It’s tempting to ditch your paper bills when they arrive in the mail but getting to grips with who your providers and suppliers are will ensure you don’t make any costly mistakes or accidentally miss an important payment. Here’s a quick breakdown to help you understand exactly what your different bills mean.

The sort of utility bills you’ll likely receive as a student

If you’re living in shared, you’ll receive bills for services such as electricity, water, gas, broadband,  council tax, and TV licences. These are basically all the expenses you incur while living in a student household. Don’t worry if it all seems a bit overwhelming at first – if you’re a new student or simply new to student life, you may not have had experience paying your own bills before. Chill out, grab some reading fuel to get you through and take it step by step!

One of the first things to do is to plan exactly how the rent and the utility bills are divided between housemates. This can be a potential source of stress and conflict, so it might be easier to use a company like Glide that takes care of shared student utility bills and makes sure that everyone is organized and contributing their share on time.

Know who each of your suppliers are

You’ll need to know each of the companies you’re signed up with and your specific contract with them. What each of your utility bills looks like will depend a lot on the company you’re with, but every bill will at minimum tell you how much of their service you’ve used and the cost, usually on a month-to-month basis. If your utilities are not included in your rent, you need to make sure you budget for them.

For gas and electricity, for example, you’ll be shown how much credit or debit is in your account (i.e. if you’re under or overusing), what your current balance is, the tariff you’re on (in other words, the rate you’re paying) and usually a breakdown of how you’ve spent electricity or gas that month. Consult your provider’s website to really understand what their terms and figures mean – this is important because switching to a better tariff or a cheaper provider may save you quite a lot in the long term (which means more money for future nights out!)

Water bills, on the other hand, are typically taken care of by the landlord and there is usually not as much need to shop around for a good rate. It’s common to have a meter that’s read once or twice a year, with some projected use estimates so you can see if you’re using too much water overall.

Understanding TV licences

You’ll need to pay for a TV Licence if you watch live TV, on any device. You’ll also need one if you watch BBC iPlayer online. If you live alone, you need to get just a single licence, but you’ll also need to get your own licence if you have a single tenancy – which could be a single room in a shared flat. In this case, every tenant needs their own licence. Joint tenancies, however, typically need just one licence.

University halls sometimes cover TV licences, but you may be covered by your parents’ licence if you live with them out-of-term. It’s important to be sure whether you need to pay or not – the licence is only £157.50, but fines for not having one can be steep. Obviously, if you’re like many students, you might opt out of a TV licence and get your TV fix via Netflix marathons instead.

The holy grail – setting up the broadband properly

If you’ve never had to do it before, getting the internet up and running can prove a little daunting, especially if you’re coordinating with several other students in your flat share. You could start by visiting and entering your postcode to check what is available in the area. To sign up with a provider, you’ll need a landline – check if you already have one or arrange for the provider to install one.

Next, you’ll need to get a router from them that you can plug into the mains and the landline telephone socket. Next, use a browser to set up accounts on all the devices you have in the house. You can find the Wi-Fi password and username on the back of the router. Bear in mind that the more people you have in the house, the faster speed you’ll need! You can check out broadband speeds here.