Student Bill-Busters: The Ultimate Guide
Your first home as a student is a big deal. For many it’s a first taste of independence, whether they’re going it alone or sharing with others.
But wait a minute… what are these things landing in your inbox (or, if you’re an old-fashioned sort, coming through the letterbox)? Bills of course!
Getting on top of your bills is a major challenge. Paying them is difficult enough, but are you clued up when it comes to shelling out? If you aren’t, don’t worry.
Our straightforward bill-busting tips will guarantee you’re organised and ready to pay. On top of that, they’ll even save you money!
No-one says it’s interesting, but bill-buster rule number one is knowing your utilities. There are certain essential things you need that you’ll always have to pay for.
We know what you’re thinking. “I know what utilities I need!” Some of these you probably do, but we’re betting there are at least a couple here you haven’t thought of.
Gas & Electric
Unless you’re planning on bringing your own means of heating, lighting, cooking etc (DON’T do that!) there’s no escaping gas and electricity.
Both should be connected up and ready to use. Remember it’s your responsibility to know who your supplier is, and notify them that you’re the new tenant.
Some homes are all electric, but this only makes the billing process slightly less complex. Gas and electric must be regularly monitored via a meter.
Your supplier will want to know how much you’re using, which isn’t as hassly as it sounds. It’s a simple case of reading numbers off the meter and letting them know.
You can do this online, or over the phone when payment is due. Companies also use smart meters, which do all the reporting for you. Check if you have one.
Don’t go overboard with radiators going full blast at all hours. If you’re cold then move around more. You’ll fend off the chill and save money.
We’re betting you guessed this one already. Doesn’t take a genius to work it out, right? Water is everywhere. All you have to do is switch on the tap.
Here’s the thing. There aren’t multiple providers for water, like with gas. You’ll only have one company supplying you with the wet stuff, so that makes things simple.
Even better your landlord may already have an arrangement for this, in which case you have nothing to worry about, aside from paying the bill in the first place!
A four-minute timer will reduce the amount of water you use. Handy because you are charged to the last drop. Read more here.
Though you’re expected to fork out for many things, council tax won’t be one of them. You’ll be glad to hear you’re not eligible.
There’s a reason we’re mentioning this. You have to tell them, otherwise they’ll send you a bill! Ensure you get an exemption by contacting the local authority.
Being able to call home and complain about things is a key part of student life. Or you can use it to chat to your mates to your heart’s content.
Want to know the best part? It’s never been easier to get great deals on handsets and bundles. Here are some student deals that will help you find your voice.
Be wary of hoovering up the data though, and know your limits. Mobile bills are famously complicated and roaming can lead to regretting.
Don’t forget you can get calls and broadband all in one package.
Landlines are a bit last century but they’re still a valid means of communication!
It almost goes without saying but, when you’re trying to learn stuff, being connected to the rest of the planet is essential. Home broadband keeps you keeping up.
Now, you can use free wi-fi if you want to. However you run the risk of roaming around unprotected, meaning your device could be corrupted and work lost.
Customer service is vital for resolving issues and getting value for money. Pick a company with a good track record. Read more about broadband here.TV Licence
Traditional TV watching among the younger generation is dying out. So you may not think there’s anything to pay, because you don’t bother with telly.
Be careful! This is a minefield if you don’t know the ins and outs. For example, watching live TV requires a licence, even when you’re not using a TV.
You can bypass this if you only watch catch up, but this DOESN’T apply to BBC iPlayer. You can also wangle a freebie if your parents home is your primary address.
Streaming services like Now TV offer trial viewing as an incentive for signing up. Just make sure you cancel the arrangement before expiry!
Last but by no means least in our utilities round up is contents insurance. Let’s face it, do you really think you can get through the chaos of student life without it…?
Here’s a great tip. Insurance can be pretty pricey and you may not have many possessions. Protect Your Bubble offer good deals for baggage-free students.
Ready for more tips…?
Working out what you have to pay isn’t the end of the story. There’s another hurdle you have to get over first. Actually it’s more like jumping through hoops!
What are we talking about? Providers! It’s a competitive market out there, with different companies fighting for your attention. Apart from water, it’s across the board.
Now, it could be you move into the student property with a great company supplying your electricity, broadband or whatever. The deal is good and you stick with it.
More often than not however there’s room for improvement. You might want to think about switching providers to get an improved service, and crucially lower bills.
It means wrapping your brain round various deals, but the end result is worth it. Did you know hundreds can be saved per year by switching energy providers?
Once you’ve changed who supplies your gas and electricity, why not think about your broadband? Comparison sites do a lot of the work for you in finding a good price.
🍌 MAKE LIKE A BANANA 🍌
…and split! If you share a property with other people then splitting is a popular way of getting everyone to pay their fair share.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? In theory it’s foolproof. The reality is usually different, with a lot of confusion and arguments. There are many splitting options available.
Friends can quickly become enemies when money’s involved! The ideal scenario is everyone contributing equally and on time, though this takes work.
Giving everyone their own utility and calculating shares is one way of doing it. Of course, this depends on whether your number of tenants matches the number of bills!
Also does one person always have the cash to pay the whole bill? If they struggle then the whole arrangement could fall apart.
A joint account is easier in some ways, because you pay in and the bank does the rest. Having said that, it still relies on people contributing on time.
Sometimes student house shares are random and you won’t know the people you’re living with. Watch out for complex arrangements you may need to ditch in a hurry.
Want to know a simple solution?
Apps! They’re great for doing the legwork when you want to organise. Splittable is a recommended app that helps avoid bust ups.
It takes all your outgoings and quickly divides them up, making things clear from the get-go. Perfect if maths isn’t your forte, and you’re wrangling over numbers.
There’s so much information we can give you about paying your bills and saving money, we’d feel bad if we didn’t squeeze it all in. So here are some bite-sized tips:
1. Put everyone’s name on the contract.
Unless you’re living alone, this is a group effort. If a bill is in your name alone the buck stops with you.
With the best will in the world, things can go wrong and you could find yourself lumbered with a big debt. Everyone should be pitching in, not copping out.
2. Be punctual.
Make a note of due dates and stick to them as closely as possible. Companies like prompt payers, and you may be offered rewards as a result.
3. Watch out for hidden fees.
Not all costs are obvious, and you’ll give yourself eye strain going through the contract. You have to - there are always conditions attached.
Are bills included in the rent? You won’t have to worry about arranging payments if the bills are handled by your landlord. You just have to pay the rent on time!
4. Pay by direct debit.
These days it’s preferred that you pay automatically by direct debit. Incentives are offered for this and you save money in the long run.
5. Don't jump in for dual fuel.
This looks convenient but can be problematic. It’s easy having one company providing your gas and electric, but it’s not always the best deal.
Log on and check out a range of offers before you settle on dual fuel. It could be that separate energy bills work out cheaper for you.
6. Earn cashback.
Strange as it sounds, there are companies who pay you to pay your bills! Some current accounts reward you for direct debit bill payments with cashback.
If you don’t know about cashback, it’s a way of “earning” extra on top without doing much. The sums aren’t huge but there’s enough of a return to make it worthwhile.
7. Pay the right way.
In most cases you’re given various options for paying your bills.
Monthly, quarterly or yearly are common, but there are others.
Obviously if you pay every year then that’s a big hit to take financially. Spreading costs throughout the 12 months could save you money.
You’ll have a credit check. For big things like rent, landlords need to know you’re trustworthy. A credit check is one way of guaranteeing that.
The checks depend on debt gained via credit or debit cards, which is quite confusing but that’s how the system works. If you’ve never had a card it’s an issue.
Your debt trail is then traced to see if you’ve been paying the money back and acting responsibly. If you’ve been reckless early on you’ll have a bad credit score.
This will make it very difficult to secure rented accommodation. There are ways round the situation such as a guarantor. Read more about what you can do here.
Ready for more? We hope you’ve found this guide useful. But in case you need some extra reading here’s some added info to help you pay your bills like a pro.