How to split bills with your flatmates
Moving out of halls and into a student flat after your first year of university is an exciting prospect. You’re living with your friends, you don’t have to worry about sharing a shower with 20 other people and you don’t have a strange, noisy sink in the corner of your room.
However, you’ll also have more responsibility. In halls, utility bills were the last thing on your mind. But now, probably for the first time in your life, you’re in charge of ensuring your house has heating, water, and most importantly, internet.
From the get-go it’s best to delegate responsibilities to each flatmate. If bills go unpaid you could be cut off, chased by debt collectors and end up with a bad credit score. It’s important to establish who pays what, how much they pay and when. Unfortunately, one person is probably going to have to take charge to begin with. If you’re reading this, it’s probably you, congratulations! Time to start discussing predicted costs and figures with the rest of the group. It’s probably a good idea to set up a WhatsApp group, Facebook message or perhaps go really old-school and all get together in person!
It's also worth looking at our handy guide on contents insurance, just incase anything in your new house goes walkabout or gets broken. Moving house is very exciting, but take a minute to read your tenancy agreement before you move in, to ensure you get your deposit back when you move out (we've written a handy guide on that too!).
There’s an app for that
If you don’t fancy setting up lots of spreadsheets or sticking post-it notes everywhere, hit the app store. The app Splittable allows you to put in all the outgoings your house will have, bills, cleaner, supermarket shops etc. It will then equally split this up between housemates to show how much each person should be paying. It’s a good idea to delegate one big utility bill to one person, but apps like Splittable will show you where some people are paying more and how you can even it out. For example, the electricity bill is likely to be much more than the broadband bill, so one person pays for broadband and subscriptions like Netflix.
If you live in a house with only students, even if they’re postgraduates, you don’t have to pay this. However, you will need to get a letter signed by your university to prove your student status and send this to your local council. Ensure you do this as soon as you move in, or even before if you have your address details already. Don't know who to write to? Don't worry, it's all online.
Gas and electricity
Normally you’ll be able to sort these out with one account. We’ve heard a lot of horror stories about previous tenants not paying their bill before they’ve moved out and getting lumped with a debt that shouldn’t be theirs. Watch out for this. Ensure you take a meter reading when you move in and submit this to your energy supplier; any outstanding charges are the responsibility of your landlord or the previous tenants.
Shop around online to ensure you’re on the best energy plan for your house, don’t just accept what you already have. Switching doesn’t have to be a huge hassle and it can save you a lot of money. Site like uSwitch explain costs really clearly and show you which provider will give you the cheapest and best service. If you do end up switching, make sure you sign up to get cashback. You could earn £30 just changing providers.
Try and pay by direct debit. This is likely to make the bill cheaper and it ensures you pay on the same date every single month - avoiding the chance of getting cut-off for not paying on time.
Water bills often come quarterly, so don’t forget about it if it hasn’t arrived for a few months! You could try and work out how much the bill is likely to be by using websites like Water Meter Calculator. You could try asking the landlord to see how much previous tenants have been paying.
If you’re conscious about keeping bills down there are lots of measures you can take. Cutting down showers and baths can save a lot on the bill. That doesn’t mean you need to be surrounded by stinky housemates though. If you or your housemates are gym-goers, why not shower there after your session, instead of at home? If you want to be super savvy, why not get a four-minute timer to stick in your shower? You'll be cutting costs in no time.
Save money by avoiding the dishwasher, or only use it when it’s got a reasonable amount of crockery in there. Same goes for the washing machine. If there’s one housemate who uses it just to wash one shirt at a time, put a stop to it! This is a huge waste of both water and energy, so make sure you’re sensible.
Home phone and broadband
This is something you’ll want to do soon, as phone lines can take a long time to install and it can be even longer for routers to be delivered. Take advantage of any deals or discounts you can get as a student. Also make sure you do your research, just because one supplier is throwing in a £50 John Lewis voucher, doesn’t mean it’s the best in the long run. Just like other bills, paying by direct debit will likely cut down the costs.
Check out our broadband section to find the best deals and discounts for students.
If you have a TV or watch live TV on your laptop, tablet etc, you will need a TV licence. This is a flat-fee of £145.50 a year. You can choose to pay this yearly, monthly, weekly or quarterly (with an extra fee). If you only watch catch-up TV online, 4OD, iPlayer etc, you don’t need a licence. If you make the decision not to get one it might be worth writing to the licensing company to explain this and stop getting those little brown envelopes through your letterbox each month.
When it comes to summer term, if you and your housemates go home or on holiday you will be entitled to a partial refund of around £37. This can be a little bit fiddly though. You’ll need to have a license paid yearly and it needs to be valid for another three months over summer. If this is what you’re after then you’ll need to buy the license during the first few weeks of term in September or October. To get your refund contact TV Licensing on 0300 790 6090 or follow this link.
Netflix and Now TV
Did you know that a Netflix account can be shared between devices? Depending on your plan you can have up to four people watching different films or TV programmes at the same time. Perfect for a student house. It might be worth setting up a house account, or take advantage of the 30 day free trial that it offers.
Now TV operates in a similar way. You can watch on two devices at the same time, but have four different devices registered. It also offers a free month trial service, so make the most of it!