Hot Town, Summer In The City


The last 17 days in my village have been scorchers.  People have been frying eggs on the sidewalks and baking cookies on the dash boards of cars.  12 of the last 17 days the temps were 99 to 110, and the night temps haven’t been much cooler.  5 of those 17 days never saw the temp below 95 during the day or 90 at night.

The central air unit has been running almost non-stop, and when it does shut off, it isn’t long before I’m headed down the hall to kick the thermostat down lower so the air will come back on.  Our lot is heavily treed, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference this summer – once the cool air stops pouring from the vents, the house begins to feel very warm, very fast.

I shudder to think what the electric bill is going to scream at me when it arrives – I may involuntarily scream right back.  Looking at our electricity usage on the last bill received, which had a cutoff date of June 22, we used 1,550 kilowatt hours – and the average daily temp was only 76 degrees.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the current bill double that, based on how that AC unit has been running.  Every one of those 17 days where the temp was 95 to 110?  Every one of those will be on the bill that will be arriving soon in the mail.

Will the coming scorcher of a bill mean the difference between eating hamburger or Ramen Noodles in August?  No, it won’t.  I am concerned about the total bill, but it won’t affect my monthly expenses right away.  If I want to eat prime filet next month, I’ll be able to.

My local utility company offers a level pay plan, and I’ve been using that option for many years.  Each month, I know exactly what my electric bill is going to cost.  (Sometimes this is also called a Budget Billing Plan)  My electric bill is adjusted once a year, and in the past 5 years or so, what I do pay has gone up three times and down twice.  The utility company will “audit” my account annually, and based on the past 12 months usage, will adjust my monthly budget amount up or down for the coming year.

Level pay is a good thing because it is predictable.  It is easy to budget when you know exactly what your utility bills are going to be.  In addition to taking advantage of the level pay plan offered by my electricity provider, I am also on a level pay plan with the gas company.  The bills I receive from both show exact usage, and it is easy to keep tabs on what I actually owe vs. what I have paid – and by the same token, I can also see at a glance what either provider owes me at any point in time.

If you struggle to pay your utilities because your gas heat is high in the winter and the electricity is high in the summer, check with your provider(s) and see if they offer level pay plans.  Make sure and read the fine print closely – level pay is good, but if you use more than what you’ve paid for during the year, you may find that you owe a larger balance in the month the bill is adjusted – this is known as a “make-up” or “catch up” schedule.  Don’t get caught unawares when that annual adjustment period comes around.  If you have overpaid during the year for services, you will get a refund.  Also, be aware of when those adjustment periods are due; some utility companies audit and adjust more than once a year.

Level pay does not mean you can skip paying your bill or be chronically late with your payment.  Missed payments will get you kicked off of the level pay plan, and most utility companies require any balance be paid in full before reinstatement.  Get kicked off too many times, and they won’t let you participate.

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Categories : Budget, Utility Bills


  1. Madison says:

    I know a few people who use this budget billing plan for their utilities. In September, we’ll have lived at our house for a year. I think once it hits the year mark, I will take a look at the past year’s bills to see if this is a good choice for us. This way I know how much we will likely use and have an idea of what they will average it out to. I have no idea how much the previous owner’s used and didn’t want to risk them basing the calculations off theirs.

    I feel you on the electricity bill. We had just paid our bill right before this big heat wave came through. That bill was higher than it was in spring, but totally manageable. Now I’m worried to see what this next bill is going to look like. I may involuntarily scream at it too!

  2. GHarkness says:

    Down here in Texas, we do have budget billing for natural gas and electricity, but it’s not a flat amount. They take the last twelve months’ bills, add them all up, divide by twelve, add some mysterious “factor” to that and then tell you to send it in.

    Fortunately the bills do at least detail how much you actually used and what the charge is for that, and you can normally tell whether you are ahead of or behind the game in terms of what you’ve used.

    On my gas bill, I could probably make it through a whole winter without paying another penny, because it appears the gas company is hedging their bets against a price rise. Electricity is a little more realistic, but the convenience of knowing **approximately** how much the bill will be is a great convenience.

  3. Trisha says:

    Can you sent some of your heat to us? We have had a lousy summer so far here in the Netherlands. I would love sunshine and heat.

    It is custom here to have a flat fee program, that balances ones a year. Usually the companies predict your use on the high side, which means you’ll get back some of your money when the year is balanced. Should you feel that for some reason your flat fee is too low you can ask to raise the fee for the rest of the year, to avoid nasty surprises. I love this system, we never worry about the height of the utilities bill and always know what we owe the electricity company.

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