In today’s economy, keeping on top of monthly outgoings is becoming increasingly difficult and with utility bills making up an ever-increasing proportion of the average family’s monthly spend, it’s easy to see how many people can fall into arrears on their payments for gas, electricity, water and other utilities.
Getting into utility bill debt can be easily done and the most common causes include direct debits or standing orders based on inaccurate estimates, unexpected utility bill price rises, lost bills, moving house and forgetting to settle a final bill or missed payments after switching supplier.
Utility bill arrears has been steadily increasing in the UK, with around 8% of the adult population in debt to one or more utility company – despite gas and electricity being considered ‘priority debts’. Priority debt is debt that has serious consequences when not paid on time, with utility arrears, such as the gas and electric supply being turned off in your home.
What to do if I find myself in utility bill debt?
If you fall into arrears, you should contact your utility company in the first instance to discuss the problems you’re having in making payments to them. All utility companies have strict policies in place which govern the way they deal with customers in arrears and they should always be prepared to work with you to find a realistic solution.
Check your bills
If your utility provider is basing your bills on ‘estimated’ usage amounts, this may not tally with the actual amount you are using, so you may be overpaying.
Check your fixed payment amounts
If you pay a fixed amount every month, have a look to see if this amount is roughly right to cover the cost of your average usage. Your utility company should regularly review and amend these fixed monthly payment amounts to make sure you’re not building up unnecessary credit with them, but it is always worth having a look yourself too.
Review your finances: you might find it useful to work out all your income and outgoings to see where your money is going – this could help you find areas where you can easily reduce your outgoings.
Keeping on top of utility bills
Keep on top of things by setting aside enough money each month to cover all bills – and remember, your heating bills may be more expensive during or shortly after winter. By setting side enough money each month, you can help make sure utility price increases don’t send you into arrears.
Set up a Direct Debit or standing order so you don’t forget to pay your bill. Utility companies often offer a discount for Direct Debit customers.
You should also double-check you’re on the cheapest tariff. Use one of the many online tools to check that you’re getting the best deal and if you find a cheaper deal, switch. Just make sure you pay all outstanding amounts to your old supplier.
If you are struggling to pay a utility bill or have difficulty paying outstanding debts, please call Aperture, we offer free debt advice. You can contact us on 0333 939 7919.