If you are like most new students, you are now living away from home for the very first time, and this can involve an intimidatingly steep learning curve at times. In addition to studying for exams and slaving over essays in order to meet looming deadlines, you need to figure out how to run your own household and manage your finances in an effective way. Although arranging to pay for gas and electricity might seem like a dull topic, opting to learn more about choosing the best energy supplier can help you to avoid serious problems and make sure that you save money in the long run. The following seven tips will help to simplify matters for you.

1) Start by looking for properties that include utility bills in the rent:
Unfortunately, it is now relatively uncommon to find flats or houses that include the energy bills as part of the monthly rent that you are expected to pay. However, if you are lucky enough to find a place that offers this arrangement then it can be a smart way to save some extra cash. As a bonus, it streamlines most of your expenses into one large monthly payment. Even if you have decided on a property that does not have utilities included in the rent, it is worth discussing this issue with your landlord in case there is any room for negotiation.

2) Opt for a dual tariff if you can:
If you are living in a property that has a gas connection, it is highly likely that you will end up spending less money on energy if you combine your bills by choosing a dual tariff. In addition, this type of tariff will be easier to manage than having several providers, as you will receive just one bill and will know that there is only one number to call if you encounter any problems with your gas or electricity.

3) Strongly consider a fixed price contract:
Energy companies offer a diverse range of contracts, and it often pays to select one that is offering a fixed price contract. Energy prices typically increase year after year (sometimes by a large amount of money), so if you fix the price now then you will be protected from any increase in fees. However, before you sign a contract you should make sure you have picked a supplier that does not charge a penalty or cancellation fee if you choose to cancel. For example, this may come in handy if you need to make an unexpected move to a new property, or if you have a rental agreement that lasts only nine months.

4) Take advantage of discounts:
The fact that different customers are eligible for different types of discounts is one of the reasons why choosing the best energy supplier is a highly subjective matter. For students, providers who offer online discounts are often an excellent choice. In some cases, opting out of paper billing can save you several hundreds of pounds every single year. In addition, do your best to find an energy supplier who is willing to offer you a discount if you settle your bills via setting up a monthly direct debit payment. Some providers will reduce your fee by up to 10% if you choose the direct debit option, and paying in this manner also ensures that you never forget to pay what you owe. When trying to juggle your studies and other obligations, it is easy to let things like energy bills slip your mind. With an automatic monthly payment arranged, you can relax.

5) Research a wide range of energy suppliers:
Online comparison sites can go a long way towards clearing up the matter of which energy company is best suited to your needs. However, it is worth noting that some UK providers already have a particularly good reputation among students, and investigating them is a logical and useful starting point. Firstly, EDF is largely thought to offer good value on both gas and electricity, as well as prompt and friendly customer service. As mentioned above, a fixed price contract is a desirable commodity, and EDF offer a fixed tariff with no associated cancellation fee. The same is currently true of Scottish Power, though it is worth noting that their prices are only fixed until 2014.

6) Be smart about splitting energy bills with the other people sharing the property:
Students typically live in shared flats or shared houses, and this means that you will have to get together and spend time figuring out the right way to split the cost of the energy that you use. The best way to prevent arguments and avoid losing money is for everyone to carefully keep track of what is owed. In addition, one helpful strategy involves each housemate being responsible for a single element of the expenses (e.g. gas, electricity, water or internet bills) and being in charge of figuring out who owes what amount at the end of the month.

7) Do not underestimate the importance of checking your meter:
Finally, no matter which energy supplier you choose to use, you should always be vigilant about checking your meter. Your monthly payments will be estimated on the basis of the amount of energy that was used be the previous tenants of your current property, so it is important to take steps to ensure that you only pay what you really use. You can guard against overcharging by taking your own meter readers and offering them to your supplier as proof of what you are using. Ideally, you should aim to submit your readings every few months. This tactic will also ensure that you are not paying too little; while paying less than you owe is pleasant at first, you could get a nasty surprise when you are unexpectedly asked for a couple of hundred pounds at the end of the year.