Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Saving Money on Utilities

DISCLAIMER: This is how we saved money…most likely our companies will not be the same, but you will still get the idea. If you know something that I don’t, please by all means, share with me how else I could be saving.

BACKGROUND: When we starting doing a budget about three years ago, we decided to look at the bills that were necessary: mortgage, car payment, auto insurance, tithe, electric, gas, water, cell phone, cable and internet. After we took out all those expenses, we took the remainder and cut spending on other things like groceries, out to eat, gifts, etc. I just assumed that we couldn’t do anything about those necessary bills, but then I got the opportunity to work part-time. I really wanted to go part-time and to do this and live comfortably, we had to do something more with those necessary expenses and below is what we learned from it.

House Payment: This one is obvious…refinance. Not everyone is able to do this because of the economy and property values, but thankfully we were able to do so. Of course, you have to make sure that you will stay in your house long enough to reap the benefits (savings should outweigh closing costs). We did the math and we would need to stay at our house another 29 months to break even, so we did it. We used our tax refund last year to pay for the closing costs instead of rolling them in…we’re cheap and I didn't want to have to pay on the $4500 in closing costs over 30 years. Our old rate was 6.175 and our new rate is 4.5 percent. We save about $165 a month, which was awesome for our budget. This is not for everyone, but it our situation, it was perfect.

Electric Bill: I am not going to list all the energy saving tips here—but we did invest in a programmable thermostat. There are tons of websites where you can get energy savings tips. The only thing I found to do with the electric bill was ask them to give me the same rate every month. This helped us define the amount each month since it is a seasonal bill. Now, I don’t freak out when I get a bill that was $75 more than the last month. Summers kill us in Georgia. Secondly, see if your electric company offers any discounts for being a customer. Flint EMC gives all of its members a discount card to use at area businesses. At Lane Packing, you can save 10% and I was able to get the Houston Home Journal for $25 a year vs. the regular price of $50. The Flint website lists all of the discounts. You may find others that are beneficial to you….those are the only ones I have really taken advantage of so far.

Gas: Each Fall, we have to get our 50 gallon tank filled for the fireplace. From all the calls I made, the natural gas companies usually have the same price per gallon….but, they may offer “new customer” specials. I called around this year and because we were new customers of Amerigas, we saved $70 and got a free inspection of our tank.

Water: I can’t do anything about this one….my husband likes to run the sprinklers in the summer for the yard and garden so getting an $80 water bill is something we have to deal with. We do get tons of tomatoes, green beans, onions, and several other vegetables, so that kind of outweighs the cost. I would love suggestions on how to save money here.

Cell Phone: We don’t have a landline, so we use our cell phones exclusively and it has worked great for us for the past 5 years. Most companies give discounts based on your employer. For us, we get a 15% discount with Verizon and save 25% on accessories. This is about $15 a month and $180 a year, so it doesn’t hurt to find out if your company offers it. We had been taking advantage of this for a while, thank goodness. Another way is to add a line to your plan for someone who rarely uses a cell phone, like a parent or grandparent. It may not save you money, but it does save a lot for the additional line some. If they are used to paying $50 a month, adding them to yours would be about $10-$20.

Internet/Cable: I am lumping these together because we use Windstream and Dish Network and they partner up and come under one bill. This is the one I am most proud of! Our cable and internet bill is $31 a month! This is for high speed internet (not DSL or dialup) and for most of the necessary stations that we watch. When I went back to work from maternity leave, I got convicted about all the television that I was watching. I was so used to watching it all day and when I would come home from work, I would want to watch silly shows instead of doing necessary stuff around the house. I can never watch just the beginning of House Hunters....after the first 8 minutes, I am hooked. Anyway, I made the call to Dish Network to cut our cable completely off. The man on the phone talked me out of it and offered me another package—a low priced package that they don’t advertise—for $9.99 a month for twelve months. So, I figured I would take it—I couldn’t pass up a deal—plus it was less channels, so I figured I would watch less tv. Plus, we saved an additional $5 for bundling them! Fast forward a year to last month when the deal was up. I called back again to cancel and told them that I was switching to cable (a ploy to save more money). I told them how much cable was and they said they would take an additional 10% off my bill. I was so excited. It was only going to be $31. I couldn’t believe it until I got the bill and sure enough it was. We do have to live without a few of the channels we like, but after a while, we really didn’t miss them. We also don't have DVR...we have never had it, so we can't miss it!!

That is all for utilities....there are other ways that we save on monthly bills, but I will save that for another time.


  1. How to save on your water bill...

    Some cities will allow you to set up a separate meter for your sprinkler system. You’ll still pay for the water, but you won’t pay sewage costs since the water is going into the ground, not the sewage system. Also, you can have the sprinkler meter turned off in the winter to avoid the base fees associated with the account each month.

  2. Thanks Lara! I wonder if anyone around WR has done that. I know my in-laws got a well dug so that they could water the lawn all they wanted. It was quite a bit out of pocket up front but it has paid for itself over the years. Also, we are on GA Power instead of Flint and they have the "Budget Billing" too so I know exactly how much our bill will be every month.


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