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Discussion Starter #1
Not sure if this is the correct place to post this but we are newly in a financial mess and I'm trying to budget my way out and find the bills overwhelming.

I see lots of tip for cutting down on grocery bills or reducing credit card cost but what about utility type bills? Our last gas bill was $400 and we live in a southern warmer climate, and it's twice what it was last year. Our electric bill hits $500 in the summer and we keep the a/c at 79! Is there a way to get these companies to tell you exactly what is running up the bill? For example is there a way to tell if a gas bill is high from hot tub use versus the fireplace? I heard there are companies that do an "energy" audit, is that worth it?

I saw a thread on here somewhere about cable bills and they seemed so low but ours about $150 (cable, phone, internet) for just one tv and no movie channels, does that seem high?

Sorry if this seems silly but I've never really looked into this stuff before and if it is possible to reduce these I would love to know how. Thank you!
 

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Do you have a hottub? We do. It eats energy. Our bill is high. Is there a regulated bill you can get on? Mine is the same price per kilowatt each month. Unregulated varies quite a bit so it makes it semi predictable.

The cable bill may be right but it doesn't hurt to call and check it out. Ask for a better rate or threaten to leave. I worked for a cable company; it was standard to offer a better deal when customers called in to leave.
 

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$400 for gas sounds really high. What do you have that is powered by gas and how often do you use it?

$500 for electric sounds like you have a large house. Do you heat/cool the entire thing or only rooms you use? I have a 3bdrm with a full basement and our bill is around $120. When we aren't using the basement room we shut the door and the vents to force the heated/cooled air upstairs.

The utility co. cannot tell what you do with the gas or electric once it passes their meter. You can buy a device that will measure your electric appliances and tell you how much each one uses, and then you can do the math. I don't know of one for gas.
 

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Your utilities seem high for sure. I don't know what part of the country you live in so I can't say whether you should stop the AC in the summer or not. I can do without it here in Massachusetts... but I couldn't if I was in FL.

Yes, cable is expensive. I paid that amount in my spendy FN ways. (not meant as a swear word).. I've cut the cable to basic and internet. dropped the phone and got my bill to be $45/m. and pay $10 for netflix. I'll bet you have a cell phone bill >$85/month. Why do you need a landline?

Unplug everything not in use. They draw on electricity. Stop using that gas fireplace. sucks up gas like no tomorrow. Cover windows for warmth. Change lightbulbs to CFL or LED. My gas in the winter is $80/m and I heat and cook with gas. In the summer it's like $5/m. My electricity is $50/m in winter and $5 in summer. I have a 3 bedroom/4 bath house with LR, DR and kitchen. So.. there's a lot here. In the summer I open the windows at night and suck the cool air in. then I close them up draw the blinds and keep the house cool during the day.

Walk don't drive if you have a gas guzzler. Cut your gym membership. Cut your clothing allowance. Your spending allowance should be at minimum. Mine is $10/week. Make sure you're insured and find the cheapest rate. Sell off stuff. buy generic. buy at rock bottom prices. keep a diary of food costs.

Is any of this making sense?
 

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Oh.. and unplug the hot tub for the time being .. while you're in recovery. every little bit counts.

oh ya.. For every fan you have running in your house.. adds $5 to the electric bill per month.

Try this website http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/howmuch.html
 

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Hi! I SO feel your pain right now! I am dreading the summer because we live in Fl, and it is realistically about impossible to be able to survive it w/o some kind of cooling. And believe me....fans of any sort really do just blow around more hot air. ONTOH however, ceiling fans running with the central AC really do wonders.

Anyways, this is our "solution", and it does help to at least minimize costs. I have 4 bedrooms, so in each of these we put in window units that we run only for sleeping. During that time the central AC is off until about 4pm. Window units get shut off when waking up. I try to keep the house darkened somewhat, and this helps maintain lower temps during the ac off time. We had solar tubing installed in our family room too. They bring in light w/o adding heat the way a sky light does. I also have the advantage of good sized trees on the property. This year we are also going to install an accordion door, which will help close off our family room where the thermostat is. I'm putting alot of hope in this helping us. Our house is about 2700 sq feet, but of course everyone centrals in the family room/kitchen areas which are open to each other, so it's pointless to worry so much about cooling the LR and DR unless I have company. My goal is to keep my bill under $225. I hate the idea of picking on everyone to be mindful of wasting electricity, but it's a "must do" if we ever want to get out of debt.

We got rid of cable, and have Netflix for $7.99 a month. This is saving us about $100, and even though I didn't think I could "live" w/o cable, we all adjusted quick to not having it. I wish I did it months ago!

We also got rid of our cell phones. We were only using them about 20 minutes a month, so really, what's the point? We found this to be a very easy "sacrifice" and manage quite well living like we did in the "old days"! :)

You've gotten some great advice, and I'm sure you'll get some more. Hope it helps!

Theresa :)
 

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Try to pull out anything you don't need right now like the Hot tub for example, its not on the site FN has posted but as it heats something it will require a lot of energy. If you can't pull something see if you can put a distribution plug between them, so you can easily put them on/off. It will reduce the amount of energy eaten by standby apparatus. Oh and the excuse for the family if anyone asks: you are suddenly feeling a love for nature so you don't want to use too much energy ;).

FN thanks for posting the site, I found it very informational.
 

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How old is your house? Is the attic insulated sufficiently? How old and what is the size of your central a/c and heat units?

Our bedroom was the hottest room in the house. We went up in the attic and found that there was hardly ANY insulation over the master bedroom and my office. We added more and it helped a lot.

Several years ago we replaced our central a/c and heat unit. It was ten years old, NOT efficient and too small for our house. Our summer electricity bills with the old unit were $300 to almost $500 during the heat of the summer. Since the new a/c the electricity bill has never reach $200 a month in the summer. That is a HUGE difference.

Put an insulation blanket around your water heater. It will help to keep the water hot. It will really help if your water heater is in the garage. The insulation blanket is inexpensive.

Is the water from your tap scalding hot? Turn the temp. down on the water heater.

Caulk windows and put weather stripping around doors.

You can buy precut insulation pieces to put behind the covers of light switches and electrical outlets that are on the outside walls of your house.

At least turn the thermostat down on the hot tub.

Turn off and unplug things that are not in use. Anything that has light showing or a clock is using electricity.

Turn off lights when you leave a room. It took a long time to teach this to my husband. He would turn on a light in every room he went into or through and NOT turn them off. The whole house would be lit up like a Christmas tree.
 

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Utilities are so hard to figure out. I live in Maine and we now have competion for our Electric which has cut down the cost of electricity.
We have cell phones and cut our $180 cable bill to $63. That is for internent and 20 basic channels. I can watch a lot of shows I like on my computer.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks so much for all the great tips everybody! I will start looking into all this stuff. I had no idea about half these things.

Couple clarifications;

1) The hot tub is not a "plugged in" it is attached to the pool. We have been using it about once a week, instead of going out on the town we have started staying in having pizza & hot tub night thinking we were saving money but I guess not? The pool filter and pump also run several hours a day but I don't think we have a choice about that.

2) Ceiling fans, wow, we leave all our on all the time. oops. I was told that down here (new to Texas) it cuts the high AC bills by having the ceiling fan run all the time especially in two story spaces. But it is winter and they are still on, so I guess they should be off.

3) We haven't used that much heat but have used the gas fireplace (4 nights a week), could that be the culprit? The stove is gas too but I can't imagine that would explain it.

4) Yes, its a larger house (3600sqft) not too old (9 years) two stories and yes we only heat/cool part of it.

Thank you!!
I'll get to work on all the suggestions and great link FN lots of info!
 

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I'm sorry for your suffering. Some areas of the country are just expensive due to the competition in the area or lack thereof.

The biggest help I can suggest on the utility bills is to call gas/electric company & ask for average or budget billing which gives you same monthly bill amount all year as your annual total for utilities is divided by 12 months. This is the only way to handle utility bills on a tight budget or fixed income. No more $500 summers or winter bills, just $150 all the way though. Only down side is you could end up paying a large bill when you disconnect services...your bill will show the amount if this is the case as the company keeps an excess/shortage account running for you & during expensive parts of the year, you haven't paid your full bill for the month so you have to pay a big utility termination fee if you move.
 

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New2Debt, are you fans bi-directional? In the summer you could set them to suck heat up to the ceiling, and in the winter you could set them the other way to push heat down. That might affect the temperature you 'feel' allowing you to set the thermostat higher or lower.

I understand Texas summers, having lived in the Dallas area for a few years. The best thing we ever did was get heat insulating drapes for the bedroom windows. It was also a blessing at night when our neighbor's million-watt security lights came on.
 
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Also check out powertochoose.org and make sure you are using the least expensive provider. Most have a promotional rate for 3-6 months. Check at the end of each contract period to make sure you are getting the best rate.
 

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Ceiling Fan Info

Unplug everything and only plug in what you use. Except for Refrigerator/freezer etc.
Turn off lights all lights, only use a light when you have to.

Start tracking your usage, do you have access to read your readings, if so do it weekly.

Also hot water and laundry can run up a bill quickly. Wash in cold and hang to dry what you can.
 

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Your bills seem par with ours. We don't use that much power or gas, but the user fees are insane. On a $299 bill, only $120 was actual power and gas, the rest was user fees, and it's no better anywhere else. So we're were we pay the lower rates. The user fees are user fees. If I could go off grid, I would! Maybe one day.

Other bills - TV - cut it back to bare bones or all of it, and get net flix. Make the internet save you $. You can get the news and weather online, even sports you can watch on line unless there is a black out for your area.

It's 10:30am, and we don't have a single light on in the house. I have a sick child today, and the blinds are closed, so it's dim. DD9 is upstairs with her blinds open playing. Heat is off and it's -7ºC outside, but I have the fire going(wood burning, so we pay only electric to run a fan). The little one is watching TV.

Power use ideas, during the day, consider no cooking, use microwave or toaster, but no stove. I have seen a savings with that. If you are using the oven, piggy back it, you already preheated it for 15-20 minutes, do some baking while it's hot. So you won't need to preheat it again for that.

Heating, put on an extra layer and turn down the thermostat, harder if there are younger children, but all mine have slippers and hoodies all the time, once the fire gets roaring, they tend to peel off a layer.

Cooling, I'm not an expert here, we don't get hot until May/June. Keep blinds down, sun out. Wear light weight clothes. Misting with water keeps everyone cooler. Enjoy the outdoors, stay out of the house, go to outdoor water parks, with waterbottles and fruit. Keep house locked down. Enjoy free exhibits, free days at museums, take an afternoon at the library, etc. Less need to cool the house then. We move into our lower levels to keep cool. All the kids sleep downstairs for the summer, and dh and I put in a small a/c unit in out bedroom. Windows open at sunset, close by 9am.

Phones, i struggle with this one. Our kids are on city transit, so we want them to have a phone. We have 4 cell phones, dd13, dd15, dh and myself, plus a house phone. I'd like to get rid of my cell phone, but then kids can't reach me if I'm not home, or the house phone, but the youngest doesn't have a cell. SOOOO... all the phones it is.

If you're really facing serious issues, where you are really short, you need to remember that internet, cell phone, cable/satellite, are NOT necessary, convenient, but not essential. Internet can be found in many places through a device(laptop, ipod), library, etc. So you can still have access. You can get movies from library for entertainment. And people don't need to reach you 24/7 on a cell phone. I don't think that you are at that point, however.
 

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When we moved this last time it was insulated to within an inch of it's life. I think it was June of last year and this is Florida. First full electric bill was $226 which freaked us out. We started reading the meter every morning at 7 and every night around 7. Sometimes there was no rhyme or reason especially since there were several times night was more than day. However...the next months bill I think was in the $190's....still to high and that was July or August but still it HAD dropped due to the measures we took. The 3rd month which is still dead high heat in central Florida we had it down to $168 I believe. Thereabouts. And that last month SHOULD have been the highest.

The only way to drop that bill is to decide what you're willing to do without and how much effort you're willing to put into it. We have one light on in the evenings..sometimes 2 and they're CFL's. I wash in cold water and ONLY full loads. I don't however hang everything but I do hang a lot. If something isn't dirty or smelly and we're wearing it at home we wear it twice. Cuts the water AND electric. This is a house of 3 people and our water bill runs between 18 and $26 a month.

I run the dishwasher once a week and only then if it's a full load. This past weekend there weren't many and I hand washed. If the dishwasher is ran I don't use heat dry. We use a lot of cheap 50 for $1 paper plates unless it's messy/heavy food. That is worth it to us.

I don't unplug the washer/dryer/microwave/coffee pot. Too much pain in the butt. I run regular floor fans versus the air when it will suffice. Regardless of the wattage of floor fan it's still cheaper than the air conditioner.

We had a pool pump once in another house and when we quit running it the electric bill dropped way over $100 a month. I fine tuned THAT house from real close to $500 a month to somewhat over $200.

Hot water heater is 24/7 unless it's a tankless which we have now but it's working when it wants to so it's going to have to be replaced and it's probably going to be a regular hot water tank but we're talking about putting a timer on it. You can get a timer for $50/$60 and have it set to only be on when you want it on. Why have it heating water from bedtime to the time you get up. Having it shut off for 12 hours a night is 360 hours a month. Have it set to the latest time before bed ( baths etc) and to come on if you are a shower in the morning person an hour before getting up.

Do you have a toaster oven? Heats to required temp in nothing flat versus the oven which takes forever. Also does not heat up the house making it even hotter and the air conditioning running and running to keep the temperature down. Cuts cooking and baking time down to probably 1/4 of the oven. Not everything can be fixed in it but make one or two nights a week a pizza night or sub night and use it instead. Small amounts of cookies even. I believe the toaster oven cut ours noticably.

See if you can turn the air up 1 degree without a revolt.

Oh and edited to add. On Sundays we're home all day and the kilowatts used are definitely higher and the only difference is 2 loads of laundry and partial dry and the TV on all day. One computer on all day and turned off at night. I really believe the TV is an electricity sucker and computer not far behind.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thank you so much everybody, we have already started putting some tips into effect and hopefully we will see results soon! Wish we had the funds to get a new a/c since it is almost 10ys old and probably a big culprit.

Anybody know if there is a way to still use the gas fireplace for less money? I miss using it. Like an attachment to use less quantity? Can you burn wood in a gas fireplace?

Miss-Cas - Thank you! We called the companies and they put us on that plan! I had no idea such a thing existed, I've been stressing about our coming $500 summer electric bills and thanks to you my bill will now only be $252!! Yay!

NikkiSan - How do you only run the dishwasher once a week. Its just me and my husband and we run almost daily (at least every other) and it overflowing full. Do you hand wash daily instead? I thought hand washing wasted a lot more water?
- Also, how did you quit running the pool pump? We had it break last summer and the chemical imbalance and algae growth after a few days cost a couple hundred dollars just to get the water back to shape.

Thanks so much, there are so many great ideas here I bet this thread could help a lot of people. There is a serious wealth of knowledge here on FV!
 

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How do you only run the dishwasher once a week. Its just me and my husband and we run almost daily!
????WHAT?????????? Analyze this.............and soon!!!! Your choice......but...........do you REALLY need a clean glass for every drink you get? Do you REALLY need a clean coffee cup every morning? Do you REALLY need a clean knife, fork, spoon for every meal.............heck.......for that matter........does every meal even need a full set of utensils??????????

Okay........you have two people.....and I have one...........BUT..............I use the same glass daily...........use the same coffee cup.........daily..........use the same knife, fork, spoon...........DAILY..............even use the same paring knife to cut things......daily............sometimes my dishwasher doesn't get used but every other week!! This will depend on the baking..........cooking on stove---which is minimal as I nuke a lot---what is in the dishwasher when you run it???

Also, don't forget to unplug the appliances that are convenient to do so..............I started unplugging my dryer when not in use and noticed a difference. Some things I 'could' do without during the day.....but they are just inconvenient to unplug.
 

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Frugalfanny, you'd be shocked in our household. Dishwasher often runs 2x a day! I know, bad bad bad. However, it's hard to track everything! I try to keep the daycare kids on the same cup all day, but it doesn't always work out that way. With 6 of us in the home at any point in time, it's hard to keep clear whose is whose for cups. Plus we cook, 3 times a day, possibly more if it's a baking day.

We generate alot of dishes. We don't use the dry cycle at all. It's packed full! Any large items we wash by hand, but everything else is in the dishwasher. Bowls, plates, cutlery, cups, glasses, measuring utensils, etc.
 
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