Friday, January 6, 2012

Utility bills ramblings

I found  this Sojourners "Quote of the day" relevant to me.

"Proportionately, that segment of the population pays more of their income toward utility bills. If we can cut those bills down. we can really help them." - Matt Clark, Habitat for Humanity's national director of construction technology, on why Habitat is putting a new emphasis on energy-efficient “green” houses for low-income families.(USA Today)


Cost of living, rising cost of utility bills (rates keep going up *sigh*) has been a topic of conversation I have had many times over the last couple of years. In some conversations, many of us even shared with one another the amounts we pay for our utility bills.


And as I get semi  regular visits from representatives from different power companies (trying to get me to switch from my provider to theirs ...) I take the time to discuss (and with one even argue) the pros and cons of switching or staying. And even with a single company, there are various options - not just in billing but different plans. I have been in NZ for almost 5 years now and I have been with three different power companies, and ... also three different phone and broadband services ... 


If this makes no sense, check this site out ... http://www.switchme.co.nz/
Complicated right? Well, at least for someone like me :-)


Anyway I do agree with the quote that a person can spend too high a proportion of one's income on utility bills (for me electricity, water, phone). 


My boys can testify about how much I nag them about the rising bills (and in all fairness, I use as an indicator - not the amount on the bill - as rates keep going up) but also the actual power usage / consumption that the bill is based on.


But I think I am doing pretty well. Have managed to get the electricity bills down for most of the months and I do think that putting in extra insulation is worth the initial investment - as it is slowly paying off. Most of my bulbs are energy saving ones - just can't change the "down lights" that came with the house. And lots of nagging on long showers using too much hot water etc has also helped a little :-)


And the current summer time is great as weather is warmer so no need for heating. 


On power companies, the current one I am on actually has the highest rates but I have decided to stay with it. (BTW, I suspect that there is some truth in the assertion that power companies that are semi-privatized charge their customers more). Reason simply is that their discount for prompt online payment is very high and since I am the kind of person who is extremely fussy about paying my bills on time, it benefits me! I have argued with sales people with their calculators and based on my past bills, I still save a lot more. And I do like their customer service people - they are efficient and when they promise to do something or get back to me on inquiries etc., they actually do it on time. And it helps that they have been honest with me and gave me a $50 rebate to thank me for being a loyal customer :-)


Trouble is, my house is old and wooden so there are limitations in trying to make it "green and energy efficient), especially in the colder months. But a bonus for me is that my boys like the cold weather so they do not use the heaters as often as others might. Good to have "thick skinned" boys! :-)


Have been toying with the idea of asking my boys to contribute to the electricity bills (a small percentage). Might be a good way to help them to be more responsible in how they use electricity. If they have to pay, then it is reasonable that they may be more responsible. 

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