The ultimate guide to student bills
Sorting out bills for your student house is often a long and confusing task, but it doesn't have to be!Whether 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!
What’s in this guide?
How to simply split the bills 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 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…
Bill Splitting Apps
Not to be confused with companies that offer to handle and split your bills, bill or money splitting apps can be a great way to manage who owes what in your student house.
One free app we love is Splittable. You can download the app on iPhone or Android and then invite your housemates.
Once you're all on the app 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.
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.
Extra tips to save time and money on bills
Here are some more top tips on how to sort out your bills with your housemates and make some big savings.
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.
Not sure what a credit score is? Find out more here.
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.
You may be glad to hear that we have done most of this for you (because we're great like that) in our bills comparison guides.
If you can, it will be cheaper and less hassle to ask your new landlord if they will include bills.
It's probably too late at this stage, but well worth asking when you are looking for a new place to rent.
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)…
Contract length: 9 vs 12 month
For some students, the minimum contract length for most utilities can be a bit of a stinger.
If you plan on using your accommodation over summer then you will need to set up your bills as soon as possible (internet can take a while to set up) but if you are only moving in during September then a 9 month contract is the way forward.
Suppliers tend to require 12 month contracts, but if you do your homework you'll find some 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 ordering!
Look out for 9 month contracts
Unfortunately it's pretty rare to get a 9 month contract but it is possible (check our comparisons).
For contracts like gas and electricity and the TV Licence, it is possible to cancel with little or no charge after 9 months 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 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.
Luckily we do all the calculations for you in our bills comparison articles.
Alternative bills to consider
Other than your main utility bills you will have a lot of things to consider when moving into your new home.
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 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 our guide.
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.
If you are unsure about council tax then check out our student council tax guide.
Your contents insurance is no longer given to you for free when you move out of student halls so you need to make sure you get insurance to cover your valuable items like your beloved laptop.
If you are burgled throughout the year then it is your responsibility and not that of the landlord to cover your items. Unfortunately student houses are a real target for criminals.
We have a guide to the best student contents insurers here.
Find the best value bills now!
Ok, now you are a bills pro, you can go over to our main student bills page to sort out all the bills you are responsible for (on your own or with your housemates).
Use our utilities guides to find the best packages and make the biggest savings on your bills. The main guides are:
Save money throughout the year
There's much to be saved by being smart and following our guides to saving on your water bill and energy bills. Take a look below at the guides we have to help save you money:
- Save money on your water bill throughout the year
- Save money on gas & electricity throughout the year
- How much does energy cost per hour?
With the resources on this website, you'll quickly be a bills pro and well equipped to make super-savings when signing up for bills and throughout the year. Remember the skills you learn now will be with you for life!
Let's get started, head over to the student bills landing page.