A Guide To Setting Up & Managing Student Bills

Managing Your Money

For many students, moving away from home and starting university means managing day-to-day living costs for the first time. It’s important to get your bills in order as soon as possible to avoid missing payments and having your time at university spoilt by money worries. So here we look at what you need to know to stay on top of your bills and budget for them effectively.

Understanding student bills

When you live in student halls, you’ll still have to pay for groceries, phone contracts, going out and travel, but things like water, energy and broadband are usually covered in your rent. That can change when you move into private accommodation and it’s up to you to pay suppliers yourself. Things get more complicated if, like many students, you live in a shared house.

Everyone living in a shared home needs to pay their share of the bills in full and on time. To avoid disagreements, you need to get off to the right start and work out a clear plan with your housemates early in your tenancy. 

It’s also a good idea to ensure that everyone has their name on the bills so that legal responsibility for paying them is equally shared. If it’s only your name on the bill, you’ll be liable for any late or missed payments, which could affect your credit score.

The main household utility bills are:

  • electricity
  • gas
  • water
  • broadband
  • landline telephone
  • satellite TV
  • TV licence.

Bills students might not have to pay – TV licence and Council Tax

If you’re a student, you don't need to pay Council Tax if your course lasts at least a year and involves 21 hours of study per week. If you’re studying part-time, you may be entitled to a reduction.

Rules around paying a TV licence can be complicated. But you don’t need to pay if:

  • you don’t watch any live TV, or and 
  • you don’t watch BBC iPlayer.

You might be able to still watch live TV or iPlayer if where you live during the holidays is covered by a TV licence. This only applies as long as the device you’re watching on is not plugged into the mains.

Moving into student accommodation

Some student rentals include bills, and you should ask your landlord or letting agent what the rent covers. Most all-inclusive packages include electricity, gas, water and Wi-Fi. Your TV licence may also be included. But if bills aren’t included then you're responsible for paying for the water, gas and electricity in your property as soon as you move in. 

If you’re moving into private rented accommodation outside of student halls, you might need to get a letter from your university to prove that you’re a full-time student and you don’t need to pay Council Tax.  

Read the meters

As soon as you move in make sure you read your gas meter and electricity meter. You'll need to give the numbers to your energy company to make sure you're only charged for the power you use (and not what the previous tenants used).

You can ask your landlord or letting agent where the meter is, but it’s usually outside the property in a meter box, downstairs in the hallway, kitchen or under the stairs. If you're renting a flat, it could be in the communal hallway.  

How do I find out who my energy supplier is?

It will often say in your rental contract who your energy supplier is. If not, ask your landlord or letting agent when moving in, or check if you receive any letters from your gas and electricity supplier addressed to ‘the occupier’. 

Student bills packages and other ways to pay

There are options available to you when it comes to paying the bills – and ensuring that everyone you live with pays their share. It’s often best to keep things simple and split all bills equally between you. Sit down with your housemates and work out a plan you can all stick to. 

Not all bills need paying on the same day of the month, so keep a copy of the payment schedule where everyone can see it by using a Google doc, for example, or sticking a note on the fridge. 

You can pay your bill by using:

  • a bill management tool with one monthly payment for all bills 
  • a bill splitting service, which charges a fee for managing bills and taking payments 
  • joint accounts – if you know and trust your housemates, you can all pay into the joint account each month and the bills are paid out of it 
  • Direct Debit can be a little cheaper and ensure payments are made on time but they require the money to come from one individual account.

If money does run short using a 0% overdraft on a student bank account can be a good short-term solution.

If you have a prepayment meter, you need to pay in advance for the gas or electricity you use, topping up as you go. Some companies let you do this online, others will require you to take your key or card to a local shop or the Post Office to top up. You can do this by cash or debit/credit card at your nearest Paypoint.

Typical costs of student bills

According to the National Student Money Survey 2023 the average student spends £1,078 each month on rent and other bills. London continues to be the most expensive region in the UK, with average student living costs of £1,211 per month.

What you pay depends not only on where you live but also on the size of the accommodation, the heating system that you have, the energy efficiency of the property, the number of people living there and your personal usage.

Saving money on bills

With so many bills to pay, it’s a good idea to find out if you can pay less. It can be hard to negotiate a reduction in your rent, but you can reduce your energy bill by using less if you:

  • turn down the heating and wrap up warm 
  • turn down radiators in empty rooms
  • charge your electrical devices at college or in the library
  • turn the lights off when you're out of the room
  • take short showers
  • only boil as much water as you need in the kettle 
  • use a dishwasher – but only if it’s full.

Use price comparison sites to save money on bills

You don’t have to stick to your landlord’s gas or electricity supplier. You could save money by switching, so speak to your landlord to see if this is possible. Use price comparison sites to find the best deals.

Student discounts

Many broadband suppliers offer discounts for students on 12-month or 9-month contracts. You can search online for deals and look for student offers on sites like Unidays and Student Beans. You can also get student offers for streaming.

Having issues with budgeting as a student?

It’s very important to work out how much your bills cost and to know when they need to be paid each month. Shop around for the best deals, and take advantage of student offers.

If you’re having trouble paying the bills and budgeting, tools like the Budget Planner will help you to plan better by breaking down your spending.

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