If you’re like many people, you might notice that even an average utility bill is costing you a decent amount of cash each month. If you’re a homeowner, utilities can be even more expensive than they are for those who rent.
When talking about utility bills, several things are included. Here are some of the most common categories when it comes to utility costs.
- Electricity (usage outside of heating and cooling)
- Heating and Cooling
Depending on where you live and how your home is set up, you might use some or all of these services for your utilities. Based on our research, the above utilities cost an average of roughly $370 per month. The point is that you probably do have options that can affect your utility bill costs.
What is the Average Water Bill?
For instance, my water bill when I lived in the city (I have a hobby farm with well water now) was an average of $50 per month. This survey found in 2018 that the average monthly cost of water for a family of four was $72.64.
Of course, the amount of water you use as well as what your municipality charges for water both have an impact on what your average water bill will be.
So be sure to take those matters into account as you work to minimize your water bill. You can control your water bill by using less water, but you can’t necessarily control what your municipality charges for water.
However, many municipalities have tiered water rates. In other words, once you’ve used a certain amount of water for the month or quarter, the rate you pay for water goes up.
Know what your city charges for water usage, and work to keep the amount of water you use down when you can.
What is the Average Sewage Bill?
Many municipalities combine sewage bill costs with water costs. However, there are still separate statistics for wastewater and sewage. This article from the Water & Wastes Digest showed that in 2017, the average sewer bill fluctuated quite largely from city to city.
For instance, Memphis had an average sewer bill of just $14.04 per month, while Seattle’s average sewer bill was $135.57 per month. I’m fairly confident that Memphis residents aren’t using 10 times less sewage services per person.
And because the cities have similar population counts, it just proves that where you live can make a huge impact on how much you pay for utilities. If you are buying a home, ask your Realtor for information on utility costs so you aren't surprised. If you are renting in a new city, ask your landlord what to expect.
What is the Average Electricity Bill?
Then there are electricity costs, which most people can’t get around. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average electric bill in the United States is $117.65 per month.
This calculation may or may not include heating and cooling costs, because heating and cooling sources vary by household.
Since this number includes all electricity bills, it includes apartments where people pay only for electricity for lights and what’s used in electric outlets. It also includes those who heat their homes with electricity and those who heat and cool their homes with natural gas.
Of course, those who heat their homes with electricity will have a higher electric bill than those who heat with natural gas or some other source. But natural gas costs money as well.
The average national natural gas bill in the United States runs at roughly $72.10 per month. This would apply to consumers who heat or cool their homes with natural gas.
And according to this report, nearly half (48%) of U.S. residential consumers use natural gas to heat and cool their homes. That means that the other 52 percent of U.S. homes are heated from other sources, whether that be electricity, propane gas, solar power, or other heating and cooling options.
Again, where you live has an impact on how much you pay for natural gas, as rates vary by region.
What is the Average Cell Phone Bill?
Landline phone bills are quickly dropping by the wayside in favor of cell phone use only. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average cellular phone bill in 2018 averaged out to $99 per month.
When you alter the statistics to include only Americans aged 25 to 64, that number jumps by about $15 per month. That’s a lot of cash to be shelling out for cell phone service each month, especially if you have more than one line.
Personally, I use Republic Wireless and pay about $30 per line for myself and each of my four kids. We do limit our data to 2GB per month each, but if you can manage to do that, you can save a lot of money on your cell phone bill. You can check out our full review of Republic Wireless here.
And there are other cheap cell phone plans out there that offer larger data per month for much cheaper than $100 per month as well. If you’re “average” in terms of your cell phone bill, consider doing some comparison shopping.
What is the Average Cable/Internet Bill?
Then there’s cable TV and internet. Internet costs (averaged between DSL, cable, fiber, and satellite) averaged out to roughly $65 per month.
Packages that include cable or satellite TV channels cost even more, averaging out to over $200 per month. That’s a lot of money to pay to watch television each month. But as with everything else, there are ways to save money on cable costs as well.
For example, instead of going with a traditional cable or satellite TV package, you could opt for streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu. Check out our list of best online streaming services if you are looking to cut the cord.
How to Save Money on Utilities
Budgeting for utilities can be tough. The numbers tend to fluctuate each month, especially when you’ve got to ramp up cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.
And if you’ve got to plan your budget around an irregular income, it can make factoring in utility costs even tougher. Although the numbers in this report may alarm you, you’ll be happy to know there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of money you spend on utility costs.
We talked a bit above about doing some comparison shopping to save money on your cell phone bills. Here are some other ideas for saving on your utility costs.
Control Your Consumption
One of the best ways you can reduce your utility bills such as electric, natural gas, and water usage is by controlling your consumption. Reducing consumption of electricity, gas, and water may take some work.
You’ll have to adjust your level of need for complete comfort and convenience and form some new habits. When you’re ready to do that, here are some steps you can talk to reduce your utility usage.
- Keep the lights down or off. Use a timer if it helps you, or get an app for your smartphone to control your light usage from wherever you are.
- Close vents and doors to rooms you’re not using to control the need for AC and heat.
- Practice lowering your water usage. Keep the faucets down to more of a trickle, and keep sprinkler system usage to a minimum.
- Unplug any appliances or gadgets when not in use.
- Don’t run washers, dryers, and dishwashers unless you have a full load, and wash during off-peak electricity hours.
- Ask your trash hauler to give you smaller, less expensive trash, and recycle bins. Then go about working to have less waste. For example, buy more fresh foods and less packaged foods.
Being mindful of utility consumption can go a long way in lowering your utility bills.
Rethink Your Housing Choice
The housing you choose to live in can have a definite impact on your utility bills. Typically, smaller housing square footage means less utility usage, especially when it comes to heating and air conditioning.
And renting instead of owning a home can result in lower utility costs as well. Many landlords don’t charge renters for utilities such as water and trash.
Additionally, the area you live in does make a difference when it comes to utility costs. For instance, Hawaii has the most expensive utility costs in the U.S. according to a recent report, while Wisconsin has the least expensive utility costs.
Consider this when you decide where you want to live.
Utility providers in all areas are aware that there is a sector of frugal people out there looking to save money. For instance, as we talked about earlier, there are many cell phone providers that offer cheaper packages on cell phone service.
And although you can’t always switch providers for electricity and natural gas if there are a limited number of providers in your area, you can shop around for television costs like cable or satellite.
Or, you could opt for a streaming service instead of cable or satellite as we talked about earlier. The point is that it’s important to shop around and get the best deal on the utility services you need. Business competition is still alive and well in the U.S.
Find Alternative Ways to Manage and Gather Utility Needs
Lastly, you can take other steps to reduce utility costs. Take steps to make sure your home is properly insulated. Install energy-efficient windows if your home’s windows are old and/or leaky. Many utility companies offer free or low-cost energy audits that will give you some ideas about where to start making your home more energy-efficient.
Purchasing the most energy-efficient appliances by looking at the energy consumption labels on appliances can help as well.
And lastly, look into alternative energy sources to fill your energy needs. Use the sun and wind to dry your clothes by hanging them out on a clothesline.
Collect rainwater to water your flower and vegetable gardens. Look into solar powered energy or wind-powered energy for your home. Granted, these options aren’t available in all areas, and they can require quite a bit of cash upfront.
However, if you plan on being in your home for a long time, you might determine that the cost will be worth it.
Assess your utility usage in every single area and research ways to cut costs. When we were first looking at trying to cut utility costs in our family, we’d play a little game.
We’d pretend that a chosen utility wasn’t available, like back in the pioneer days. Then we’d look for ways to get around the problem. We’d mix by hand when making cakes and cookies.
We’d layer up our clothes and sit under blankets instead of turning up the heat. Saving money can be fun if you work to make it fun.
At the end of the day, yes, utility costs can take a big bite out of your income. However, by using the tips above, you might find that you can take some steps to make utility costs have less of an impact on your savings rate.
And when you start saving money on utilities, use your money savings for something great. Pad your early retirement fund. Make a big extra principal payment on your mortgage each month.
Save for your dream vacation. Just use the extra funds wisely, and enjoy the benefits of the work you put into cutting utility costs.