Condo Blues: How to Lower High Utility Bills

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

How to Lower High Utility Bills

When I moved into my first apartment it was in the Spring. My water, electric, and heating bills were low and manageable since the apartment didn't have air conditioning.

That changed drastically during the Winter. My natural gas bill in particular jumped to crazy high proportions even though my roommate and I wore layers and kept the thermostat at a reasonable temperature. Of course the first time we had a storm and the windows shook because they had so many air leaks you could see daylight through parts of the window and frame, we realized that our heating money was literally going out the windows. 

We tried to seal the air leaks with window insulation kits like this kind. It helped a little but the windows were so far gone that the windows AND the plastic violently shook in the wind as our natural gas bill started to climb. (Disclosure: I am including affiliate links in this post for your convenience,)

Welcome to paying bills as an adult. High heating bills in the winter, high electric and water bills in the summer (if you have air conditioning and a garden.)

I learned my lesson and after some research, learned how to lower my water, gas, and electric bills for the year with a phone call.

how to budget and save money on utilities
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The One Easy Thing You are Not Doing to Lower Utility Bills

I signed up for Leveling Billing (some utility companies call it Budget Billing) when I had to get the water, natural gas, and electric turned on in my next apartment. It was a budget saver!

What is Level or Budget Billing?

The way Level and Budget Billing works is your utility company looks at the amount of natural gas, water, or electric the home has used in the past year and divides that number by 12 months to give you an average monthly payment that allows you to pay approximately the same amount of money for that utility each month. This is something you will have to check if your utility companies offer and if they do, you have to ask for it. In my area, there are not any financial or usage thresholds you have to meet but they won't automatically give you Level Billing you have to ask for it.

Does Level and Budget Billing Save Money on Utilities?

Not really. Collectively you still pay the same amount of money each year for that utility. 

What you gain is the ability to budget for a set payment every month of the year.

You pay a lower amount of money than your actual bill during a high use month (like my high winter heating bill.) You make up for that by paying a slightly higher amount of money than your actual usage during a low use month (for example, when I turn off the furnace in summer.) This average "set" amount of money allows you to avoid the swinging like a pendulum costs 

 For example, let's go with some very simple numbers (that are not realistic but I'm still working on my first gallon of coffee as I type this so I need to keep the math easy):

  • During the 4 warm summer months you only use $10 worth of natural gas (May - August.) Your natural gas bill is low because your furnace is off and you're only using natural gas to heat water. You have an affordable natural gas bill. Go you! 
  • As fall comes around you need to turn the furnace on but it isn't so cold outside that your natural gas use and bill only has slightly increases to $20 a month for September - November. Use increased and your gas bill is higher but still manageable from a budget perspective.
  • The winter is a cold one and your furnace is using a lot of natural gas to warm your home and you like your showers hot in cold weather. Your usage and bill skyrockets compared to the previous months. It increases to $300 a month for December - February and you really can't lower your use or go without if you don't want to freeze to death. The high natural gas bill is wreaking havoc with your budget and you can't seem to get ahead.
  • Finally, it starts to get warmer and you can lower your furnace use in the Spring. Your usage and your bill lowers to $50 a month for March - April. It's lower than winter but still high enough that you can't put your money towards those things you had put off during the winter to pay such high natural gas bills.

The next summer you start the same feast and lean financial cycle again.

What would this example look like with Budget Billing?

The natural gas company looks at how much gas you used during the last year:

4 Summer months x $10 worth of natural gas each month = $40

3 Fall months x $20 worth of natural gas each month = $60

3 Winter months x $300 worth of natural gas each month = $900

2 Spring months x $50 worth of natural gas each month = $100

Equals: $2000 worth of natural gas used a year divided by 12 months = a monthly payment of $167 every month 

 

This amount doesn't change much (if at all) every month of the year. You can count on paying the same amount of money for natural gas throughout the year and budget accordingly. You avoid the budget buster bills during your high use months. 

 

The tradeoff is while you don't have those sweet, sweet low gas bills during the summer months, you gain a predictable set billing amount that is manageable. Budget Billing also allows you to avoid a high bill surprise during the high use winter months. Your household budget and savings are even throughout the year. If you plan and budget accordingly you might be able to take the family on a Spring Break vacation instead of staying home.

Looking for more ideas on how to save money on your natural gas, water, and electric bills? Check out the following options - and more! - below!

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2 comments :

Life as a LEO Wife said...

We do this with our electric bill. We live where we run our air conditioning every day of the year except maybe 5. During the summer keeping it 67 gets so expensive. It saves us a ton. Thanks for sharing on Crafty Creators!
XOXO,
Niki ~ Life as a LEO Wife

Reidland Family said...

Very helpful information!

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