“We forget how painfully dim the world was before electricity. A candle, a good candle, provides barely a hundredth of the illumination of a single 100 watt light bulb” – Bill Bryson
Life today, especially in developed nations, depends upon electricity. It powers almost everything around us, and being without it, even for a short amount of time, can seriously impact our standard of living. However, since electricity is not free, any monthly electricity bill can place an unnecessary strain on already stretched resources when you live on a limited income.
To help you with these concerns, we want to provide strategies that help you lower your electricity costs in your apartment.
1) Understand the Basics
When looking for an apartment when you live on a limited income, you don’t always have many options. A key way to assess what will truly fit your budget best is to ask a lot of questions including the following about your electricity bill:
- Is electricity included in my rent? If it is, do a cost analysis as to whether the estimated cost of utilities is proportional to the services included. It can be very reassuring to have a set cost each month when you are on a limited budget, as there are no surprises, but it could cost you money in the long run.
- How much should I expect to pay in electricity? If the answer to the first question is “No,” ask this second question. The manager of an apartment complex will almost certainly know the answer to this question. Even if they can only give you an average amount used (typically given in kWh – how many kilowatts used per hour), you can then calculate approximately the electricity costs on an average bill. For example, if usage was 1,000 kWh at $0.10 per kW/h, you would pay $100 (plus any fees) a month for energy.
- Can I choose the electricity provider? This is a question some people forget to ask, but it is absolutely key. If the apartment requires you to select a certain company, you must do your homework to check the rates and how comparable they are with other companies.
2) Search for a Provider
If you can choose your provider – what do you do next? Don’t limit yourself to the list the apartment complex might provide. There are many companies available in the Texas electricity market, with hundreds of different plans you can choose from. Spending time on research here will absolutely pay out when you maximize your income by choosing wisely.
In order to reduce the likelihood of budget overruns, I recommend choosing a fixed-rate electricity plan where the cost per kWh remains the same across your entire contract term, as opposed to a variable-rate plan where the cost per kWh changes each month. Many companies offer variable rate plans and, while they can seem a great idea initially, you have to be prepared for sudden changes in the cost, which can be challenging on a limited income.
However, companies like First Choice Power offer prepaid electricity – where you pay in advance for the amount of electricity that fits your budget. This Power-To-Go option can be beneficial to people on a limited income because you control when, how, and how much you pay for your usage – instead of waiting for a monthly bill and a lump sum payment that can be hard to pay at once.
3) Look at Your Bill
Lastly, ALWAYS (and I mean always) read your bill. Sometimes an energy provider will use an estimated bill (based on what average use has been at your location – even dating to before you lived there) as opposed to what you actually used. While this can even out over the course of a year, it can be an unwelcome surprise if your actual energy usage was much lower that month. You can request that the bill is adjusted to reflect actual use, unless the plan you have signed up for specifies otherwise.
Understanding your bill also allows you to make adjustments in your apartment if your electricity costs and usage creep up more than you would like, especially during off-peak times of the year. We recommend adjusting your thermostat to more energy-friendly settings (higher in the summer and lower in the winter) and installing energy-efficient LED light bulbs.