Utilities like electricity, natural gas, water, and home telephone service may be necessary evils. With a little intentionality, planning, and creativity, you can get your utility budget under control.
1. Pay your bill on time.
Late fees and interest can easily add 5% to your monthly bill. Create a monthly budget that includes all of your utility expenses. If you’re not sure how much to budget, check your statement or online account. Companies tend to provide your monthly average as a convenience to customers. Enter due dates on your calendar. An even smarter, more efficient tactic would be to pay all of your bills at the same time – weekly, bi-weekly, or month. Utilize the auto pay service to have your balance withdrawn from your bank account each month.
2. Request the level billing option.
Most utility companies offer a budget or level billing option. The company will review your last 12 months of use. Then, you will be billed for the monthly average. No more high bills in the summer and winter. Your bill will be predictable each month, with no surprises. This is much easier on your budget and cash flow. If it’s not available, you can make level payments on your own. After determining your monthly average, you can simply pay that amount each month. Just be sure not to end up with a past due bill if you’re in a high month.
3. Audit your equipment.
Do you have any plumbing leaks? Are you using equipment that are energy-hogs? Maybe you could find something more energy efficient. Consider plumbing, electrical, water heater, kitchen appliances, laundry appliances, and anything else you plug in. Know what is contributing to your monthly expenses so that you can decide if it is the best use of your financial resources.
4. Evaluate your use.
Do you rely on the air conditioning too much? Could you use a fan, ceiling fan, or open the windows? Maybe you leave appliances, computers, tv’s, or water on more than you realize. Once you are aware of it, you are in a much better position to control it. Ask if there are discounts for off-peak usage. Discuss your efforts with your family. If everyone is involved and invested, everyone can successfully contribute to saving energy and money. If it’s not in use, turn it off or better yet, unplug it.
5. Cut back.
Can you use the fan instead of the air conditioner? Is there a way to use the cold water pouring out of the faucet while you’re waiting on it to heat up? Replacing standard light bulbs with CFC bulbs, using energy-efficient appliances, and low flow showerheads or toilets may make a big difference in next month’s bill.