Whether you are renting or you own your home, you will have a range of household bills to consider. Where money might be tight, particularly when you are on a student income, you need to prioritise your expenses to make sure you get the most out of your money.
Energy is a key priority bill and understanding how it all works and how to get the best deal can seem daunting.
If you are moving to a property for the first time, the thing to find out about is who supplies the energy currently. OFGEM have a Guide to Find your Supplier if for any reason the letting agent or person you are buying from don’t know. Once you know who already supplies the property, you should then submit meter readings. Citizens Advice have a guide on How to Read Your Gas Or Electricity Meter with images to help you understand what you are looking at. This prevents you from paying someone else's debt and going forward will help you to keep better track of your bills.
Bills can also be confusing so it's worth looking into what makes these up and why there are more numbers on there than simply what you use. You can check out this Costs in your Energy Bill article to help you. Money Saving Expert have a guide complete with pictures to let you see what this will look like when it lands on your doormat.
Prepayment Meters – a prepayment meter can be common in rented properties. This is where you top up with a key or card and it can be a very expensive way to receive your energy. You can change to a billed meter and Citizens Advice have some guidance on this to help you. However, with the current energy crisis you may find that moving to a different meter doesn’t make the difference it once would have. Another option may be to change supplier and Money Saving Expert tell you more about this in this 'cheap prepaid gas & electricity' article.
Switching – Once you have the hang of how your household energy works, it's absolutely the best thing to try and work out if you are getting the best deal. With the 2022 energy crisis this isn’t as straightforward anymore. For a very basic guide to switching, read OFGEM’s Switching Energy Tarrif or Supplier Guide. It may be that sticking with the tariff/provider you have is the best course of action for now. Money Saving Expert has laid out the pros and cons in this guide - Is it Time to fix my Energy Bill or Should I Stick on the Price CAP?
No matter how you get or manage your energy, we can all benefit from advice on how to reduce our usage and both the Energy Saving Trust and Money Saving Expert have great guides on this topic. If you are beginning to struggle to maintain your payments, don’t suffer in silence. Money Helper has this basic guide on what to do. Or, if you would like a more in-depth guide, read Money Saving Experts what to do if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills.
TV Packages & Broadband
These days TV packages and broadband often come in package deal, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay for both. Everyone values their downtime and a big part of enjoying your time at home tends to be spent in front of a screen. Many people sign up for contracts that they either don’t need or don’t fully utilise, which ultimately wastes your money.
How and when you watch TV or use the internet should influence your choices when signing up for deals. For example, you might be a big user of streaming services, but rarely watch TV. Doing a bit of research in advance and really thinking about how you will use your TV and internet will help you to secure the best value for your budget.
Whenever you are watching TV, it is important to understand when a TV licence is required, Make sure you know the facts about TV Licencing for Students, and don’t get out without one.
Check out the Save the Student guides to getting the best broadband deals and the best digital TV deals.
Money Saving Expert has some great information on digital TV deals , including how to pick the right package and haggle a discount, and using streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Now TV.
When it comes to looking for a good deal shopping around is key, but you should use the resources above to know what you are shopping around for. When you are ready to look for a good deal, use comparison websites like Money Supermarket, Compare the Market, Go Compare, Broadband Choices etc.
It is also useful to do some homework on what broadband/internet you actually need. Many providers will wow you with numbers and speeds but it can be hard to determine what that actually all means to you. Broadband Savvy have a useful guide to understanding this which can help you save by decoding the jargon.
Telephone and Mobile
Not many people use their home phone lines any more, with these usually only being in place to facilitate broadband. It’s likely that the cost of line rental will be included when you are investigating broadband, but if you do want a home phone without this being part of any broadband deal, you can find out more about this on the uSwitch website.
You can also shop around for the best deals using price comparison websites.
When it comes to getting the best deal on your mobile phone, check out our information on our Lifestyle webpage.
If you are moving between properties and have a gap between leases, you may need to store your belongings for a few weeks or months. There are lots of different companies and options to choose from, many of whom offer discounts or flexibility for students. Check out the Save the Student guide to storage on a budget, before searching for storage facilities near you, and looking for the best deal.
For all of your housing costs and bills, remember that you might be tied into a contract that is not easily broken without there being a negative impact on your finances. Make sure to take the length of any contracts into account when planning and budgeting for these expenses.