’ on utility bills, as many have advocated, would save consumers around £400–£500.

The government has attempted to negate the burden of steadily rising inflation and soaring fuel costs, but in addition to keeping an eye on elderly family, friends and neighbours, there’s plenty we can do as individuals to keep the corrosive impact of inflation at bay. Saving money is a good start.

“Why do people suffer from inertia when they’re buying, say, car insurance?” I asked Ken Carter at Moneymapp Insurance earlier this week.

“Our research shows that lots of people believe lower insurance premiums are ‘special offers’ available only for a short time – which simply isn’t correct," he said. "In fact, most people save money on their insurance regardless of when they visit the Moneymapp site.

“Others believe that savings of around £300 can only be achieved if you drive a ridiculously expensive four-wheel drive vehicle or a marquee name. Again, this isn’t true – the best savings are usually to be found on the most popular vehicles.

“Nor do the savings apply solely to brand new cars. Irrespective of your car’s age, our motor insurance comparison tool, which sifts through prices available at more than 100 insurance companies, will on average almost certainly save you money when compared with your existing insurance deal.”

Overcoming inertia could result in people saving hundreds, possibly thousands of pounds. It follows that the arrival of your car insurance renewal notice should act as a prompt to get up and do something about lowering your annual insurance cost.

As inflation displays a frustrating reluctance to leave quietly, saving a few hundred pounds here and there could make an enormous difference and mean you don’t have to borrow to pay your bills.

For more financial advice, check out Peter Sharkey’s regular blog, The Week In Numbers.

This column is for general information only and cannot be relied on as financial advice for individuals. Consult your professional adviser.