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The cost of living crisis how to save money on utility bills


The cost of living crisis how to save money on utility bills

You cannot avoid the fact that energy prices are rising. Read on to get some ideas about what you can do to save money.

The cost of living is rising faster than ever and while you may not be able to reduce some of your costs such as your rent, you may be able to make savings in other areas. In this article we look specifically at energy costs and where you may be able to save money.

It is important to say from the outset that worrying about money can cause us all sleepless nights and students are no exception to this. There is lots of help available so read on to find out where to go for help.

Purpose built student accommodation

If you are living in purpose-built student accommodation (halls of residence), your utility bills (heating, lighting and water) will normally be included in the rent and in most cases the rising cost of fuel will not impact on you at the moment. We have included information about next year's accommodation later in this article.

Shared housing

If you are in a shared student house and your tenancy says that bills are included, then the landlord must provide this. The exception to this would be if the agreement has a 'cap' on your utility usage. This is known as a 'fair usage' clause.

For example, your tenancy may say bills are included up to a certain amount in monetary value or a certain amount of usage per month or year. If you go over this specified amount the landlord may either keep your deposit to cover the costs or charge you more money to cover the cost. If this happens the landlord will need to provide you with evidence of any additional costs incurred. If you need advice on this, check the links below or get advice from your university.

Alternatively, some tenancy agreements may say the landlord can pass on price increases above a certain amount. Again, check your contract for the wording and get advice if you need it.

Living in your own home

If like many students you are living in your own home, either rented or mortgaged, you will no doubt be acutely aware of the rising cost of energy prices. If you rent your property, you need to check your contract regarding liability for utility costs if you have not done so already. Similar arrangements to renting a shared house are not uncommon such as a fair use clause. However, in most cases the bills will be in the tenant's name, and you are therefore liable. Check you are in receipt of the government energy discounts by checking your utility bills. You should also submit meter readings regularly (see below for how to do this).

Pre-payment meters

Pre-payment meters are installed by utility companies if residents get into arrears with their bills. They are the most expensive way to pay for energy so if you live in a house with a pre-payment meter you should talk to your landlord about changing this. While you may not necessarily need your landlord's permission, it is always best if you do get this and ideally in writing. We have included some information about changing your meter in our useful links section.

How to save on utility bills

Sometimes making small changes can seem like a waste of time but these can have a big impact over the year. Some suggestions are: -

  • Use the dishwasher if you have one. Believe it or not this saves money over lots of bowls of hot water in the long run.
  • Wash your laundry on a 30-degree wash and only if you have a full load. This is both cheaper and better for the environment.
  • Have some very easy to stick to house rules about switching off lights, turning off the heating, closing doors and not leaving everything on standby etc. Over the year these small changes will save you money and will not inconvenience you at all.
  • Stay in the library to do your work and study if you can. This will save on heat and light but will only work if everyone in your house does the same thing.
  • If your university is offering low-cost hot food to offset the current crisis it may be cheaper to eat there and this will save on heat and food bills. Make sure you do the figures on this though.
  • Use a slow cooker so you can go home to a hot meal that you can ideally share. Planning your meals and cooking this way will hopefully remove any temptation to buy things on your way home.
  • Heating tends to be much more expensive than light so anything that heats such as a shower, kettle, dryer will be expensive to run. Only heat rooms that are in use.

A word about scams

The current cost of living crisis has unfortunately given scammers lots more opportunities to trick us out of our money. Your utility company should apply any discounts automatically. They do not need your bank details or any other personal information. If you get a text, email or call from someone saying they need your bank details, it is likely to be a scam. Give yourself time to think about it before you respond or call your supplier yourself.

Revisit your budget

If you find your costs are increasing over what you had planned to spend, you should revisit your budget as a matter of urgency before costs get out of hand. Check if you can make any savings elsewhere or increase your income in any way maybe picking up an extra shift in work. Don't forget lots of unis have job shops and you may be able to get a job on campus.

If you need help speak to someone in your university, either in the careers or job shop or in the student advice team.

Looking forward to where you will live next year

Looking forward to where you plan to live next year, make sure you check your contract for any extra costs around utility bills before you sign it. Again, ask your university for help if you are unsure.

Still need help?

Sometimes, no matter how many changes you make, you will still find yourself in hardship. All universities will have support staff you can talk to in confidence, and many universities have increased hardship funds due to the cost of living crisis that you can apply for if you need additional financial support. You are not alone so if you need help you just need to ask.

Sources

Split Wise
A bill sharing app that is free to use

Gov UK
Government energy discounts and when they will be applied

Unipol
Great advice about accommodation contracts

BBC Good Food
Great slow cooker recipes

Citizens Advice
How to read your meter so you can check the bills

Energy Saving Trust
Save money on energy bills

Money Saving Expert
Saving money and budgeting


By Lynne Condell - Student Money Advice Specialist

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