I remember moving into my first flat and suddenly being hit by the realisation that I had no idea who I had to pay for my water, gas and electricity. A quick call to mum made it all clear and having since moved house a number of times over the past few years, I’m now really pro-active in getting my utilities accounts set up and updated.
A lot of students will live in university accommodation during their first year and pay one amount which covers both rent and utilities. It’s a different story when you move out into private accommodation though. Then you have to think about gas, electricity, water, council tax, phone/broadband and TV licence. In this post, I’m going to run through each of these and provide some useful info and tips about each one.
Gas and Electricity
- Depending on the property, you might have both, or you might just have electricity.
- You will probably receive letters to ‘The Occupier’ when you first move in – open these, as you are now the occupier.
- Contact whoever the current provider is for these services and let them know: the date you moved in, the meter readings (usually on your inventory, if not find your meters and take the readings yourself), and personal details (such as bank details for payments, contact details etc).
- Provide regular meter readings so that you know how much gas and electricity you’ve been using and know how much it’ll cost you.
- Remember that during the winter months you’ll have the heating on and the lights will be on for longer, which means you’re using more gas and electricity than you would in the summer.
- If you’re in a shared house, cook your meals together (so the oven and hob aren’t on for as long), unplug your laptop, phone charger and other appliances when they’re not in use, only wash full loads of laundry (putting a couple of items in at a time is a waste as the cycle time is usually the same as putting on a full load), and turn off lights when you’re not in a room.
- You don’t get to choose your water supplier – each area in the UK has a set supplier.
- Depending on the property, you will either have a water meter or your water will be charged at Rateable Value.
- If your water is billed on rateable value, then you pay a fixed amount based on old calculations done before 1990 to do with the size and condition of the property. This means you can use as much as you want and you still just pay the fixed price.
- If you have a water meter, you provide meter readings to your water company and you pay for what you’ve actually used. This means that every shower, washing machine cycle, glass of water from the kitchen tap, or every time you brush your teeth costs you money. Every drop of water you use costs you: take showers rather than baths, don’t leave the tap running whilst brushing your teeth, fill a bowl to wash up dishes (rather than rinsing items individually).
- As a university student, we are exempt from paying council tax.
- Your university will provide a letter confirming that you are enrolled and it should be as simple as forwarding this evidence to the council (I say that it should be simple because, this year, I’ve had a total nightmare with the council not updating my record, despite me sending them the information and calling numerous times. They recently issued me with a court summons, but I’ve raised my complaint to them and have all my emails and letters as proof. I have, just this week, had confirmation that its now all sorted and my account is updated correctly (and that I don’t have to go to court).
- If you ever get ‘final notice’ letters or anything saying ‘legal’, don’t ignore them! Problems like this can mess with your credit rating which will come back to bite you down the line – when applying for credit to purchase something like a sofa or TV, when being credit checked for a tenancy or mortgage, or even when trying to get a mobile phone contract.
- There are so many options when it comes to having internet at home – look at price, extras, contracts, connections.
- Use comparison sites to see what offers are out there and what package will suit you best – do you really need a package which gives you free evening and weekend calls when you have unlimited minutes on your mobile contract anyway?
- When I moved into my last flat, I was told they couldn’t send an engineer to install a phone line for at least 6 weeks. Being a student, this was far from ideal. I looked into various options and found out about mobile broadband. I got a month-rolling sim card which was perfect to tide me over until my home broadband could be set up. The added bonus of mobile broadband is that I could take it with me and use my iPad on the train when travelling home.
- Yes, I know how annoying a TV licence is. It costs quite a lot and you probably don’t feel that you’re getting much for your money. Unfortunately though, if you have a TV or even if you watch live TV online, you legally have to have a TV licence.
- Pay by quarterly direct debit and then the cost doesn’t seem so quite so unbearable.
- You can also transfer your TV licence. So if you move house, you just have to update your address (you don’t have to purchase a brand new licence).
Paying bills is rubbish. I won’t try and pretend otherwise. However, if, like me, you love a warm home, nice home-cooked meals, long showers, and live sports then grin and bear it. Monthly direct debits make a big difference to budgeting. And make sure you take meter readings – estimates are nearly always higher than what you actually use so don’t moan about paying bills and then end up paying more than you even need to!