Friday, 24 July 2015

Student guide | Household bills

For the majority of students, the second year at university will be the first time that they will ever have had to even think about paying household bills. 

It can be overwhelming, frustrating and all a little much, especially with the lack of information about important things like this at school or sixth form which is frankly, just ridiculous.

Last year, I moved into my house, which I share with 6 other people first, and was living there throughout summer working, as I am this year. This meant that I was given the delightful task of having to sort out our gas, electricity and broadband providers and with zero experience beforehand, it wasn’t easy.

My face all summer was very similar to this:

When you first move into your house (apart from making your room look as fabulous as possible), there are a few things, bills wise, that need sorting.

1. Electricity
2. Gas
3. Broadband
4. Water – From my experience, we just had a letter through the post asking us to pay the yearly bill in 2 installments so I think (although correct me if I’m wrong in the comments ) you can just wait until this arrives at your door. But prepare for it, because unfortunately, it’s not cheap.
5. Television license – Super easy but very important. Don’t risk getting caught and having to pay a huge fine, you might not think you will but it’s just not worth the risk. It’s so simple to do, just head over to the website and it’s pretty straight forward from there.

Here are a few tips on sorting out providers, bills and bank accounts in a student house....

Beware though, and take advice from the gif below before proceeding.

1. DO NOT use a ‘split the bills’ company. There are many companies who will take everything off of your hands, split your bills for you and take the money out of each persons account so you don’t have to do a thing, but what they don’t tell you is how much money they are adding on for themselves. Using a company like this means you will be paying way more for your bills than you actually should be.  The previous tenants to me in the house I live in now used this and they paid about 3 times what we pay a month - insane, and more importantly, valuable pub money down the drain…

2. Set up a separate bank account
Don’t be the person who gets stuck with constantly badgering people for their bill money at the end of each month because even though everyone will agree at the start to always be on time, they wont be. Set up a separate bank account, which each housemate has a standing order paid into for bills each month. So much easier and no one is owed lots of money from previous months.

3. Don’t settle
If you’re moving into a house which already has providers set up, make sure you’re getting the best price. Do a quick google search of ‘compare gas/electricity/broadband prices’ and see if what you’re about to start paying is fair. If not, change supplier.

Tip: EDF Energy are ridiculously easy to change to, and you don’t even have to pick up the phone. Just pop on to their website to chat to an online advisor and you can have a new contract in minutes. They also have really fair prices and even reduce your monthly payments if they find that you aren’t using as much as previously predicted. (And no, I'm not being paid by them to say this)

This google search may leave you making this phone call:

4. Pick the right contract
This is particularly relevant with broadband contracts.

Quality – You might see that super cheap price of £39 a month for broadband, but is that really going to be strong enough if you have a household of more than 4 people who all have phones, laptops etc? Chances are it won’t be and despite it being a first world problem, there really is nothing worse than crappy, slow internet (especially when you’re 3 hours deep in Netflix, sorry, I mean studying…)

Myself and my housemates agreed to pay more so we could always rely on fast broadband. We decided to have the most expensive, but fastest broadband on offer in the country with Virgin Media which is £39 a month but so worth it(plus £5.57 a month each for 7 people isn’t exactly going to break the bank). Even with 150mb internet, it still struggles at times to cope when all 7 people have all their gadgets on the go – so make sure you pick carefully.

Length – Small print is just the worst with anything, but unfortunately, very common. If you have a 12 month contract for your house, make sure you’re entering into a 12 month broad/electricity etc contract. Nothing worse than getting half way through the year to find out you’ve been cut off and need to ring up to renew your contract. Unnecessary hassle which you don’t need to go through, especially if it’s close to exam times.

Feeling like this yet?

5. Splitting the bills
 It seems so simple but if you’ve never done it before or been taught, it can be pretty daunting. Once you have your monthly/quarterly bills all set, individually go through each one and split it between your housemates.

EG – if your electricity bill per month is £30, and you have 6 housemates, divide 30 by 6 which equals £5, and that is what each housemate has to pay. Do this with each bill, then add together what individually, you all need to pay. Set up a standing order and you’re good to go.

6. Prepare for winter
This is both warmth and money wise. You might have been flicking the heating on at home whenever you feel a little chilly, but when you move into your student house and get your first heating bill, you’ll soon change your mind as to how cold you are.

Heating is expensive but don’t make living uncomfortable. Talk to your housemates and if you’re all happy to be a little warmer and pay a little more, have the heating on for a few hours in the morning and night. Either way, invest in a cosy dressing gown, pronto.

My house is somewhat generous with our heating and has it on for 3hrs in the morning and 3hrs at night however this will vary depending on the size of your house and how many people you have living with you. I live in a large 3 storey house therefore it’s hard to heat up having it on any less that what we do, and revision is already painful enough without seeing your breath in your own home as you do so…

7. Don’t panic!
There will be somebody who can help. If you ring up a company, as I did, who were unhelpful and rude, you might feel like you want to just cry, give up and live in a cardboard box next to Tesco but there are people around that can help. It could be your landlord (our is an absolute gem who helped me so much last year when British Gas were just awful), your parents (who are still jumping up and down with excitement that they don’t need to constantly tell you to switch your bedroom light off anymore), and even your university.

People have gone through the exact same thing before so don’t be scared to ask for help/advice.

8. Enjoy!
Living in a house of students is so much fun. Sort the bills out first of course, but then HAVE FUN!!!

Are you still reading? If you got to the end of this mammoth post, WELL DONE. I hope it was helpful and you’re maybe feeling slightly less scared about sorting out bills for the first time. Bored, but less scared.

If you have any other tips for people, please leave them in the comments!

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