The desert, being a biome that I had yet to set foot in during my four decades of breath, I had some obvious concerns. Chief amongst those concerns was how dead our finances were going to be when those first utility bills came rolling in.
Don’t wave this off: I am the patriarch of a family of five. Three females and two males. On top of that, females tend to be in the bathroom/shower more than men and they leave lights on when they exit a room even though they don’t plan on returning to the very same room. Fight Me.
Once upon a time, I was fired from my job. The timing could not have been worse. I was the sole source of income. The wife was nearly finished with nursing school and on top of that, we had just welcomed our third and final child into our family.
Naturally, that negative catalyst had thrust a lot of things into perspective. Specifically, where our money was going. The first item to be examined was our utility bills. At that time we were living in a small apartment on the south side of Cleveland. Since we were apartment-livers, the only utilities that we were legally responsible for were the heating and electric bills.
The heating bill was never an issue. Since day one, I had always made a point of putting in the storm windows, laying down insulation tape, and putting plastic over the windows when the weather started getting cold. On top of that, we heated the rooms that we were occupying the most and turned that shit down (or off) when we all went to bed. This is common sense stuff when your global neighbor is Canada.
The electric bill was trickier to manage.
Thankfully, prior to my termination, I had all ready started making aims to shrink that bill. I had all ready swapped out all of the lightbulbs that were in the fixtures prior to moving in with energy efficient bulbs. (If you need a time stamp on these actions, energy efficient bulbs were a relatively new thing. Point of fact? They were fucking expensive back in the day).
On top of that, I had started over-paying the electric bill to a “whole dollar”. What I mean by that is that I treated the electric bill like a “leaky” savings account: you pay over the amount that the bill is for and then that excess that you paid gets applied to your next bill. (It’s “leaky” because it always needs to have a deposit…).
After I got shit-canned, I landed on that utility bill with both feet. I didn’t worry about “emergency relief” or anything like that. I took a walk through the apartment and took note of every damn electrical item that was plugged in, but not being used. There were multiple items in multiple outlets throughout.
After noting that, I had reasoned that those things were costing us money (that we desperately needed) even though they weren’t being used. And in coming to that conclusion, I put everything that needed to be plugged in on power strips and old surge protectors that could be turned off with the flick of a switch.
Within two billing cycles, I had knocked a $95 utility bill down to $15 and it stayed in that neck of the woods until we moved out.
11 years later and on the opposite side of the country, my family and I are living in an apartment once more.
What it came down to was convenience, amenities, and utilities. We found a place down the street from where my wife needed to work, the apartment complex that we are living in came with washers & dryers with their units (which saved us from the purchase and logistical hell of having to secure those things) and as a part of the leasing agreement, the rental company offered us a flat rate on the water bill.
After my wife had finished nursing school, we had managed to get back on our feet and rent our first house. When you rent a house, not only do you have to pay rent in order to live there, but you also have to pay ALL of the utilities.
That first winter was rough.
We relocated to Cleveland Heights. Cleveland winters aren’t anything to thumb your nose at. Our house was old, had high ceilings, and wood floors throughout.
On top of that the windows sucked ass. Point of fact: they were they were the original windows that the house was built with. AS IN, turn of the century style, the kind where you had to attach the storm window to the house from the outside.
After I plugged all of the holes that I could, I had other things to focus on and didn’t pay as much mind as I should have to “heat regulation”.
Our first heating bill was north of $600. After the shit was done curdling in my lower intestines, I put our heating bill on a budget plan that our gas company offered ($140 a month with the option to get off of that plan during the warmer months) and breathed a little easier.
The water bill to this day, can go fuck a goat.
The following information may be dated and it may vary depending on where you are at in the world. With that said, when you’re renting a home or owning your own home, there are two parts to your water bill:
- The actual amount of water used.
- Your “home’s use” of the city sewer.
You always pay the first part. The Second Part is paid on a basis that it is determined by the city within which you live.
Every other water bill was like the city of Cleveland Heights was trying to flick us in the ear, but we would turn our head at the last moment and we’d get flicked in the eye instead.
BACK TO THE FUTURE!
As of this writing, my family and I have been apartment living for the past 6 months. There have been a fair amount of challenges for sure. But when you consider that we pay a flat rate for water, we didn’t have to by a washer or a dryer, and our electric provider (Salt River Project) gives it’s users discounted rates if said users abstain from using major appliances between the hours of 3pm to 6pm (or 4pm to 7pm, user’s choice) a little discomfort has been worth it.
It’s ok: I didn’t put much faith in it either regardless of my concerns.
During our first month in our new home, there was a lot of unpacking and downsizing that needed to be followed through on. As such, I couldn’t focus on keeping the margin of error lower on our electric bill. On top of that, we had just come from a part of the world that shares the same global parallel as the state of Tennessee (Japan). Our first summer in the desert was brutal. What resulted at the end of that first month was an electric bill north of $400.
It wasn’t unexpected. The AC was on constantly, ceiling fans were on high, and computational device usage was at an all time high because it was too fucking hot to kick the kids outside.
After I had finished separating the wheat from the chaff as far as our personal belongings were concerned, I turned my attention to our power usage. Bulbs were swapped, power strips were installed and a damn good reason better be had if I caught you running an appliance between the hours of 3pm to 6pm.
In the End
Honestly, if you’ve never lived in the desert before, how can you not wonder how utility bills work out here? Managing finances will always be an on-going process with respect to utilities regardless of the persons involved. However, since our first month in the desert, that $400 electric bill has barely been out of the low $100’s. Years of experience and small changes will always yield big payoffs, eventually.