A student’s budget is often tight. In the time between loan instalments, the average student needs to stretch their finances to cover food, beer, rent, beer and not to mention those expensive textbooks you’re made to buy that you’ll never need more than a chapter of… oh, and beer.

It’s fair to say that after three years of hardcore budgeting while at university, the average student becomes a master of stretching the pennies as far as they’ll go. But, when you’re new to budgeting, the first steps are always the hardest take.

Energy can be among the largest expense for anyone, so finding ways to save money on your energy bills is a great first step to take. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to mean surviving the winter months layering jumper on top of jumper, until you finally give in and turn the heating on.

To help you save money, and stay warm, we have listed some ways that you can make sure you have your energy bills set up properly, to make sure you’re not paying more than you need to for the energy that you’re using.

The first thing you should always do when moving into a new house share is check which energy tariff the property is currently on.

House shares will typically nominate one lucky person to be the ‘lead tenant’. This person will be named on the tenancy agreement and will typically handle all bills for the property. But it’s every tenant’s responsibility to make sure that you’re all getting the best deal on your energy.

You should start by finding out when the property’s energy tariff was last changed. If it was in excess of a year, it’s safe to assume that the property would have been rolled onto an expensive ‘standard tariff’ when the previous deal expired. If this is the case, then you can switch to pretty much any other deal on the market and make a substantial saving.

However, how you go about switching is a different matter, as there are a few different ways that you can do it. There is always a deal to be had somewhere; all you have to do is find it.

Method #1 – Do it yourself

This is certainly the most time consuming way to switch your energy tariff, but if you are willing to dedicate the time and dig around, there is a chance that you could snag yourself a real bargain.

This method involves individually contacting energy suppliers directly and getting a quote from each one. Once you have a best price from all of the suppliers in your area, you can then make a decision as to which tariff is the cheapest, or best suited to your household.

Just to reiterate, this method requires a lot of time and organisation, and there is never any guarantee that you will find a better deal on the market by going it alone.

Method #2 – Use a price comparison service

Using a price comparison service takes all of the leg work out of method #1. By simply inputting your energy usage on a website, or having a brief phone conversation about your energy habits with a switching representative, you can compare the energy market in just a few minutes. This is certainly one of the most efficient ways to make an informed switching decision.

But which price comparison service should you use? There are countless comparison websites available, but to make sure you’re getting a true representation of the market, it is recommended that you use one with a large panel of suppliers that is also backed by energy industry regulator OfGem, such as UKPower.co.uk. One of the most popular is also MoneySuperMarket.com.

But be careful when comparing energy tariffs; it’s important to understand exactly which suppliers are and aren’t available to you. Not all price comparison services can offer deals from the whole of the market, so there may be a cheaper deal out there for you that you’re not being shown.

Method #3 – Use a bill managing service

Some bill managing services can find you a new tariff for all of your monthly bills and utilities and then consolidate them into one monthly payment to help you manage your outgoing expenses; however this won’t necessarily get you the cheapest deal on the market.

For those who want minimal involvement after the switching process, services such as acasa can be a godsend. acasa is a tool that allows you to capture and track contributions when paying for shared goods, so you don’t have to get angry, concerned or awkward about getting paid back.

This method is ideal for larger house shares or people that simply dread that awkward monthly conversation about money, or for people who struggle to juggle a large number of outgoing bills and payments.

It’s highly likely for a student household, where tenants probably change regularly, to be on a standard tariff. So, by switching you could knock a substantial amount off of your energy bills, which means more money in your pocket… for beer.

The method you use to switch your energy bills is completely down to your personal preference: you may want to get really involved and do all the legwork yourself, you may want to seek the insider knowledge of an energy expert, or you may want someone else to manage all your bills for you. The important thing is that, in one way or another, you compare all the tariffs on the market available to you and make sure that you are on the best deal.

Guest blog from James McAllister at www.makeitcheaper.com

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