Fuel debts are a major worry and many households are increasingly struggling to keep on top of their fuel bills, according to a debt helpline.

National Debtline has found a growing number of people calling because they're having problems keeping on top of their fuel bills. Indeed, back in 2004, 2.7% of calls made to the helpline were concerning fuel debt - but by last year, this figure had jumped to 13.7%.

Looking at the actual numbers, this increase is even steeper - marking a rise from 1,212 calls seven years ago to 27,012 in 2011. National Debtline says that the number of people having problems affording their gas and/or electricity bills has 'grown exponentially' as the costs have been raised by the Big Six energy companies.

So, with more and more people struggling to keep on top of their fuel bills, it's perhaps more important than ever to find ways to keep on top of all your fuel costs per month - along with all your other essential outgoings.

Let's look at a few practical ways you could do this.

Regularly update your budget

If you're having problems keeping on top of your fuel costs, it could be that you're spending too much money elsewhere in your monthly budget. It's important to revise your budget from month to month, in order to keep an eye on your spending and really keep track of your outgoings.

One of the most important rules for a successful budget is to make sure you prioritise all your essential outgoings - fuel bills, rent/mortgage, food, transport, etc. - over and above any of your non-essentials, so you can be confident that the 'basics' are safely covered from month to month.

You could even go a step further and look for a managed basic bank account: some basic bank accounts provide a built-in budgeting service, splitting your 'bill money' up from your 'spare cash' so you can't accidentally overspend.

Consider cutting back on fuel use

When times are tight, facing higher-than-necessary fuel bills every month - on top of all your other important costs - could easily lead to debt problems.

Why not think about ways you could reduce the amount of gas/electricity you use? Just a few simple steps could knock more than you might think off your fuel bills. You could, for example:

  • Always switch lights off when you leave a room
  • Draught-proof your rooms to stop heat escaping
  • Invest in a more efficient boiler.

Following a few tips like these could help you shrink your fuel bills and see your money grow in the long term - which could really pay off in these straitened times.