Student bills – Setup, compare and split
Setting up, splitting and managing utility bills for your student house can be super confusing. But it doesn't have to be! This guide explains how to keep it simple while saving a lot of money.
Whether you've never set up a utility account before or you're battle-hardened to the process, our student bill comparisons will save you plenty of money and time. Plus, you'll avoid falling out with your housemates over what needs doing and who pays who.
This guide is the best place to start before comparing suppliers and deals. We'll take you through exactly which bills you'll need to sort out and the best way to split student bills with housemates.
And please avoid student bill-splitting companies. They overcharge and limit your options. It's easy and far cheaper to go direct by following our advice.
Student bills advice
- Which utilities do you need?
- How much do student bills cost?
- Switching provider
- How to split bills between housemates
- 8 tips for easy student bills
Which utilities do you need?
There's a lot to think about when moving into a new house, not least when it comes to setting up utilities and bills.
All that stuff your parents made seem like a doddle is actually pretty tricky to work out. Here's your complete checklist of student utility bills to set you off:
Arguably the most important utility in any modern student house. And, because it can take a few weeks to set up, we'd recommend getting your internet set up first.
Broadband is definitely one for comparing providers. It's a highly competitive market which results in plenty of great deals for consumers.
But, naturally, too much choice can actually make deciding on a broadband package quite difficult. Go in armed with a good idea of what speed and contract length you'll need.
Gas and electricity
Gas and electricity will likely be your biggest expenses when it comes to utility bills – now more than ever before.
Not every house has a gas connection, so you may only need to set up electric bills. If you do have both, it's normally cheaper and easier to combine both together in a dual fuel tariff with the same energy provider.
When you first move in, the house will almost certainly be supplied (so you can switch on the lights and use the gas hobs).
From the start of the tenancy, you are responsible for paying for the energy used supplied by the existing provider. Find out who it is ASAP and tell them you've moved in!
Your provider will use meter readings to determine how much energy you're using. Readings are typically estimated until you submit them (or have a smart meter).
Send readings as soon as you move in (so you don't pay for the previous tenants' energy) and then every few months from then on.
Water and sewerage
Many landlords handle the water bill themselves, bundling the cost with your rent. But don't just assume this is the case. Always double-check.
If it's down to you, then there is some bad news: unlike other utilities, there's no shopping around with water suppliers.
You'll have one regional water provider supplying your area, and you'll either be on a standard tariff (billed monthly or yearly) or have a water meter.
With the latter, you'll be charged for the exact volume of water you use, which isn't always cheaper for larger house shares.
Use this site to find your water supplier and contact them to set up your customer account.
Unfortunately, student houses are a real target for criminals, so it's worth getting some insurance.
Most insurance policies protect against home theft and damage, but the actual level of cover reflects the price.
You may also be covered by your parents' policy, so ask them to read the small print or check with their insurance provider.
Student council tax
If you're a full-time student, you don't have to pay any council tax.
But you must apply for an exemption to inform your local council that you and your flatmates are students.
If you plan on watching any live TV, you'll need to get your hands on a TV Licence.
This also applies to watching catch-up TV on BBC iPlayer. Although there is a loophole that means students don't necessarily have to pay up.
A TV Licence for the year will set you back around £160. But if you only live in your uni house during term time, follow our steps on getting a partial refund.
Of course, if you'll only be streaming Netflix for the year, you won't need a TV Licence at all – loophole or no loophole!
Digital TV package
A paid-for TV package may be one of the less essential bills. But, we know many student houses contain certified TV bingers or sports enthusiasts looking to boost the number of live channels available via a digital TV package.
If you are in the market, it's usually cheaper to bundle TV and broadband together. It may take some time to get set up, so it's best to sort it as soon as possible.
How much do student bills cost?
Our survey revealed the average student spends £85 a month on energy bills, which is an increase of £276 per year compared to the year before.
The cost also depends on lots of other factors, including where you live, energy demand, insulation, internet requirements, length of showers...
To give you a rough idea, this table shows the average monthly spend on student bills, in a house of four people:
Average student monthly bills
|Electricity & gas
|Water & sewerage
|£8 – £12
|£6 – £10
* Based on numbers from the National Student Accommodation Survey 2023, Water UK, our broadband guide, TV Licensing and Arma Karma.
** Based on winter bill prices, likely to be cheaper in summer months.
Switching energy and broadband provider
When you first move into your student house, your gas and electricity (and possibly broadband) will already be provided by a company.
Recently, Ofgem raised the energy price cap. And with almost all providers now charging the maximum amount, prices have risen substantially for many households, even with the price cap freeze. Because of this, it's unlikely you'll be able to find a cheaper provider.
On top of that, not many providers are taking on new customers. Our advice is to stay with the property's current energy supplier.
However, switching broadband providers is still an easy way to save money. Once you place an order, the onus is on the companies to inform each other, carry out the switching process and minimise disruption to your service.
You have the right to a 14-day cooling-off period, during which time you're free to cancel a broadband contract without charge.
How to split bills between housemates
When it comes to who's responsible for which utilities, it's important to think about how payments will be shared fairly while ensuring all bills are paid on time.
Every student house has a different dynamic, but these are the three simplest ways of managing bill payments that don't involve using costly bill splitting services:
Assign utilities to each housemate
Share responsibility for overall household bills, with each tenant managing certain utilities or services.
For example, you may take on gas and electricity while someone else puts their neck on the line for reliable broadband.
Once the delegating has been done, split each of the bills by the number of people living in the house each month and let everyone know who owes what (spreadsheets help!).
A slight risk of this method is relying on the person paying the bill to always have enough money in their student bank account to cover the full bill until they're paid back.
Bill splitting apps
Not to be confused with companies that manage and split your bills on your behalf (charging a fair whack in exchange), money-splitting apps are free to use. These apps can be a great way to manage who owes what in your student house.
Once you're all on a money-splitting app like Splitwise, you can request payments from everyone, and add comments and due dates.
The Splitwise app makes it clear who's in the red and who's all paid up. And there's no need to worry about the default setting being in dollars – you can change it to pounds in the settings.
This can be a great option, especially if you're all paying for different bills each month. What's the point in sending someone your £5 share of the water bill if they also owe you £6 for internet?
Joint bank account
Setting up a joint bank account can also make sense when sharing bills. You all put money into the account each month and the bills are paid from there, saving the hassle of repaying each other.
But there is some risk here! If someone fails to make their contribution on time for a bill payment, the credit rating of anyone whose name is on the account could be affected.
With that in mind, this method should be reserved for situations where you're moving in with people you know well and can trust to pay on time.
8 tips for easy student bills
Here are some more top tips on how to sort bills with your housemates and make some big savings:
Put everyone's name on the bills
Make sure that one person is not held solely responsible for an account. It's the best way to get everyone to pay on time as they won't want it to affect their credit score in the long run.
If you don't already, make sure you know what your credit rating is and how to check it.
Get your bills sorted ASAP
Add it to your moving house checklist to get your utilities and bills set up as soon as possible.
There's nothing worse than spending the first few weeks of uni without internet, and some services such as phone line installation and broadband activation can take several weeks.
Some companies only offer 12-month contracts as a minimum. If you set up your account late you may end up paying for months when you've moved out and aren't even using the service.
Always read the small print
Getting stung by surprise installation costs and price hikes can be a real shock, especially when you haven't budgeted for it.
Make sure you know exactly how your contract works and what charges you might be lumped with before signing up to anything.
We've already decoded most of the small print for you in our bills comparison guides. You're welcome!
See if you can get bills included in your rent
If you can come to an agreement with your landlord, it may be cheaper and less hassle to include all bills in the overall figure for your monthly rent payments.
In our latest National Student Accommodation Survey, 56% said they had electricity included in their rent. Especially with prices at an all-time high, it could work out better for you.
It might be too late at this stage of the game, but it's worth keeping in mind to ask the next time you're looking for a new place to rent.
It's also worth remembering that it's not always cheaper to get your bills included in the rent.
Keep track of what your monthly bills usually are (or make an educated guess), and see how the cost compares to the landlord's offer of including it in the rent. There's a chance they'll be trying to overcharge you.
And if you use too much energy, your landlord could charge you extra. Make sure you check your contract before you commit.
Pay your bills on time
Communication with your housemates is essential from the very beginning.
Calling a house meeting down at the local pub on day one to discuss this stuff over a beer is a great way to sort out how you are going to split the bills. What's more, it stops it from feeling like a horrible task no one wants to agree to.
Keep the communication going throughout the year and make sure that anyone who makes a late payment knows that they can't do it again, or it will affect everyone involved.
Set up direct debits and standing orders
If you know how much your bill payments will be each month, you could ask everyone to set up a standing order to your bank account. It will save you the hassle of chasing people up every 30 days.
It's also worth noting that paying your energy providers by direct debit could save you a few quid too by way of a discount. And it'll help build your credit score.
Split the bills monthly
This is a really important point to stress, especially with bill payments like water which are often taken every three months.
It's best that you take money from your housemates or pay them each month as opposed to just when the bill comes through the letterbox.
This will help you to budget and pay in smaller chunks, which is much kinder on the purse strings than being surprised with a bill when you least expect it.
Cancelling your contract
Be aware that there are usually high cancellation costs if you end your contract before the minimum period (typically 12 or 18 months).
At worst, some companies will force you to pay the remainder of the contract in full.
On the other hand, short-term contracts can involve higher monthly pricing or installation fees. So our top tip is to calculate contracts as a full price for the entire year (rather than month by month). This way you can see which will be cheaper overall.