Household expenses, including rent, insurance, and utilities, are often the largest category of spending for the average family. While most of those costs remain stable and predictable, utilities can sometimes bring unexpected and unwelcome surprises.
Rest assured, you can do things to protect yourself and get assistance if you need help paying bills that are higher than expected.
What causes higher utility bills?
The most common utility bills are water, electricity, heat, trash removal, and the internet. Below are some typical reasons why utility costs may suddenly increase and what you can do about it.
- Seasonal fluctuations - Electricity tends to spike in the summer months when the air conditioning runs full blast and again in the winter months when you crank up the heat to keep warm. While these are expected fluctuations, it can still be quite a shock. To keep seasonal costs down, pick a moderate temperature, stick with it, and avoid turning air or heat on and off frequently as this puts more strain on your system, resulting in higher costs.
- The end of a promotional period - Many internet companies will offer introductory pricing that lasts 12 months. After that expires, the bill may spike to the regular price. Which leaves you wondering what happened and how you'll pay. Consider your options and look at switching service providers if they aren't willing to negotiate to bring the cost down.
- An issue with the service or a leak - A meter reading that's off the charts could mean there is an issue with the meter or that you have a source of water or electricity use of which you're not aware. Sometimes a leak in an outdoor hose or a hole in the crawlspace losing heat can be a major hit to the bill without your knowledge. If you notice a change that can't be explained, it may be time to get a professional to ensure your residence's utilities are operating correctly.
What can you do about higher utility bills?
Call for an explanation
After receiving a high bill, the first step is to speak to a company representative to determine why. The utility company can shed light on what may have changed month to month and why the price increased so drastically.
Create a plan to pay
Once you understand and correct any issues, it's time to buckle down and pay the balance due. There are several options available.
- Many utility companies offer payment plans, so check first if this is an option.
- Consider using a credit card or cash advance, like a personal loan that you can pay back quickly.
- Look into government-sponsored programs, like LIHEAP (low-income home energy assistance program) or local non-profits in your state that offer assistance for specific utilities.
The good news is, generally speaking, utility companies do not report to credit bureaus. This means late payments may not negatively impact your credit report unless the company sends an amount due to collections.
When you receive a utility bill that's higher than expected, keep calm and remember that there has to be a logical explanation. While it's not an ideal situation, you'll still need to find a way to pay using the resources available, of which there are many.
Notice: Information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Consult your financial advisor about your financial circumstances.
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Original Source: Advance America: What to Do When Utility Bills Are Higher Than Expected