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Parents: six student bills you should know about

Helping your son or daughter prepare for student budgeting? There are so many living costs to think about, some of which won't kick in straightaway...

Most parents we asked* are contributing – or planning to contribute – financially to their child’s expenses at university.

In fact, parents of those currently at uni are forking out £360 per month on average.

Two thirds of parents are turning to their monthly income for this, while a quarter are digging into their savings.

So whether they're moving into halls or private accommodation, here are some key student bills you or your child might need to budget for...

1. Utilities

As much as your child might not want to part with their student loan on gas, electricity and water costs, if they're moving to private accommodation, they'll need to budget for utility bills.
  • Halls: utilities should be included in their rent.
  • Private accommodation: utilities probably won't be included in the rent. If they're able to switch suppliers, it might be worth comparing deals online to see if they can save money.
It’s a no-brainer that they’ll need internet access while they’re at university (purely for study purposes, of course!).
  • Halls: their room should already be set up with a wireless or wired connection and the cost is covered in their rent.
  • Private accommodation: they'll need to factor the installation fee and monthly line rental in their budget.


3. Student contents insurance

Laptop, smartphone, tablet, TV... Your child's personal belongings are likely to add up to more than you might think. According to Endsleigh Insurance, the average student goes off to university with £2,000 worth of hi-tech gadgets. 

If your child’s possessions aren’t covered under your household contents insurance, it’s probably worth looking into a separate policy for them. 
  • Halls: if your child is living in university accommodation, they should automatically receive basic student room insurance protecting possessions inside their room against theft, fire and flood. Check with the accommodation provider to find out what level of contents insurance cover is included in their rent.
  • Private accommodation: if your child is moving into a privately-owned shared house or flat, they’re likely to need something more comprehensive. Student contents insurance packages start from around £10 per month.


4. TV licence

Your child will need a TV licence if they watch or record television programmes as they’re being shown on TV – whether it’s on a TV, laptop or tablet. If they pay it all at once with a direct debit or credit card, it’ll cost £145.50.

They'll also need a TV licence to watch programmes on BBC iPlayer, whether live or recorded. However, they won't need a licence to use other catch-up streaming services, like 4OD or the ITV Hub.
  • Halls: university accommodation should normally have a licence covering communal areas, but not individual rooms. So if your child wants to watch live TV from their room, no matter what the device, they’ll need to sort out their own licence.
  • Private accommodation: if your child is moving to a shared house and there's a joint tenancy agreement for the whole house, they’ll probably only need one licence. However, if they have a separate tenancy agreement, they'll need their own licence.

Watch now: How to save money at university


5. Council tax exemption for students

Good news  if everyone in your child’s household is a full-time student, they don't have to pay council tax. Bear in mind, though, that they’ll need to get a certificate of student status provided by their university to prove their exemption.

If someone in their household isn't full-time, they'll get a council tax bill, but qualify for a discount.

If your child is moving into halls, they won’t need to worry about sorting out their council tax exemption until they move into private accommodation.


6. Running, insuring and taxing a car

Running, insuring and taxing a car can be pricey for cash-strapped students. If you or your child can afford to pay for the year’s insurance up front, you can save money, and loyalty doesn’t pay when it comes to renewal.

For cars registered as new after 1 April 2017, the rate of vehicle tax for the first year depends on the amount of CO2 the car emits – after that, it’s a standard rate of £145 for petrol and diesel cars. You or your child can pay monthly, every 6 months or every 12 months; like with insurance, it’s cheaper to opt for the single payment for 12 months.

How expensive it is to run a car will depend on the model and fuel type. Diesel is currently the most fuel efficient, but diesel cars tend to be more expensive to buy, while hybrids are quickly catching up with their increased motorway economy. 

Does it all sound a bit much? See if your child’s university has a car club, or similar. With these short-term schemes, you don’t have to worry about insurance, road tax, or servicing – it’s all included in the fee!

Alternatively, there’s student temporary car insurance – short-term cover offering a flexible policy that will allow your child to borrow your car during the holidays. 

You can ditch the car altogether. At uni, a termly bus pass or e-bike might just do the trick. Don’t forget about the Young Person’s railcard and coachcard for coming home again – your child's student bank account might offer a travelcard as an incentive to join.

Looking for more information?

Check out our quick video for ideas to boost your child's student budget:

Watch now: How to boost your student budget

Download our free parents' university guide, created in partnership with Ucas, for more information on how you can support your child:


* Data source: Which? University Parent Survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Which? University, surveying 846 parents of current undergraduate students or students considering applying in the next 12 months/ have applied to university in the past 12 months between 28 February and 7 March 2019.

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