Student bills – Setup, compare and split
Setting up, splitting and managing utility bills for your student house can be super confusing. But it doesn't have to be! This guide explains how to keep it simple while saving a lot of money.
Whether you've never set up a utility account before or are battle-hardened to the process, our student bills comparisons will save you plenty of money and time. Plus, you'll avoid falling out with your housemates over what needs doing and who pays who.
This guide is the best place to start before comparing suppliers and deals. We'll take you through exactly which bills you'll need to sort out, how to switch energy and broadband providers and the best way to split student bills with housemates.
Please avoid student bill-splitting companies. They overcharge and limit your options. It's easy and far cheaper to go direct by following our advice.
What's in this guide?
- Which utilities do you need?
- How much do student bills cost?
- Switching provider
- How to split bills between housemates
- 8 tips for easy student bills
Which utilities do you need?
There's a lot to think about when moving into a new house, not least when it comes to setting up utilities and bills.
All that stuff your parents made seem like a doddle is actually pretty tricky to work out. So here's your complete checklist of student utility bills to set you off:
Arguably the most important utility in any modern student house. And, because it can take a few weeks to set up, we'd recommend getting your internet set up first.
Broadband is definitely one for comparing providers – it's a highly competitive market which results in plenty of great deals for consumers.
But, naturally, too much choice can actually make deciding on a broadband package quite difficult. So, go in armed with a good idea of what speed and contract length you'll need.
Digital TV package
While a paid-for TV package may be one of the less essential bills, we know many student houses contain certified TV bingers or sports enthusiasts looking to boost the number of live channels available via a digital TV package.
If you are in the market, it's usually cheaper to bundle TV and broadband together – but again, it may take some time to get set up, so it's best to sort it ASAP.
Gas and electricity
Gas and electricity will likely be your biggest expenses when it comes to utility bills.
Not every house will have a gas connection, so you may only need to worry about electricity. If you do have both, it's normally cheaper and much easier to combine both together in a dual fuel tariff with the same energy provider.
When you first move in, the house will almost certainly be supplied (so you can switch on the lights and use the gas hobs). From the start of the tenancy, you are responsible for paying for the energy used supplied by the existing provider. Find out who it is ASAP and tell them you've moved in!
The next priority is to compare energy suppliers and switch to the best deal to avoid inheriting an expensive tariff.
Your provider will use meter readings to determine how much you're using (and therefore spending). Until recently it was common for providers to check readings themselves, but now they typically rely on estimated readings until you submit them.
So, remember to send readings as soon as you move in (so you don't end up paying the previous tenants' energy bill) and then every few months from then on. Otherwise, you could pay more than you should, or get a shock bill when you move out.
Water and sewerage
Water is pretty critical and, again, the house should already be supplied. These days, many landlords handle the water bill themselves, bundling the cost in with your rent. But don't just assume this is the case – double-check with them, just in case.
If it is down to you, then there is some bad news: unlike other utilities, there's no shopping around with water suppliers.
You'll have one regional water provider supplying your area, and you'll either be on a standard tariff (billed monthly or yearly) or have a water meter.
With the latter, you'll be charged for the exact volume of water you use, which isn't always cheaper for larger house shares.
Use this site to find your water supplier and contact them to set up your customer account.
Unfortunately, student houses are a real target for criminals, so it's worth investing in some insurance.
Contents insurance is rarely ever included in your rent, so you're responsible for insuring valuable items like your laptop and mobile phone.
Most insurance policies protect against theft and damage, but the actual level of cover reflects the price. If you only have a few valuables, Protect Your Bubble may be more affordable than taking out a full contents policy (they do student discount too).
You may also be covered by your parents' policy, so ask them to read the small print or check with their provider.
Student council tax
If you're a full-time student, you don't have to pay any council tax.
But you must apply for an exemption to inform your local council that you are students.
If you plan on watching any live TV, you'll need to get your hands on a TV Licence.
This also now applies to watching catch-up TV on BBC iPlayer as well, although there is a loophole that means students don't necessarily have to pay up.
A TV Licence for the year will set you back around £160. But if you only live in your uni house during term time, follow our steps on getting a partial refund.
Of course, if you'll only be streaming Netflix for the year, you won't need a TV Licence at all – loophole or no loophole!
How much do bills cost?
Our recent survey revealed the average student spends £37 a month on household bills, but it can be much higher for those stuck in overpriced contracts or with fewer housemates to split the cost.
The cost also depends on lots of other factors, including where you live, energy demand, insulation, internet requirements, length of showers...
But, to give you a rough idea, this table shows the monthly spend of a student on bills, in a house with a total of four people:
Average student monthly bills
|Electricity||£10 – £15|
|Gas||£10 – £15|
|Water & sewerage||£8 – £10|
|Broadband||£5 – £8|
|Contents insurance||£5 – £7|
Switching energy and broadband provider
When you first move into your student house, your gas and electricity (and possibly broadband) will already be provided by a company. The costly mistake many students make is sticking with existing suppliers rather than comparing and switching to a better deal.
If you continue with the same provider when the minimum contract ends (you can't leave beforehand or you'll usually have to pay penalties), prices are likely to be hiked and you miss out on new customer offers from other companies. As such, switching could save consumers up to £300 a year.
Nowadays, it's incredibly easy to switch energy and broadband providers. Once you place an order, the onus is on the companies to inform each other, carry out the switching process and minimise disruption to your service.
You also have the right to a 14-day cooling-off period, during which time you're free to cancel a contract without charge.
Changing broadband is pretty straightforward, but when switching gas and electricity provider you'll need to know the meter readings.
How to split bills between housemates
When it comes to who's responsible for which utilities, it's important to think about how payments will be shared fairly while ensuring all bills are paid on time.
Every student house has a different dynamic, but these are the three simplest ways of managing bill payments that don't involve using costly bill splitting services:
Assign utilities to each housemate
Share responsibility for overall household bills, with each tenant managing certain utilities or services. For example, you may take on gas and electricity while someone else puts their neck on the line for reliable broadband.
Once the delegating has been done, split each of the bills by the number of people living in the house each month and let everyone know who owes what (spreadsheets help!).
A slight risk of this method is relying on the person paying the bill to always have enough money in their student bank account to cover the full bill until they're paid back.
Bill splitting apps
Not to be confused with companies that manage and split your bills on your behalf (charging a fair whack in exchange), money splitting apps are free to use. These apps can be a great way to manage who owes what in your student house.
Once you're all on a money splitting app like Splitwise or Splitoo you can request payments from everyone, and add comments and due dates. The Splitwise app makes it clear who's in the red and who's all paid up, and there's no need to worry about the default setting being in dollars – you can change it to pounds in the settings.
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 pricey bills who need compensating (what's the point in sending someone your £5 share of the £30 electricity bill if they also owe you £6 for internet?).
Joint bank account
Setting up a joint bank account makes sense when sharing bills: you all put money into the account each month (perhaps as a standing order) and the bills are paid from there, saving the hassle of repaying each other.
But there is some risk here! If someone fails to make their contribution on time for a bill payment, the credit rating of anyone whose name is on the account could be affected.
With that in mind, this method should be reserved for situations where you're moving in with people you know well and can trust to pay on time.
8 tips for easy student bills
Here are some more top tips on how to sort 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 won't want it to affect their credit score in the long run.
If you don't already, make sure you know what your credit rating is and how to check it.
Get your bills sorted ASAP
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 phone line installation and broadband activation can (annoyingly) take several weeks.
Some companies only offer 12-month contracts as a minimum, so if you set up your account late you may end up paying for months when you've moved out and aren't even using the service.
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 you know exactly how your contract works and what charges you might be lumped with before signing up to anything.
We've already decoded most of the small print for you in our bills comparison guides. You're welcome!
See if you can get bills included in your rent
If you can come to an agreement with your landlord, it may be cheaper and less hassle 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 it's well worth keeping in mind to ask the next time you're looking for a new place to rent.
It's also worth remembering that it's not always cheaper to get your bills included in the rent. Keep track of what your monthly bills usually are (or make an educated guess), and see how the cost compares to the landlord's offer of including it in the rent. There's a chance they'll be trying to overcharge you.
Pay your bills on time
Communication with your housemates is essential from the very beginning. 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.
Set up direct debits and standing orders
If you know how much your bill payments will be each month then you could kindly ask everyone to set up a standing order to your bank account. It will save you the hassle of chasing people up every 30 days.
It's also worth noting that paying your energy providers by direct debit could save you a few bob too by way of a discount. And it'll help build your credit score!
Split the bills monthly
This is a really important point to stress, especially with bill payments like water which are often taken every three 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 letterbox. This will help 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.
Cancelling your contract
Be aware that there are usually high cancellation costs if you end your contract before the minimum period (typically 12 or 18 months).
At worst, some companies will force you to pay the remainder of the contract in full.
On the other hand, short-term contracts can involve higher monthly pricing or installation fees. So our top tip is to calculate contracts as a full price for the entire year (rather than month by month). This way you can see which will be cheaper overall.