By Eryk Jan Grzeszkowiak
When you get your first bill you may be a bit confused. How do I split the bill? Do I really have to pay that much? Can I switch to a different supplier? Should I choose online or paper billing? Here are some tips that will help you make good decisions about your financial future and will answer some of the most common questions about getting your first bill.
1. Check if the bill is correct
This is very important especially when you have just moved in. Double-check your meter to make sure that you are only paying for what you have used – avoid inheriting your predecessor’s bill! It is good to do the same when you move out to spare your successors unnecessary problems. What goes around comes around!
2. Do you really want this supplier?
The wonderful thing about free markets is competition. Do some research and see if there are some other providers with a better offer that would meet your expectations. Since many students do not think about changing a provider in a rented accommodation (“it’s just a year!") the chances are there are quite a few cheaper options out there – you just need to have your eyes and ears open.
3. Escape inflation
Inflation has never been fair – it discourages people from saving their money. However, when it comes to electricity and gas, you can do something to escape it – lock into a set price! Prices of energy tend to go up every year so fixing price is a good way to having a more predictable and stable budget. It also makes splitting the bills much simpler and easier so do consider this option. Some providers do not even have cancellation fees so fixing price can be a truly risk-free way to save some money.
4. Decide how to pay
Although you should have thought about it before getting your first bill, you really must do it now if you still have not. The easiest way to pay your bills in shared accommodation is through a joint account. Set up a direct debit so that nobody can avoid making payments. Direct debit is a very popular method used by 7 out of 10 British households. No wonder it is so common – it makes paying bills very convenient and lets you stop worrying about them all the time. Just remember to check your meter from time to time – if you do not pay enough you will be asked to transfer extra money (debit). If you realise that you have paid too much ask your provider for a refund (credit).
5. It is time to go green!
Switch to online billing! If saving trees does not convince you, money you can save probably will. Giving up paper billing can save you as much as £200 so the greener the forests, the greener your wallet! Another great benefit is a tidier house without all these unnecessary bits of paper flying around.
6. Include your bills in rent
This option is not as common as it used to be but if you know that you are likely to use much energy check if this option is available in your area. You can also ask your landlord about it – remember that you not only can but actually should negotiate with him. Bills-inclusive rents are obviously higher but – provided they are not too high – can result in some really nice savings. If in doubt, do necessary calculations before signing the contract.
7. And finally the last tip – festina lente!
Never make important decision in a hurry or you might regret them in the future. Ask your family and friends, research your options in the Internet and choose what’s best for you. Here are some useful links for comparing different companies (gas, electricity and Internet):
• Money Super Market (http://www.moneysupermarket.com)
• UK Power (http://www.ukpower.co.uk)
• e4s (http://www.e4s.co.uk/docs/internet-service-providers.htm)
• USwitch (http://www.uswitch.com/broadband/)
Get as much information as you can to make the right decision and enjoy low and simple bills!