It’s that time of year when students are starting to think about next year’s housing. Different areas tend to work on different scales. Some people sign as early as October and some as late as August. Whenever you decide to start looking for housing, it is a good idea to know how you will organise your student bills because this can impact what kind of lease you sign.
As with many things, the easiest way to organise your bills tends to be the most expensive. Choosing a lease with bills included means you won’t have to think about bills at all. It takes away the potential stress of splitting bills fairly and choosing providers.
With bills included in your rent, you will pay a flat fee regardless of your usage. This means you don’t have to worry about how much you are using. So you can take two showers a day or crank the heating up without worry. However, it also means you are paying for what you don’t use. Even if you go back home during the holidays you will be paying your full bills, despite not using any utilities.
If you want to save money and organise your bills outside your landlord, here are a few tips to help your when choosing suppliers.
Check what is included
If you aren’t paying for bills as part of your rent, sometimes there will be bills like water that are part of your lease anyway. Even if you do have bills included, there may be some you expect to be covered that aren’t. I had a shock when I received an angry letter about an unpaid TV licence that I assumed was already covered!
As students, we don’t have to pay council tax. However, if you live with any non-students they will still have to pay. The council will not automatically know if your house is exclusively occupied by full-time students, so you may have to notify them of your student status. If you don’t know what your local council is, check out this tool from the government to find out.
For some bills, like water, there will only be one provider in your local area. For others you will have a choice, and it is definitely worth shopping around for the best deal. U-Switch is a great resource to see which supplier is best for you and lets you compare energy and broadband.
When it comes to broadband, cheaper is not always better. In today’s world, you don’t really want to be fighting over who can use the tiny amount of bandwidth to FaceTime home or watch Netflix. With the importance of zoom in universities nowadays, make sure you have high enough speeds and enough bandwidth to cover everyone in your house.
Don’t forget insurance! This may not be something you think about until you really need it. Don’t be the person who assumed they were alright without it until their laptop was stolen.
Apart from insurance and possibly streaming subscriptions, all the bills you pay will probably be split between your household so it’s important to decide together how you plan to do this. There are a few options and different ones will work for different people.
Some households may choose to designate one person to pay for all bills from their account while every other member of the household sets up a standing order to pay their share directly to them. Although this is quite convenient for most members of the household, it can put pressure on the person whose account will be paying, especially if somebody doesn’t transfer their share on time.
A similar but better way of doing this would be to designate each bill to one person. They will be in charge of that bill and everyone else pays their share to the right person. This means there is less pressure on one specific person to pay all the bills, but can be more of a faff for everyone else.
Another option would be to set up a group bank account which everybody pays their share into, and with which the bills are all paid. This is also a good way to pay for other expenses the house might share, like takeaways and decorations.
It is also worth deciding beforehand if you want to split the bills equally or not. For example, if only one or two people are planning on staying in the house over summer, will the bill be split equally?
Organising bills can feel a little overwhelming at times. But, with good planning and communication, you can save money and avoid stress!
See also: University sports costs explained