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How to pay bills

Direct Debit

The company takes the money straight out of your account when your bill is due. You might get a discount for paying by direct debit, because the company knows you'll be paying promptly. For energy bills, paying by direct debit will allow you to pay the same amount every month, instead of paying more in the winter and less in the summer.

Paying directly

The company sends you a regular bill, and you send them the payment electronically, by post or over the phone. If you don't pay promptly, you might be charged extra.

Prepayment

You buy cards (or top up a special key) from a local shop to insert into a meter, which is fitted in your house. This is an easy way of buying gas and electricity and you can monitor how much you are using. However, it's often much more expensive, and can leave you without power if you don't keep topped up.

Bills included in rent

Some bills may be included in your rent, especially if you are in halls. In 2012/13, the percentage of universities who included the following bills with rent was:

  • Internet: 82%
  • Wi-Fi: 50%
  • Energy: 96%
  • Insurance: 80%

Getting the best deal

If you pay your energy bills directly, rather than paying the landlord, then you have the right to switch supplier. This means you can change to a cheaper supplier at any time. You'll normally get a better deal if you get both gas and electricity from the same supplier.

It's less easy to swap your mobile or internet supplier: these companies might lock you in to a one- or two-year contract when you sign up. You'll have to wait for your contract to expire or pay a cancellation fee to switch, so think carefully before signing up for a long contract. Many mobile companies offer month-to-month deals which are more flexible, although you may get slightly less for your money.

You won't be able to switch supplier for your water, but you might be able to save by getting a water meter installed if there isn't one already.

Price comparison websites like uSwitch and MoneySuperMarket can help you to find the best deal for you, and to make the change.

Guide to costs

Gas and electricity

The average annual bill for gas and electricity is around £549 per person. However, this will vary depending on the type of accommodation you live in.

If you live in university accommodation, gas and electricity will normally be included in your rent.

Water

In 2014, the average household water bill was £393 for a year. If you have a water meter, you will be charged based on how much water you use. If not, you will pay a fixed amount each year.

Mobile phone

It's normally cheapest to buy a package of minutes, texts and internet data each month. Check the different networks to get the best offer. Giffgaff offers various monthly packages without a contract, as well as free calls and text to other Giffgaff users.

If you get a contract with a 'free' phone, you'll pay for it with a higher monthly bill.

If you need to call home often, you might save money using a network like Lebara which specialises in international calls. It may be cheaper to use internet calling through services like Skype on your home broadband.

Home phone and broadband

Most broadband connections will require a home phone line. You'll have to pay around £17 for this, plus the cost of your broadband package.

A standard broadband connection will cost around £5 a month. Faster fibre-optic connections cost more, but may be more suitable if there are lots of people sharing one connection.

TV Licence

If you have a television at university then you must pay an annual TV Licence. This is £145.50 per year. If you are sharing a house, then you only need one licence to cover all the TVs in the house and you can share the cost of this. You don't need a TV Licence to watch catch-up services over the internet, but you do need one to watch live TV online.

If you go home for the summer holidays, you may be able to get a refund of around £37 on your TV licence.

Find out more about the TV Licence.

Reducing energy bills (and helping the environment!)

  • Turning the thermostat down by even 1°C can cut your heating bill significantly
  • When a room is empty, make sure that the lights are turned off.
  • Close the curtains at night so you don't lose heat through the windows.
  • Stop draughts from badly fitting windows and doors.
  • Set your heating to come on around half an hour before you come home rather than leave it on all day while no one is in the house.
  • Leaving your appliances on standby wastes energy. Make the effort and turn them off.
  • Don't put the heating on if you don't have to. Warm jumpers can work too!
  • Baths use more energy than showers - as long as you're not spending 20 minutes in the shower.