I tend to take utilities for granted. Mostly because I pay almost nothing for them.
There are plenty of great frugal tips for saving on utilities — from turning down the thermostat to plugging drafts. (Tim and I just get under blankets, wear warmer clothes or otherwise make do. When the thermostat is on, I keep the doors to the bedroom and bathroom closed to keep the heat in longer. Pretty basic stuff.)
But this is a blog about frugality and disability. That changes things. And since everyone is so worried about layoffs, this may be useful to a lot of people.
First off: Landline
I know many are switching exclusively to cell phones but, by and large, I think this is a mistake. Obviously, there are jobs that require a cell phone. But for the rest of us, it’s a luxury — and an expensive one at that!
Instead, Tim and I cancelled his cell plan and joined up on my mom’s family plan. It’s $10 a month.
But here’s where a lot of people waste money: They assume that the basic package for a phone is the lowest they can get.
Every time I call to install a new line (and I’ve moved a lot) I have the same discussion with the phone company. I say I want a basic line, then the operator tries to sell me a basic package. I clarify that I want a landline. No call waiting (we’re just not that popular), no voice mail (an answering machine is a one-time purchase), nothing more than a line that rings when someone calls me.
That is $12 a month plus taxes. Compared to the $30-ish for the basic package, that’s a significant difference.
UPDATE: I’ve switched to Ooma, which is under $5 a month.
I have a $93 credit on my electric bill right now. And it’s not because I overpaid.
I just knew to take advantage of the low-income/disability program that the City of Seattle offers. I filled out one form and attached proof of disability.
In return, the city gives me a discount on my phone ($8 instead of $12) and my electricity. In fact, Seattle offers low-usage incentives, which is how I ended up with a credit on my bill.
I know that a lot of folks have experienced some layoffs — or are at least afraid of them. So now is the time to check with your own city’s utility program. Find out what the cutoffs are, so you’ll know all of the available resources.
UPDATE: Now that I’m in Phoenix, I keep the heat off most of the winter unless it drops down to about 55 degrees. In the summer, I keep the temperature at 80 degrees and just use the ceiling fans. Also, I get an averaged out bill (which you can do after as few as three months), so I don’t have radically different costs each season.
I also tend to suggest people research the cutoff points on food stamps and government help. It’s important to know what you qualify for, in case one day you need it. There are a lot of helpful programs out there, so do some research!
Unfortunately, it looks like Tim and I will no longer qualify for the discount, now that I’m bringing in some money. We would have to make $209 less a month, which isn’t worth it for a bill that’s around $15-30 every other month.
Still, the credit we’ve built up will act as a great buffer once we’re kicked off the program. So I’m grateful that I signed up.
Incidentally, when I was checking income limits, I noticed that Comcast also gives a small discount (around $4 a month) to people in this program. Just one more way to save a few bucks.
How do you save on utilities?