Setting a budget for your utility bills can be challenging, particularly because the amount of energy you use varies from season to season and month to month. Not only does your energy use vary, in many cases the price you pay for each unit of energy varies by season as well. Because the cost of your utility bills could vary from month to month, this makes planning and budgeting for these changes even more important. Here are a few options to keep in mind when considering the impact on your wallet.
Read your bill
The first step to building a budget for your utility bills is always to read each month’s bill and keep track of any month-to-month changes. Keep an eye on any outliers you may see in your bills. If your electricity bill was high, could it have been due to a particularly hot summer? Understanding the impact weather has on your bill will help you plan ahead so you are not surprised by an extremely high bill at the end of the month.
Once you have an idea of what you are paying and understand your behaviors, you can begin to make changes that may reduce your bills. Examples include turning lights off when you leave the room, turning down your water heater to 120 degrees, or setting a programmable thermostat. Take a look at CUB’s list of energy efficiency measures you can do in your household to lower your bills. Investing in efficient appliances is also a great way to reduce the amount of money you spend on bills each month as well.
Learn about alternative or budget rates
Many utilities offer average monthly billing schedules that are tailored to those looking to set a budget. An average monthly billing program will take a look at your past energy usage to set a baseline. This baseline will be the price you pay every month so you can avoid the large swings from season to season. While this option doesn’t save you money, it does give comfort in knowing there will not be an outrageously high bill at the end of the month.
At the end of the year, if you used less energy than you budgeted for, your utility will credit you the difference. On the other hand, if you used more than expected, you will be charged the difference. Be sure to ask your utility if there are any extra fees or how they handle over-or-under use of energy as it may vary by utility.
Discounted rate options and weatherization assistance is available for households that meet income guidelines. Take a look at CUB’s saving money and energy page to see a list of the options available throughout the state and by your utility.
Some utilities also offer alternative rate structures that could potentially be cheaper for certain customers depending on how they use energy in their homes. Examples include time-of-use or electric vehicle specific rates for electric utilities.
Enrolling in programs such as A/C cycling through your utility can lead to lower bills as well. A/C cycling allows your electric utility to ramp your A/C up and down when demand for electricity is high. In return, you will see a discount on your bill. Check with your utility to learn more about these types of programs.
Keep a record of your bills
It is helpful to keep a record of your bills. If you ever get a bill that is significantly higher than a past bill, this will help with understanding any changes you may have made that drove that increase. Also, it will give you a sense if the utility changed their bill structure or even made a mistake.
Keeping an eye on communications from your utility is also helpful. Utilities usually send out communications regarding changes in rates or billing structures that could affect how much you pay. Utilities may also let you know about new programs that could save you money. Always read through to see if there are changes that will affect you.
Be smart with how you use energy
Last, but certainly not least, focus on your energy use behaviors. Using energy unwisely costs money. There are many easy things to do around the house that will lower your energy costs from shutting lights off in rooms you are not using to plugging in electronics to power strips and shutting those down when not in use.
Putting more energy-efficient products in your home is another great way to save money on energy. When your light bulbs go out, be sure to replace them with LEDs. As your major appliances begin to age, start to research energy efficient units to replace them. It is best to know how you are going to replace your appliances when all of a sudden they stop working. Be sure to look for energy efficiency financing and rebates for when this day comes. Get some ideas for financing here.
A home energy audit can also help save energy and money. Many utilities around the state offer these services and always be sure to look for deals that might be offered in your city to keep costs down. A home energy audit is a great way to find where the air is escaping from your home to reduce drafts.
When setting a monthly budget for your household, utility bills can be one of the trickiest parts due to how much they fluctuate. Keeping these tips in mind can make the budgeting process easier and save you money.