The ultimate guide to student bills
Whether you’ve never set up utility accounts before or have been through the process many times, please take the time to read our hand tips that could save you lots of money, time and the inevitable housemate stress.
We recommend reading through this article before comparing suppliers.
When it comes to who’s responsible for which utilities in your new house, it’s important to think about how bills will be paid on time and how payments will be shared fairly.
We’re aware that every student house has different dynamics (eg. how well you get on with housemates & how many are living there). However, there are two common ways of managing the bill payments that avoid using costly bill splitting companies:
Split the responsibility
This is the most popular way for students to split their bills & our personal recommendation. It’s as simple as dividing the bills between those living in the house. Each tenant takes on either gas, electricity, broadband, telephone, water, insurance, TV subscriptions or a combination.
Once the delegating has been done, you’ll then need to calculate who owes any more money each month.
This is the only slightly tricky part but nothing that a simple spreadsheet and some GCSE level maths can’t solve… Plus, once you’ve done it once you shouldn’t need to again.
The only possible downside to this method is that it relies on the person paying the bill to have enough money in their account to cover every single housemate until they are paid back (unless you take money upfront).
Quick example: if you are in charge of electricity for example and you pay £30/month in a house of 6 then you need to make sure that you collect £5 from each housemate every month. It’s that simple…
Joint Bank Account
DISCLAIMER! We suggest that you only use this method if you trust your housemate(s) 100% or plan to spend your future with them (eg. student couples). This method is not suggested for the majority of students.
If any of the account holders fail to make payments on time or miss a bill payment it will affect your credit score (even if it wasn’t your fault). Do not use this method if you’ve only just met your housemates or feel they may be too immature to handle a joint account.
All you have to do is set up a joint bank account that you all put money into to pay for bills each month. Setting up a standing order even does the work for you.
A downside to this method is that it can be hard to calculate how much some bills will be ahead of time, so how do you know how much to put in each month? Plus the added risk of one of your housemates making a late payment or taking money out without checking leading to a missed bill payment and therefore a blotch on your credit file.
The charges you would end up paying bill splitting companies are simply not worth the minimal time that they save you. They also restrict you to certain suppliers meaning you might miss out on the best deals which could cost you even more money throughout the year.
Put everyone’s name on the bills
Make sure that one person is not held solely responsible for an account. It’s the best way to get everyone to pay on time as they will not want it to affect their credit score in the long run.
Don’t hang around!
Get your utilities and bills set up as soon as possible. Some services such as phone line installation and broadband activation can several weeks!
There is nothing worse than spending the first few weeks of uni without internet (well, there is, but this is pretty annoying!).
Some services only offer 12 month contracts (more on that later) so if you set up your account late you may end up paying for months when you aren’t even using the utilities at the end of the year.
ALWAYS Read the small print
Getting stung by surprise installation costs and price hikes can be a real shock, especially when you haven’t budgeted for it.
Make sure that you know how your contract works and what charges you may be lumped with.
Take regular meter readings
Make sure you take meter readings when you move in and when you move out.
It is essential that you also do it during the year to make sure that you are not being over or under charged.
Imagine that you end the year and find out that you have paid £30 too little each month. This could add up to a huge £360 bill that you won’t have planned for.
Nip late payments in the bud
Communication with your housemates is essential from start to finish. Meeting up at the beginning over a beer is a great way to sort out how you are going to split the bills.
Keep the communication going throughout the year and make sure that anyone who makes a late payment knows that they cannot do it again.
Set up direct debits
If you know how much your bill payments will be each month (eg £30 in a house of 6) then you could kindly ask everyone to set up a direct debit to your bank account for the princely sum of £5 every month.
It will save you a lot of chasing up every 30 or so days.
It’s also worth noting that paying the bills companies by direct debit could save you a few bob too!
Split the bills monthly
This is a really important point to stress, especially with bill payments like water which are mostly taken every 3 months.
It’s best that you take money from your housemates or pay them monthly as opposed to just when the bill comes through the letter box. The reason for this is that it helps you to budget and pay in smaller chunks (which feels better)…
Beware of cancellation costs
There might be a great deal on a 12 month contract compared to a rolling month-by-month contract. Just make yourself aware of the cancellation costs (as some force you to pay the remainder of the contract in full).
On the other hand, short-term contracts can have extra costs like higher installation fees, so our top tip is to calculate them as a full price (rather than month by month). This way you can see which will be cheaper overall.
If you plan on watching any live TV you will need to get your hands on a TV licence. It’s worth knowing that you now also need to have a licence to watch catch-up on BBC iPlayer or 4OD as well.
A TV licence for a colour TV is currently £145.50 for the year.
Student Council Tax
Full-time students are council tax exempt but you need to make sure that your local council is aware that you are students.