How to Save Money On Your Utility Bills Without Suffering
Ah, utility bills. The most consistent of consistent expenses. Packaged in with daily life requirements. Inescapable. Eternal. Gas, rent, utilities. Death, taxes, utilities. You plan your entire budget assuming that certain costs are fixed. Rent is rent. Gas is gas. Power is power. Is there actually a way to save on utilities without keeping the heat off in the dead of winter and wearing a cloak-of-seven-blankets?
Most money saving outlets, in their advice-giving on this subject will tell you to use energy efficient light bulbs, or keep your thermostat at 72 degrees no matter the temptation to blast your central air in the dead of summer. We’ve heard these themes before. What if CFLs (which I call malevolent, migraine-inducing fluorescent bulbs in disguise) aren’t your speed? What if you’re tempted to throttle up your Mach-7 Whynter 14,000 BTU Dual Hose to Nuclear Winter mode? Don’t let your budget stop you. There are other ways to lower your bill.As the Mandalorians say, This is the Way:
Call Your Utility Provider’s Customer Service Line
Here’s the hardest part (and the reason that most people won’t bother with this). You’re going to have to wait to talk to a human being. Not only that, but you’re going to have to talk to them calmly and politely. Even if your bill has been steadily increasing for no reason, for years on end. Even if there are unexplained charges and fees. Even if they’ve accidentally swapped your account with a deceased renter in Akron, who has left the pool heater on for seven straight weeks. Stay calm.
Simply ask, “Do you have any promotions available that could lower my bill?” The specificity of language is important. CSRs all have deals available to give out — but they aren’t required to give them unless you ask for them (and then qualify). They’d (the parent companies) rather you pay full price — because most people don’t simply ask.
In the case of cable companies, sometimes the CSRs who deal with cancellations have more leeway to hand out promotions than the CSRs who handle ordinary calls. So, sometimes it behooves you to navigate through their phone menu by indicating that you would like to cancel your service — you’ll then be put in touch with someone in a position to entice you to stay.
Low Income Discount Programs
Beyond promotional rates, you can get year-round discounts on your power and electric bills if you have a qualifying income. In California, the CARE (California Alternative Rates for Energy) and FERA programs that can provide up to 33% off of your power bill or 20% off your gas bill. If you live in a house of 4, a $50k income still qualifies for this discount.
On the federal level, there is also the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that can lower your payments if you have a qualifying income.
Buy Your Own Router/Modem
This is a classic ploy of internet providers. They lease you a middle-of-the-road router for a nominal fee every month, in perpetuity. Comcast charges $11 a month to rent a modem. The standard Comcast-provided router is a Netgear AC1200, which runs about $70 at Target. This means, if you’re paying the router fee every month, in a year, you’ve spent $132 for a $70 modem that you still don’t own. It’s actually much more cost effective to go out and buy a high end modem that you’ll own yourself. Go ahead, get yourself a Netgear Nighthawk AC1900, for your troubles. You’ll own it, it’ll provide better coverage, and according to a Spectrum CSR I once spoke with, it will “Gobble up internets faster than slower modems,” giving you a competitive advantage against your neighbors and their Stone Aged leased modems when you’re all trying to binge The Witcher at the same time.
So, while utility payments may be inescapable, there are a few effective tricks to employ that don’t involve wearing five sweaters at a time while running a makeshift wood burning stove in your tool-shed.