The flatshare myth: Can students save money living solo?

Sharing accommodation means splitting rent and bills, which usually means saving money. But there are some costly considerations to factor into your next student flatshare.

Bill busters

If you're reading this, the chances are you're already keen to keep your outgoings under control. Unfortunately, not all housemates are so considerate. All it takes is one person who stays at home all the time, heating on full blast and endless electronics sending your meter spinning for your energy bills to soar. And unless you're using smart meters to monitor consumption, you're stuck with an equal share in an energy bill you barely contributed a kilowatt to.

Living alone means you can plan your energy usage using smart devices, timers and good old fashioned common sense to keep bills down.

Food thieves

In a flatshare, cooking meals together and buying in bulk can be a cost-cutting Godsend. But once again, it just takes one bad cook to spoil the broth: particularly if that cook is constantly consuming your goods.

A drop of milk now and then is easy to forgive, but if you're stuck with a real stealth snacker for a year or more, you'll soon find the burdensome extra costs mounting up.

Building bad habits

Living in a group can encourage laziness, both in terms of your financial and cleaning habits, because there's always someone else to rely on (or blame). When you live alone, the buck stops with you. It's in your interest to cultivate good habits like staying on top of the cleaning or using a budget planner to keep track of all of your income and expenditure. The earlier you build these positive habits, the more you'll save in the long run.

Council tax concerns

Students are exempt from council tax, but there are still things to be wary of if you're joining a flatshare. For example, if you live with anyone who's not a student, on a part-time course, or studying less than 21 hours of study per week, that exemption disappears and the whole house is landed with a tax bill.

If you live alone, you only have your circumstances to worry about. Better still, when you graduate you will receive a 25% single-occupier discount on your council tax.

Unconventional alternatives

If you don't want a flatshare, you don't necessarily need to keep a whole one-bed flat to yourself. Most universities have halls of residence that offer private rooms within a larger shared space, often including bills. There are also private companies like Unite that offer similar in-between living styles.

For the even more adventurous, acting as a live-in guardian with groups like Camelot or Live-in Guardians can reveal individual spaces in unique, unoccupied buildings ranging from old offices and schools to country mansions awaiting renovation: all at prices below average rents, and with bills thrown in.

The clear view

Whichever path you've chosen, the best way to ensure you save in the future is to develop those positive financial habits. Track your spending habits, your energy usage and your housemates' habits; shop around for your service supplier; and seek out the most cost-effective housing solutions. That's the surest route to saving money.

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