Paying bills
What kind of bills do you have to pay? How do you usually pay your bills, in cash or by another method? Have you ever forgotten to pay a bill? Is there anything you could do to make your bills cheaper?
  • Direct debit (noun) - an arrangement for making payments, usually to an organization, in which your bank moves money from your account into the organization's account at regular times.
  • To faff about/around (phrasal verb) - to spend your time doing a lot of things that are not important instead of the thing that you should be doing.
  • To justify (verb) - to give or to be a good reason for.
  • Accidentally on purpose (idiom) - if you do something accidentally on purpose, you do it intentionally but pretend it happened by chance.
  • To shop around (phrasal verb) - to compare the price and quality of the same or a similar object in different shops before you decide which one to buy.
  • To reduce (verb) - to become or to make something become smaller in size, amount, degree, importance, etc.
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Questions and answers
M: What kind of bills do you have to pay?

R: I don't pay many, really. I think my most regular ones would be the phone bill and my internet bill. Trying to think what else? Oh, the electrical bill. Those are the ones where I see the money coming out of my account regularly.

M: How do you usually pay your bills, in cash or by another method?

R: They're all by direct debit, actually, with the exception of the gym membership, which I mean, the last time I paid for that it was in cash. And that was just because I had some cash on me and it saved time instead of faffing around with a card.

M: Have you ever forgotten to pay a bill?

R: Oh wow. I probably shouldn't share this too freely, because I might get in trouble. But I haven't paid my gym membership for the last three weeks. Because they haven't asked me. But I've justified it. Because I already paid for it before and they haven't improved anything in the gym, despite bringing up the price of the membership. So that's how I'm, that's how I make myself feel better about not paying for it. I kind of accidentally on purpose forgot to pay it.

M: Is there anything you could do to make your bills cheaper?

R: Other than just not paying them? I sometimes shopped around for new phone providers, this is not very often because, you know, I have my contract for a standard two-year period. But when that time is up, I shop around for different providers and sometimes, if you make that clear what you're doing, then they reduce the bill. And sometimes the company that you're already with to thank you for your loyalty will also bring down the price. But those are the two things I can imagine right now, or I can think of right now. I don't really know any other ways to reduce your bills.

M: Thank you Rory for your honest answers!

R: Too honest.
M: So, dear listener, paying bills. We took this topic from IELTS Cambridge tests book, one of the official books. And it's not a current recent IELTS speaking topic. But it was in the book, in the official book from Cambridge. And we thought like, well, wow, why not? You know, it's an interesting topic, and we've never had it. So you're welcome.

R: I am not terribly happy about it, because I'm about to get in big trouble for not paying my gym membership.

M: Ay-ay-ay, Rory boy. So, a bill. We talk about electricity, gas, phone bill. So something you pay... Usually, you pay for them, right?

R: Usually.

M: So you measure it on a monthly, yearly basis. For example, they send us a bill for electricity or for the Internet. But also in the restaurant, dear listener, you say, oh, excuse me, can I have the bill, please? So the bill, you pay the bill. Wait for the joke. Okay? The joke is coming. It's a good one.

R: People are getting a lot out of this episode. So far, we've had confessions of criminal offences taking place. Details about bills. Vocabulary is coming. And then Maria's joke. So lots to look forward to.

M: So we pay our bills. And Rory told us, I pay my most regular bills. So regular bills, Rory pays every month. So phone, the internet bill, electrical bill.

R: It can be the electricity bill too.

M: Electricity bills. Yeah. But what about utilities? Can I say utility bill?

R: That is such a good phrase. I would say pay the utilities or pay a utility bill.

M: Pay the utilities. Utilities? Well, services, like electricity, gas. So pay the utilities. Or utility bills. Also, it's possible. Like we pay $5,000 every month plus the utilities, electricity, gas.

R: Who pays $5,000 every month? What for?

M: For example. And you pay monthlyç So every month, right? You can also talk about your subscriptions. Dear listener, do you have a Netflix subscription? Yeah? Or you pay, for example, for our premium. We have our premium episodes. And maybe you are one of our premium listeners, who pays on a monthly or yearly (every year) basis for our premium. Or for example, if I have a mortgage. I took out a loan for a house. So every month, what do I do, Rory? I pay for...

R: You pay it monthly.

M: Monthly, yeah. I pay for my mortgage, right? You can pay your bills in cash. In cash or what?

R: By direct debit. You can pay them by credit card or by cash. A direct debit is a monthly or it's a regular payment that you set up on your account.

M: So you set it up, and then every month it just...

R: It just goes automatically.
M: It just goes automatically. So they are all paid by direct debit. Debit? Or kind of they debit your card. Debit? They take things away. So debit. It's like a D, like...

R: Unless, unless you're the gym that I go to, in which case you don't... I get it for free.

M: Rory has used a very good phrasal verb faff about.

R: But if you're faffing about, then it's nothing really terribly exciting. You just have the card and you put it in the right place. And then sometimes they ask you to change it. You have to find it and then put it back. It's just faffing around, whereas, with money, you just take the money and give and done.

M: Sometimes we can forget to pay our bills. And Rory...

R: I accidentally-on purpose forgot to pay for my gym membership.

M: Accidentally on purpose. Accidently is like oops, accident. But on purpose kind of... You do it on purpose.

R: At first, I forgot. And then I just continued to forget. So I got three weeks for free.

M: So my gym membership... For example, you can say I didn't pay for my gym membership, or for some subscription. They brought up the prices, so they raised the prices, they brought up or put up the prices. So I didn't pay.

R: I would like to point out though, that despite the fact my local gym has brought up the prices for its memberships, they haven't actually improved any of the equipment in the gym or raised the salaries of the people working there. So, perhaps if they would like me to pay, they should provide some reason to do this. When you forget to pay a bill, you usually get a notice. So you receive a notice, like a letter, that warning, you have to pay this. So get a notice. You can also say like, oh, once I got a notice to pay my electricity bill. Sometimes you have to pay a fine. Like you forgot to pay and then you have to pay a fine. You pay the bill plus this sum of money that's like a fine.

R: I'm gonna have to pay a fine now.

M: You can also use the phrase I was broke. Once I was broke, I didn't have any money and I forgot to pay my bills.

R: Well, if you're broke, you're not able to pay your bills. Has that ever happened to you?

M: No.

R: It's not nice being broke.

M: Somebody else pays the bills. So...

R: Oh, good. It's always great when someone's there to pay your bills.

M: My bills take care of themselves. Okay? Yeah. Dear listener, you can crack a joke here. Oh, my gosh, this is, this ideal moment when you, dear listener, in the exam can make a joke. So the examiner asks you, have you ever forgotten to pay a bill? And then you say, once I didn't pay my electricity bill. That was the darkest time of my life.

R: And then you fail your exam.
M: Did you get it? I didn't pay my electricity bill. So the light, the light, I didn't have any light. That was the darkest time of my life. No light, it was dark, but also dark times. Like I was sad, I was depressed, I was experiencing some dark times...

R: Yes, sort of like right now with me, I'm experiencing a very dark time because of that joke.

M: So once I didn't pay my electricity bill and those were pretty dark times.

R: It's so dark. Look, look how dark it's getting.

M: And then you look at the exam and like... I cracked a joke. Did you like that?

R: So dark.

M: Yes, of course, you can do that, you can do that. Rory, tell us what overdraft payments are, to give some technical specific language. Overdraft payments.

R: Well, that might mean something different in different countries. For me, an overdraft payment is you can take out more money than you have in your account, but you have to pay it back. And this extra amount of money is called an overdraft. But the interest rate is very high on it. And you have to pay it back very quickly. Otherwise, they start charging you lots and lots of money.

M: What sentence can we say in the context of this, you know, debts, bills?

R: God, one time I forgot to pay my overdraft and I had to pay a massive chunk of interest on top of it.

M: Interest? This percent that the bank charges.

R: I have never done that because I've never had an overdraft, but I've never been in debt in my entire life. Thank God.

M: Be in debt. Okay? Not debt, no, in debt. When you owe money, you take money from the bank, and then you have a debt. We can have high bills. So we pay a lot of money, high bills. How can we make them cheaper? Well, not pay them.

R: Don't pay them.

M: Or Rory used cheap, yeah? What phrasal verb did you use?

R: What phrasal verb did I use?

M: Shop around.

R: Oh, yes. What does that mean?
M: If you pay a lot for your internet, you can shop around and choose a new provider. Like not this one, but... Shop around. Okay, okay, this one, right? So maybe this could make the bill cheaper. So shop around for a new provider. And you can say that the biggest expense is the Internet. Or my biggest expense... Expense? What I pay money for. I spend money on electricity. My biggest expense is electricity. Rory, what's your biggest expense so far now?

R: Well, the gym membership is probably my biggest regular expense. Although having just established I don't pay it, then it should be something else. I'm trying to think. I think it might be the gym membership. It's like 50 pounds a month. And when I started it used to be 30.

M: Or maybe I can change the Internet services or I can reduce the amount of electricity I use or gas. I don't know, water, water bills. Or you can also say I can split the bill. For example, if you live with somebody, so we can split the bill. Split the bills? Kind of and you pay one part and the other person pays the rest. Split the bill. Okay, are you ready for the joke?

R: I am not ready for the joke.

M: Okay, okay. Rory, I need you now. You're gonna...

R: Tolerate the joke?

M: No, no, tolerate... Give us the introduction.

R: Okay.

M: So, Rory, tell me, in a restaurant, what do you call this document with many dishes you choose from?

R: The menu?

M: Yes. Very good. How do you pronounce it?

R: Menu.

M: How do you spell it?

R: M, E, N, U.

M: At the restaurant the woman says, it's the guy's job to pay the bill at the restaurant. That's why it's called man, you. The man said no, no, no, no, we both pay because it's called me and you. Come on, it's a good one. It's a good one. Dear listener, did you get it? Menu, menu. Like the woman says it's like, man, you, you pay, but the man says no, no, no, it's me and you, menu.

R: The links to our courses and classes are in the description below in the event you haven't died from the cringe that might have induced.

M: Thank you very much for listening! Bye!

R: Bye!
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
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