Warning: Late repayment can cause you serious money problems. For help, go to moneyhelper.org.uk

Written by: Cara Bradley //
Approximate reading time: 5 minutes

Being hit by an unforeseen or unexpectedly high bill can make for a stressful situation.

Expenses we’ve planned for can be disheartening enough, let alone ones that seem to pop up out of nowhere.

Having to suddenly find the money to pay for something you hadn’t budgeted for can make you feel anxious or upset, but try not to panic. There are a number of options you may choose to consider to help you through this difficult period.

What to do if you receive an unexpected energy bill

In this instance, the first thing you should do is contact your energy supplier. They will be able to take a closer look at the bill and check for any possible errors. There could be a miscalculation on their part, so it’s worth taking a second look.

Under Ofgem regulations, energy suppliers must work alongside customers struggling to pay their bills to create a suitable plan. You are within your rights to ask for more time to pay and access to hardship funds.

Some energy companies offer grants and schemes to help with the rising cost of bills. Sometimes, you do not need to be a customer of a specific company to benefit from these. We’ve included some links below:

You can also visit the Gov.uk website for further information.

If you are classed as a vulnerable household and cannot afford essentials such as food and energy, you may be entitled to help from the Household Support Fund.

Register with your energy company’s Priority Services Register. Your household could be classed as vulnerable if

  • you are of state pension age;
  • are pregnant or have young children;
  • are disabled or have a long-term medical condition;
  • are recovering from an injury;
  • have a hearing or sight condition;
  • have a mental health condition;
  • have extra communication needs, such as if you don’t speak or read English well;
  • or you need to use medical equipment that requires a power supply.

You might still be able to register for other reasons if your situation isn’t listed.

Your energy supplier cannot disconnect you or threaten you with disconnection if you are of state pension age and live alone, or you live with only other pensioners, or under 18s.

Possible ways to cover the cost of unexpected energy bills

While many of us would prefer to use them for things such as home improvements, a new car, or a holiday, savings can step in as a back-up when emergencies strike.

Family & friends
Many of us feel uncomfortable when it comes to discussing money. While asking to borrow from friends or family might feel awkward, it could be a possible temporary solution to help tide you over.

Should I take out a loan to cover an unexpected energy bill?

If all other potential payment options have been exhausted, you might have thought about applying for a loan to help you pay for an unexpected bill.

The decision to apply for a loan should not be taken lightly. If not managed correctly and paid on time, loan repayments could lead to increased financial hardship.

When you take out a loan, you agree to make monthly repayments over a set period of time until the full balance is cleared. You will also be charged interest on top of the amount you have borrowed.

With this in mind, taking out a loan to cover bills may work out as a more expensive option in the long run.

Things to think about before applying for a loan

  • Be sure that you can comfortably afford the monthly repayments, including interest fees.
  • When you apply for any form of credit, such as a loan or credit card, , the lender will look into your financial history. This is called a hard credit search; too many searches over a short period of time could have a negative impact on your credit rating. One way to avoid this is to use a credit broker. Credit brokers work with a panel of lenders, and use a soft search eligibility check to give you an idea of how likely you are to be approved for credit. Soft searches do not impact your credit rating, so this could be an option to explore if you have a less-than-perfect credit history and you’d like to weigh up your choices before making a commitment.
  • If you’ve done thorough research and are confident that you will be able to make your monthly repayments on time without impacting your essential bills, such as food, rent or mortgage, and council tax, make sure you apply for a loan through a reputable, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) approved lender. You can check to see if a company is on the FCA register here.

To conclude…

Because you will pay interest on the money you borrow, a loan could be a more expensive option. You might want to explore all avenues of help available to you beforehand, including contacting your supplier and finding out about any grants or additional help you could be entitled to.

How to save money on your energy bills

If you’re looking to use less energy, there are a number of things you can try:

  • Switch from a conventional oven to an air fryer.
  • Consider having a smart meter installed. This could make it easier for you to keep track of your energy use and how much it costs.
  • Invest in an electric blanket.
  • Swap baths for showers, and try to keep them to a maximum of four minutes.
  • Unplug devices that are not in use.

For more energy-saving tips, check out our blog: What To Do If You Can’t Pay Your Energy Bill.

If you need further help

We’re really sorry that you’re in a position where you need the information within this article.

Money worries can take over your thoughts and affect your mental health. Look after yourself and know that you are not alone. No matter how bad things may currently seem, it’s so important to remember that help and support is always available.

For further, free advice on what to do if you’re struggling to keep on top of your energy bills, visit sites such as MoneyHelper, Citizens Advice Bureau, StepChange and National Debtline.

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Warning: Late repayment can cause you serious money problems.
For help, go to moneyhelper.org.uk

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