Beat the Heat (and Cold)

Oppressing.  Overbearing.  Sweltering.  Crushing.  Roasting.  Torrid.  Fiery.  Scorching.  Searing.  Parching.  No, this isn’t the latest marketing blitz for a new action movie.  It’s our weather.  Simply put, it’s HOT.  We can find relief by shutting ourselves indoors, but that is going to give way to another set of adjectives when the electricity bill comes.

There was a news story the other day about a nearby town in Minnesota that, in a 6-month span, saw a temperature swing of 180 degrees between the coldest wind chill and the hottest heat index.  No figurative speech there.  It was literally 180 degrees difference in temperature between the two extremes.

So what do we do?  Are we just subject to the wild swings of utility bills as we alternate between seasons of gas bills and electric bills?  Let’s be honest, that can be a little scary.  The weather can be so wild that the trained meteorologists can’t even figure it out perfectly and we are just left to pay the bills necessary to make it tolerable.

Well, there may be relief in sight.  Not from the wild swings of weather, but from the wild swings of the utility bills.

Most gas and electric companies offer budget- or average usage-billing.  Whatever they choose to call it, they take anywhere from a 3- to 24-month usage history and calculate your average monthly usage.  There may be a little more math in there to calculate anticipated rate changes and whatnot, but you get the idea.

Some months you will use more of said utility than you pay for.  Other months you will use less than you pay for.  Just be aware that month 12 of your billing cycle is the adjustment month.  Used more than you have paid for?  Your bill will be higher.  Used less than you’ve paid for?  Bonus.

Some people admittedly struggle with paying for more than they are actually using in a month, but that is a fairly short-sighted perspective.  In the end, you will come out even.  And the two providers that I checked (my providers) both offer the program free of any additional fees.

So why would you want to go through the hassle of the change if it doesn’t give you any great discount?

The biggest reason I would give is stability.  You know what that bill isbills default going to be each and every month.  You know how much you need in the budget and how much to set aside so you are sure you can even keep the lights on.  This can greatly reduce stress associated with unknown variable bills.

The second reason I would recommend it is if you are vulnerable to counter-swings.  Perhaps in the winter months when the gas bill goes sky high, your job is subject to cuts in hours.  Now, on top of a higher utility bill, you have a significantly lower income.  A budgeted utility program won’t make the bill go away, but will help prevent the exaggerated extremes of these counter-swings.

This is only one aspect of budgets that can be quite complex.  If you are struggling  or would simply like a second, objective set of eyes to look over your budget, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources would be happy to help.  We all deal with utility bills of our own.  We understand.  You can either schedule an appointment online or call us at 605-330-2700 to set something up.

If the heat is getting to you, a little attention to your budget can keep the proverbial heat off of your neck.  But you’re stuck with the literal heat of the weather.  Sorry.  We’re not meteorologists.

 

written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

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