31 Day Budget (Day 10): Lowering Utility Costs

31 Days to a Better Budget

Lowering Utility Costs

Each day of the series offers new tips, ideas and a challenge to start the year with a solid financial plan.

Some expenses are unavoidable—you need food, water, shelter—but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. Many household expenses can easily be reduced with a few simple money saving ideas. This week, we’ll start looking for ways to save on the things you need, starting in the home.

From budget billing to energy efficiency, there are dozens of ways to lower your monthly utility costs. It all starts with taking a look at the bill. It’s so easy to just pay the bill, without a second glance&mash;afterall, you truly need electricity & water, right? But, take the time to look at the amount each month.

If you have a few bills (or your utility company provides a comparison), see if any month jumps out at you. A sudden spike could indicate a fixable problem. Last year, our water bill jumped in December—at first, we just paid it. I thought it had something to do with all of us being home all day for 2 weeks over the holidays, or all the laundry we were catching up on. When the bill was even higher a month later, we knew we had a real issue.

It turned out to be our water softener—it was almost as old as our marriage and was completely shot. It was recycling every half hour, instead of once per day, resulting in the astronomical water costs. The next month, our bill was cut in half. A quick phone call to our water company, explaining the problem, took even more money off our bill.

You’d be surprised how many times a quick phone call can ease utility costs. Find out if your electric or gas company has a budget billing option. Ask about complimentary energy audits, where their professionals will find the areas you need to work on. Seal the drafts and watch your bills plummet.

For utilities with a competitive market, ask about special offers. Don’t be afraid to let them know you’ve been offered a better deal from a competitor. This is often effective with telephone bills or cable & satellite. It doesn’t hurt to compare prices from other companies, either. After yesterday’s budget exercise, we’re taking a close look at our cell phone bills & contract dates.

Don’t assume just because it’s a top priority or a real & actual need that you can’t find a way to cut costs. Today’s assignment in our budget program: contact each of your utility companies to ask about budget billing, special offers or other ways to save on your monthly bill. You may spend a bit of time on hold (speaker phone is your friend!), but the conversation itself should only take a few minutes—and could save you hundreds of dollars this year.

I’m not a financial planner or a budget expert. I’ll just be walking you through the steps I take each time my budget needs an adjustment. In fact, I’ll be participating myself!

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