Totally confused about what the heck to do? Here's our guide to make it simple (but not half as tasty) as pie...
Some people think about bills in the same way parents describe their kids: difficult to understand and impossible to manage. People are filled with horror stories of late payment fees, overdraft limits and those god-awful payday loan adverts. But fear not, if you’re sensible with your spending and willing to accept budgeting as your new god, then bills are a walk in the park. So follow this simple guide to avoid your bills going through the rebellious teen phase and send them straight to Sunday school.
Get all the facts
Make sure you know what it is you’ll be paying for before you agree to something way over budget. Find out if utilities (gas, water…survival bits) are included in your rent or if you’ll have to factor them in on top. Don’t be afraid to cheat on your utility company if a shinier, cheaper deal comes your way. You’ve got to break a few hearts to afford superfast broadband. Make sure you’re paying the least and getting the most. If you live in a house where you’re not allowed to change utility provider, then make sure you’re getting the best deal from them. More importantly, before you pick a house to rent you might want to check how slutty you’re allowed to be with your utilities or if your landlord has arranged the marriage for you.
I’m talking about apps, not toasters. There are loads of apps out there designed to help you budget, working out your income and your expenditures. Some apps can remind you when to pay which bills and some can even work out what you’re spending all your money on and how to fit into your budget better. If you’re rubbish at keeping track of your finances, then downloading a robot to do it for you might just be the best decision you ever make.
Actually look at your bank statements
I know right, who even does that? Turns out, people who want to keep track of what they’re spending the most money on. It can be a real eye-opener to read in black and white just how many ‘oh it’s only a pound’ moments you had that month. I’m looking at you, Primark bargain buckets. It can be easy to forget just how many times you allowed yourself that extra treat until you check your balance and suddenly realise you’re the reason Confessions of a Shopaholic made $108.3 million at the box office.
Don’t tie yourself to other people
Make sure you have separate accounts to pay bills. It can be tempting to pool money into a joint account, or all pay one person who then pays the landlord, however this can be a slippery slope. It only takes one unreliable person and suddenly you haven’t paid your bills. If your name is on any documentation alongside someone else, then their late payment can affect your credit score. A bad credit score makes you look like a proper dodgy character to banks and you’ll find it harder to apply for things like loans and mortgages in the future. Pay your share of bills direct to the landlord or letting agent from a standing order account so everyone knows what a punctual saint you are.
Don’t be an overdraft junky
This one can’t be stressed enough. Do not be that student who thinks of an overdraft as free money. It is not. You have to pay it back and most of the time you have to pay interest too, making that free money more expensive than actual money. Overdrafts are fantastic safety nets for rare occasions like if your rent is taken before your student loan comes in. It makes it possible for you to be a few hundred into the negative numbers for a day or so and then back up to normal when your loan comes in. The danger comes when people start using that magic money to go out with, then buy that new skirt, then those jeans and a takeaway… Pretty soon you can find yourself further into your overdraft than you can possibly dig your way back out of. Once you’re deep into the negative number maze it can be very difficult to find your way back to 0, let alone have any positive numbers in there.
The most important thing to know is to simply be aware of how much money you make and how much money you spend. Managing your money really isn’t rocket science if you’re sensible about it. If you earn £20 a week and pay £15 a week in bills, don’t spend £35 on shoes and then look shocked when your electricity gets turned off. It really is worth taking the time to sit down and work out how much you have coming in and going out each month, especially if you’re financially independent from your parents. When looking for places to live, think about what you can actually afford. It can make life a lot easier having a car once you’ve got a student house to park it at, however can you afford to pay your own insurance, road tax and petrol?
Money can be tricky, it can be painful refusing that night out because you really can’t afford it. However, it’s really not that difficult if you’re sensible and aware of your spending. Best of all, budgeting is an essential skill and if you manage it at uni while your responsibilities are still relatively few then you’ll be a pro when the real adulting starts. We’re not saying be as stingy as Mr Crabs, but you have to admit he’s got the right idea.
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