Student Accommodation

The ultimate guide to student bills

Setting up your utility bills for your student house is often a long and confusing task, but it doesn't have to be! We show you how to keep bills simple.Student-Bills-Guide-2Whether you've never set up utility accounts before or have been through the process many times, our student bills section will save you lots of money, time and the inevitable housemate stress.

We recommend going through this article before comparing suppliers, but if you're keen to get them sorted now you can head over to the student bills comparison page to grab the cheapest deals for students!

Beware of bill splitting companies that offer to do bill splitting on your behalf. It's worth putting in the effort of splitting bills yourself to avoid the unnecessary (sometimes hidden) charges. It's also a great way to learn some all-important budgeting skills that you'll need for life!

How to split bills simply between housemates

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 a different dynamic (eg. how well you get on with housemates and how many people are living there).

However, there are two basic ways of managing bill payments that don't involve using costly bill splitting services:

  1. Split the responsibility

    fingersWe would personally recommend splitting the responsibility amongst yourselves, and this is the most popular option for students.

    It's as simple as this: 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 split bills by the number of people living in the house each month and let everyone know who owes what.

    This part can be slightly tricky, but nothing a simple spreadsheet and some GCSE level maths can't solve!

    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 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!

  2. Bill splitting apps

    SplittableNot to be confused with companies that offer to handle and split your bills entirely on your behalf (and charge you a fair whack in exchange), money splitting apps are free to use. These apps can be a great great way to manage who owes what in your student house.

    Once you're all on a money splitting app like Splitwise you can request payments from everyone and add comments and due dates. The app will simply show who's in the red and who's all paid up.

    This can be a great option as often you'll find that if you're all paying for different bills each month, it'll only be the ones who are forking out for the more pricey bills who need compensated (e.g. what's the point in sending someone your £5 share of the £30 electricity bill if they also owe you £6 for internet?).

  3. Open a joint bank account

    DISCLAIMER! We only suggest using this method if you already know and trust your housemate(s) 100%. This option isn't recommended for the majority of students, particularly if there are more than three people house sharing as it gets more complicated keeping track of payments from everyone.

    Setting up a joint bank account for bills can be another option for sharing bills, but this involves a certain level of risk, so should be reserved for situations where you're moving in with people you already know well and can trust to pay their share on time.

    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.

    If any of the account holders fail to make payments on time or miss a bill payment it could affect your credit score (even if it wasn't your fault). For this reason, it's not a good idea to go for this option if you've only just met your housemates or if they tend to be a bit irresponsible with cash.

    Another slightly similar option would be to designate one person as bill-payer, and all house mates transfer cash to them each month to pay bills. The upside of this option is that in being in charge of the bills, you'll be building up your credit score, but the downside is that if you fail to keep up with payments (sometimes due to others being late in sending you cash) it's your credit that will suffer.

Bill splitting services might sound like a great idea, but the amount they charge are not worth the minimal time that they save you. These companies also restrict you to certain suppliers for your bills, meaning you might miss out on the best deals – which could cost you even more money throughout the year.

Extra tips to save time and money on bills

one pound coinsHere are some more top tips on how to sort out your bills with your housemates and make some big savings.

  1. 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 won't want it to affect their credit score in the long run.

    Not sure what your credit score is and how they work? Find out more here.

  2. Don't hang around!

    Get your utilities and bills set up as soon as possible. There's nothing worse than spending the first few weeks of uni without internet, and some services such as phoneline installation and broadband activation can several weeks!

    Some companies only offer a minimum 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 service once the uni term is over.

  3. Always read the small print

    bills small printGetting stung by surprise installation costs and price hikes can be a real shock – 'specially when you haven't budgeted for it.

    Make sure you know exactly how your contract works and what charges you might be lumped with before signing up to anything.

    You might be glad to hear that we've already done most of this small print decoding for you in our bills comparison guides. You're welcome!

  4. Go all-inclusive

    If you can, it will be cheaper and less of a hassle if you can come to an agreement with your landlord to include all bills in the overall figure for your monthly rent payments.

    It might be too late at this stage of the game, but well worth keeping in mind to ask the next time you're looking for a new place to rent.

  5. Take regular meter readings

    meter readingMake sure you take meter readings when you move in and when you move out.

    It's essential that you also do it multiple times throughout the year to make sure you're not being over- or undercharged.

    Imagine you end the year and find out that you've paid £30 too little each month – this could add up to a huge £360 bill that you won't have planned for! Ouch…

  6. Nip late payments in the bud

    Communication with your housemates is essential from the very beginning to the end of your housing contract. Calling a house meeting down the local pub on day one to discuss this stuff over a beer is a great way to sort out how you are going to split the bills without it seeming like a horrible task no one wants to agree to.

    Keep the communication going throughout the year and make sure that anyone who makes a late payment knows that they can't do it again, or it will affect everyone involved.

  7. 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 bill companies by direct debit could save you a few bob too as often they will offer discounts to those who opt in to DD payments.

  8. 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 each month 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 is much kinder on the purse strings than being surprised with a bill when you least expect it.

Contract length: 9 vs 12 month

Bill-Contract-LengthFor some students, the minimum contract length for utilities can be a bit of a stinger.

If you plan on using your accommodation over summer, a 12 month contract can be pretty useful. If not, you'll will need to set up your bills as soon as possible (internet can take a while to set up) and a 9 month contract is probably your best option.

Suppliers tend to require minimum 12 month contracts, but if you do your homework you'll find that some providers will offer a variety of contract lengths ranging from 1 month to 18 months.

Just make sure you know how long you'll be signed up for before signing anything!

Look out for 9 month contracts

Unfortunately, it's pretty rare to get a 9 month contract – but it's certainly not impossible (check our comparisons)!

For contracts like gas and electricity and your TV Licence, it's possible to cancel with little or no charge after 9 months (you'll even be refunded months you don't use on your TV licence) but some phone, broadband and TV contracts have hefty charges for cancelling.

Beware of cancellation costs

There might be a great deal on a 12 or even 18 month contract compared to a rolling month-by-month contract. Just be aware that there can be cancellation costs involved (some will even 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 for the entire year (rather than month by month). This way you can see which will be cheaper overall.

Luckily, we do all the calculations for you in our handy bills comparison guides.

Bills that are easy to forget

avoid overdraft chargesOther than your main utility bills, you will have a lot of things to consider when moving into your new home. Here are a few that tend to be overlooked:

TV Licence

If you plan on watching any TV on a television set, you'll 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 TV on BBC iPlayer as well, although there is a loophole that means most students don't have to pay up – find out more here.

A TV licence for a colour TV is currently £147 for the year.

If you only live in your property for 9 months then you can get a student TV licence refund by following the steps in our guide.

Student Council Tax

Full-time students are council tax exempt (wahoo!) but you need to make sure your local council is aware that you are students by applying for exemption – it doesn't just happen automatically!

If you're unsure about council tax, have a gander at our student council tax guide for the full deets.

Insurance

Your contents insurance is rarely ever included in your student accommodation rent, so you need to make sure you get insurance to cover your valuable items like your beloved laptop, mobile phone, etc.

If you're unlucky enough to get burgled during uni term then it's your responsibility and not that of the landlord to cover your items. Unfortunately, student houses are also a real target for criminals so it's well worth investing in some insurance.

We have a guide to the best student contents insurers here.

Next step! Setting up your bills

Ok, now you're pretty much a pro at this bills lark, you can go over to our main student bills page to sort out all the bills you need for your student digs.

The following utility guides have all the info you need find the best packages and make the biggest savings on your bills.

The main guides are:

Using all our great guides as resources, you'll quickly be a bills pro and be well equipped to make super savings when signing up for bills. And the skills you acquire now will be with you for life!

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