Saturday, 13 June 2020

How To Do Your Uni Bills Yourself

Bills. The one word other than 'dissertation' that strikes fear into every student's heart. Maybe you've clicked on this post because you have yet to sort out the bills for your shared student house for the upcoming university year, and you're unsure where to start. Or maybe you're one of the lucky ones whose landlord sorts it for you, and instead you've come to gloat. 

But I'm here to tell you that sorting out bills is not actually as dreadful as it sounds, and so you should probably just get on with it rather than putting it off. So if your bills are not included in your weekly rent (you should be aware of this, but contact your landlord or letting agency if you are unsure), you have two options.

Option 1. Purchase a bills package in which every member of the household pays a bills package provider (e.g. Glide) a combined payment of your water, WiFi, dual energy, and TV license. You can easily get a free quote; I did one just now on Glide, and based on my house for the upcoming year, I had a quote for £12.26 per person per week. However, be wary and do your research into these different packages. They sound like a stress free, hassle free option, but I have heard about people then being asked for large extra payments due to 'overusage' at the end of the contract.

Option 2. Do the bills yourself, no packages involved. You are a lot more in control of your bills with this option, though of course this requires trust that everyone will pay what they owe each month. This works out at £8-£10 a week, and whilst this is not a lot of difference per week, Option 2 can save you about £100-£200 a year per person when you do the maths. This is the option my house choose for the university year just gone, and it's what we'll be doing for our upcoming final year, too. I will be focusing on only this option for the rest of this post, as it is what I recommend.

So, as discussed, as a university student, the three bills you will be paying monthly are water, WiFi, dual energy (gas and electricity). You will most likely also be paying a TV license, which will be a one off payment at the start of the year when not part of a bills package. Ignore anything to do with council tax, even if you receive letters in the post regarding payment. If you are a house entirely made up of students, you are not eligible to pay council tax. (One non-student, however, will make you eligible).

In my house this year, three of us volunteered to take the three different bills. I took on the energy bill, and so I cannot give as much information regarding water and WiFi, but these two are both cheaper and easier to manage than energy, so there is less to worry about. (Important to note that our water was not on a water meter, and therefore we were just charged a fixed amount each month). So if you are doing your bills yourselves,
  • Choose who will be responsible for each of the three main bills.
  • For each of the bills, get a few different quotes from suppliers to find out how much the bill will be per person per month. (Or just stick with whoever currently supplies the house!)
  • Have all members of the house set up a standing order to each 'bill person' for the amount of money owed each.
  • If you are the 'bill person', you have to remember your own payment towards that bill. Your housemates are not paying the entirety of the bill to you between them.
  • The money will be taken from the 'bill person''s account by the supplier each month.

If you are taking on the energy bill, there are some important things to remember. 
  • If you are switching suppliers, and your house contract starts at the beginning of July like mine, then go, go, go! The switch does not happen over night; my switch to Octopus Energy in my new property, for example, takes about 17 days.
  • Locate where your meters are in the house; our electricity meter was by the front door, but the gas was behind a box in the front downstairs bedroom, and took us a while to find.
  • Take meter readings as soon as possible - on the first day of the tenancy if you can be there. This will save you a lot of hassle. My experience was made far more stressful due to the fact that the previous tenants submitted a massively incorrect gas reading at the end of their tenancy, which could have potentially cost us a lot of money. I was able to submit the early readings I had taken in order to resolve the gas dispute.
  • Following this, take readings monthly, and keep a record of them. Many suppliers will also ask you to submit them.
  • It is likely that your energy bill will stay the same each month, as it is based on an annual average. So you may use more energy than you are charged for over the winter, but this should balance out over the summer.
  • I would recommend everyone paying a bit more in their standing order than the monthly energy bill requires, and placing the surplus money into a spare account. Surplus money can then be used to settle any possible final payments after submitting the last meter readings, or can be divvied up and paid back to everyone. This means you won't have to chase people for money at the end of the tenancy.
  • Octopus Energy supplied my energy in the university year just gone, and we will be using them again for final year. If you are interested in Octopus, feel free to use my referral code when signing up. I've never used it before, but apparently I can 'split £100 with every friend who signs up with this link'. Referral code: share.octopus.energy/harsh-hero-643

So as you can see, there are a few things to remember when sorting out your bills, particularly the energy bill, but I hope this post will have helped anybody that is unsure as to how the process works. It can seem like quite a daunting task at first, but if you and your housemates can all work together, it should be very straightforward!
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