Utility Bills Higher Than Expected: How To Pay Them Off

- by Becky Hall

Just received an unexpected utility bill or a bill higher than you budgeted for and don’t have the money to pay for it? Don’t worry! In this article, you will find out what help is available to you to help pay off those bills.

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What should you do when you get unexpected utility bills?

Although you might want to bury your head in the sand and forget about it, that bill won’t go away by itself so you are better off working out how to pay off the bill now. Once you get over the shock, here is a plan of action to help you resolve the situation:

  1. First call your utility provider and make them aware of your situation. Many providers are very understanding and will try to help you formulate a repayment plan. They want to see that you are willing to try and pay back as much as you can so try and give over the impression that you want to make this work as best as you can.
  2. Have a look at your finances and see if there is any way you can free up money to pay off the bill. Look for payments you can postpone or cancel without any extra fees. For example, you might want to cancel your gym membership or magazine subscription to help you pay off unexpected utility bills without any extra fees or charges.
  3. If you really don’t have the money to pay that bill, explore what options you have for borrowing money. The cheapest option is to ask friends or family to help you out. If you are not comfortable doing that, look into short term finance options. You’ll be surprised to find that they actually might save you money. If you take a £500 loan from Cashfloat and pay it back two weeks later, you will only pay back a small amount of interest. Is it worth paying small money to keep your electricity and water on? Is it worth it to keep your credit score healthy? Well, that is up to you. If you do decide to borrow, make sure that you pay back your loan on time. The last thing you want is to run into late payment fees and extra interest charges.
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Financial help with energy bills

There are grants and benefits which can you help you pay off your energy debts. If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, you may be able to take advantage of these benefits offered by the government:

  • Winter fuel payment – This is a one-time payment to help you pay for heating in the winter months. You need to be born on or before 5 October 1954 to qualify.
  • Cold weather payment – This payment is only made when temperatures drop below a specific temperature for a certain amount of time. There are other criteria you must meet before qualifying for this payment.
  • Warm home discount scheme – If you are getting the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit or are on a low income, you may be able to get £140 off your electricity bill.

If you owe money to your energy supplier, you may be able to get a grant from a charitable trust. The British Gas Energy Trust offers grants that are open to anyone to apply for. You do not have to be a customer. There are also some companies you can apply for a grant with only if you are a customer. These are:

In all these grant applications, you will have to provide detailed information about your financial situation. You may also have to have received debt advice before applying.

Getting a grant from an Energy Fund will help your solve a short-term financial problem. - Cashfloat

Payday loans to help you pay unexpected utility bills

Sometimes a payday loan may be the right option if you can not pay your bills because of a shortage of cash. For example, if your salary is going to be coming in late and you need to pay your bills in order to keep the lights on, taking a payday loan can help you. Paying back the loan as soon as you get the money into your bank account will save you on interest.

If you are encountering a situation now and the urgency requires a rapid resolution loan, please contact our fast track help desk directly at 020 3757 1928.

How do I avoid getting these horrible, unexpected bills in the future?

Check for a price rise: If the price of your utilities has risen without your knowledge, you will continue to get nasty shocks. Check for price rises or any other changes to your bill that will affect the price. When you get notifications from your utility company, make sure to read them carefully. They might look boring and unimportant, but they can save you further along the line.

Check that your meter is working: If your meter has broken, or is faulty, it will be reflected in your bill. The best way to check is by switching off all appliances in your home. If you have a pilot light, switch that off too. Then check to see if the meter is moving. If it is, contact your supplier immediately. If it does stop, turn on each appliance one at a time. Does the meter start to turn very quickly? There may be a fault with that appliance.

Consider switching to prepaid: If you have had issues with paying your bills, consider switching to a prepaid meter. The key defining feature of a pay as you go meter is that you pay for the energy BEFORE you use it. You use a key or card to top up in the post office, newsagent, some garages or online. You can then only use the utility for however much you topped up, giving you complete control over how much you spend on your utilities. While the actual price of energy may be more, the total spending on utilities is often lower than with a standard meter.

Pros of a prepaid meter - Cashfloat Pros of a prepaid meter - Cashfloat

Consider this: Each month, you set aside about £130 for your gas, electricity and water bills. One fine November morning, your TV breaks and you are forced to replace it with a new one. When your utility bills arrive, you realise that you don’t have the £130 that you normally set aside on hand. To make matters worse, your savings were cleaned out when you refurbished. Although you don’t fancy taking out a payday loan, you may not have a choice. If you don’t pay your bills soon, you will have extra fees and late payment charges added to your problems!

If this sounds familiar, a prepaid meter might just be the thing for you. By paying for your utilities before you use them, you only pay for what you can afford. A Pay as You Go meter forces you to use your utilities wisely. You can also keep track of how much you have left by checking the meter, so that you know if you need to be more careful. Pay as you go meters are often ideal for those who have difficulty keeping up with their bills since you cannot fall behind on payments with a meter.

How do I switch to a prepaid meter?

Speak to your energy provider to discuss how much it would cost you to switch to prepaid. Almost all energy providers have at least one prepaid plan. Some are cheaper than others and some companies do the switch for free. If you are renting an apartment, check with your landlord to get approval for the switch.

Conclusion

Extreme weather can come with higher bills you may not have been expecting. Cashfloat helps you navigate the world of utilities smartly so you can save yourself money and a headache. Now you have the tools you need to save on utilities. Try applying for a grant and if you have no luck with that, you should probably consider a short term loan.

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About The Author
Becky Hall
Becky never thought she would be a financial blogger. But Fate arranged that Becky had to put her accounting degree on the back burner right after she graduated with a first in Business and Accounting. While doing bookkeeping as a freelancer for private clients, Becky noticed how many cashflow problems can be solved with a little bit of education. Trying to keep her clients out of debt, Becky began writing resources which she distributed to clients. What began as writing advice for clients evolved into a passion and now Becky found her platform at Cashfloat. When she isn’t writing, calculating or budgeting, Becky can be found at her piano playing something classical.
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