Managing Student Bills | What You Need To Know

14th April 2022
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Bills are something you’re going to have to get used to paying, we're afraid. They’re an inescapable fact of life, like death and taxes.

However, the amount you pay is something you can influence - and that’s what this post is all about.

We’ll discuss bill types, paying them, minimising them and doing everything you can to keep on top of them.

Learning to effectively manage your bills is an essential life skill. Mastering it can make a difference between being able to enjoy your time as a student and worrying constantly about making ends meet.

How many types of bills are there?

It seems like there’s a bill for everything. Much depends on how complicated your life is, where you live, the type of student accommodation you use and how many subscriptions you have.

You can divide bills up into categories:

  • Utility bills
  • Other essential bills
  • Subscription bills

Student utility bills

Utility bills include gas, electric, water, TV licence and broadband. These are life’s essentials and bills you will spend your lifetime paying in one form or another.

Other essential bills

Other essential bills can include council tax (if you’re liable for it as a student), contents and property insurance, car insurance, car tax, mobile phone and things like that.

Subscription bills

Subscription bills will include anything you subscribe to like newspapers, magazines, Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Zwift, Xbox Game Pass, Spotify, Disney+ and the hundreds of other streaming platforms and subscription services out there.

How many of these you pay depends on many factors.

For example, you won’t need to pay utility bills while in halls or when you’re staying with us at Sanctuary Students as it’s all included.

If you rent from a private landlord, utility bills will likely either form part of your rent or will need to be divided between everyone in the property.

What student bills should take priority?

All bills should ideally take priority but utilities are definitely more important than a Netflix subscription. After all, how could you watch Netflix with no electricity or internet?

We would recommend ensuring you stay on top of all bills but prioritise utilities as they are most important.

Many subscriptions can be temporarily stopped if things get tight and then restarted once you’re back on your feet.

How to automate paying student utility bills

All that seems like a lot to contend with along with your coursework and general student life. Fortunately, you can automate most of them.

Most bills can be paid for using direct debit and will be automatically taken from your account each month.

If you’re solely responsible for bills, we suggest setting them all up as direct debits for the 1st of each month. That way, they are taken out of your monthly budget before you get the chance to spend it.

This is a habit we would recommend keeping when you enter the world of work too.

The main challenge here is to ensure there is always money available to cover all your bills. Many current accounts have overdraft facilities, but once you’re no longer a student, you’ll be charged for using it!

Sharing student bills with housemates

If you share a house with others, you’ll either pay bills as part of your rent or divide them between you.

Life is much easier if bills are included in the rent but not many landlords do that, especially in these times of ever-increasing energy costs!

Someone in the house has to be responsible for each bill. They will sign the contract and be the named person. They will also be the one responsible for paying.

How you divide that is entirely up to you.

As long as everyone pays equally, or their fair share, everything should remain harmonious. Especially when there are apps that can help with bill sharing!

If you don’t use an app, you can figure out an amount per week or month to pay for bills and set up a standing order to pay the person responsible.

There are also platforms like Glide or Fused Bills that create student bill packages. It can help HMOs and student houses with splitting and managing bills.

It’s one of many solutions but may be worth exploring.

Or you could avoid bills entirely while you’re a student by staying with Sanctuary Students.

All accommodation is fully inclusive including gas, electricity, water, internet and contents insurance!

What happens if you miss paying a student bill?

If you miss paying a bill, things can go one of two ways.

If you accidentally missed paying it, you can contact the provider, explain the situation and pay there and then.

Most providers and utility companies will allow 14-28 days for you to catch up before taking action.

Asking for help with paying student bills

If you cannot afford to pay the bill, the situation is a little more complicated. However, there is help at hand if you ask for it.

First, we would suggest asking your parents for help. Make them aware of the situation and ask for their help. You may have some explaining to do and put up with a little flak from them, but they may be able to help you out.

If your parents are not in a position to help, ask your university’s counsellor or talk to the company involved.

Utility companies have specific tools to help hardship cases, including payment plans, offsetting interest payments and delaying notifying the credit agencies.

Missed bills and credit scores

One thing you need to be aware of is the effect of missing student bill payments on your credit score.

Miss a utility or essential bill and the provider can report it as a late payment on your credit report. This can have a serious impact on a credit score you’re only just building.

To avoid this, try to never miss a payment. If you do miss one, contact the provider as soon as you realise and arrange to pay.

If you cannot pay, work out something with that provider to hopefully avoid them marking your account as ‘in arrears’ or worse.

Managing student bills

Bill management is one of those essential life skills you’re going to need to master as quickly as you can.

We don’t want to bore you with all this talk of bills and repercussions but it’s a serious subject that can have serious repercussions if you get it wrong.

That’s why we recommend automating as many bills as you can.

Get into the habit of letting bills take care of themselves and all you have to do is ensure there’s money to pay them each month.

Managing them manually is not a good use of your time, especially when your time as a student is finite and there are millions of more interesting things to do!

Whether you use student bill packages or stay in fully-inclusive student accommodation, the sooner you get used to managing money, the better!