Annual Utility Savings Hunt – Electricity

It’s that time again. Time to go hunt for utility deals. I know most people think there are no deals to be had, but a lot of your utilities can be negotiated, depending on where you live.

In Connecticut, we have the choice of electricity suppliers. That doesn’t mean that I get two bills or that I have to change electric companies. The only thing that changes on my bill is the name of my electricity supplier and the amount I pay each month.

I received a call last week from one of the electricity suppliers. Usually they go into a big sales pitch explaining what supplier choice is and how things won’t change. I, generally and as politely as possible, interrupt them and just ask for their rate. My former rate was 10.7 cents per kwh. The rate for my electric company is over 12 cents. This company offered me a rate of less than 9 cents with no contract. They also offered me $100 if I stay with them for 2 months and 5% back at the end of 12 months if I stay with them. Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. I switched. There is no fee to switch and no fees if there is no contract.

The only thing that annoyed me about the process was having to talk to a third-party, independent verification service to make sure I understood what I was doing. I wonder how much that adds to the cost of electricity, especially with people changing suppliers every time someone calls with a better offer.

I figured out that on last month’s bill, I would have saved about $50. I wish I would have reviewed my options sooner. If you live in Connecticut, you can visit this site to see all the companies that provide electricity to Connecticut consumers. I got this link from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. If you live outside Connecticut, contact your Department of Public Utilities or your electric company to see if you can pick your supplier.

The Pros and Cons of Utility Budget Plans

The weather in Connecticut has been pretty nice over the past few days. I’ve turned off the heat and opened the windows. Spring is on the way and with it, lower gas bills. Spikes in utility bills can make budgeting really tough, but is a budget plan through your utility companies the right move for you?

A budget plan allows you to pay the same amount each month based on your prior 12 months of usage. The utility company charges you the same amount each month and at the end of the year, reconciles your account. At that time, you’ll either receive a bill for the additional amount or receive a credit for the overpayment.

The positives:

  1. It’s easier to budget since your bill will be the same amount each month.
  2. You avoid the large upswings in your electricity and gas bills due to heating and air conditioning buy paying an equal amount each month.

The negatives:

  1. If your bill changes because of increased rates or usage, you’ll end up with a large amount due at the end of the year.
  2. If you have electricity for your air conditioning and oil heat, you’ll still have large oil bills in the winter and have larger electricity bills at the same time because of the payment plan on your electricity bills.
  3. If you are working to cut your electricity or gas bills, you won’t realize the savings until the end of the year.
  4. Most people pay less attention to their utility usage when on a payment plan. When I see my electric bill increase, I start searching for ways to cut the bill.
  5. When you are prepaying your bills to build up for the big usage months, you don’t have access to that money. You also aren’t earning interest on that money.

I, personally, don’t use a utility budget plan. My gas bill is highest in the winter, with my electricity bill highest in the summer. My maximum utility bills are about $350 a month during the winter, which usually lasts about two months. In the summer, my bill peaks at about $300 a month. That, too lasts about two months. My lowest months, in the spring and fall, are generally about $150 a month. I budget $350 a month all year long. When my utilities are lowest, I’ve got an extra $200 to throw at debt or savings. When they are highest, I’ve got the money budgeted so we are fine.

If you are struggling to make your payments and an equal payment would help you budget, the plan might be right for you. I think the plan only works if you have heat and air conditioning that you can put on the plan. If you have oil heat and cannot put that on a payment plan, it’s going to be even harder to make those payments if your electricity is on a budget plan.

You have to look at your own situation and see what works best for you.

I’d rather have a tooth pulled than negotiate a cable deal

If you’ve been reading the blog since the beginning, you know about the awesome deal I had with Comcast. Well that deal expired this month. When my bill arrived, the total had gone from about $60 a month to $128 a month. I just about choked on the inflation. So I look at myself in the mirror and say Self, it’s time to call the cable company! Since I felt like crap and since Jeff has been so on board with the budget, I decided to let him call. It didn’t go well for him. The woman on the phone actually tried to upsell him. She told him that the only thing available in a package deal would cost him about $114 a month but he could get a super HD package for $135 a month. Um, nope. Now I understand that I got the deal of the century last year and I was not getting that deal again. But we were not doing $114 a month. Nope, no way.

It was my turn. I called again. I got a lovely gentleman on the phone who also said there were no deals and offered me cable, internet and phone for $114 a month. I’m quite happy with the phone service we have for $24.99 a month so nope. I told him I’d have to talk to my husband.

Called a bit later after exploring the internet.  Got someone on the phone who offered me all three services for $99 a month. Still too much for the phone. I really just want cable and internet. Plus, once you add in all the fees and boxes and things, you are still looking at $114 a month. I was looking to spend  about $75 for internet and cable.

The thing that really bugs me about the cable company is there are very few inexpensive options. If you are willing to remortgage the house, the cable company will sell you 4,000 channels you will never watch, plus all the movie channels in HD all for the bargain price of $159 a month. Do people actually pay that much for TV each month? I only watch about 5 channels and they want to charge me $62 a month? Even at that price I still can’t get the 5 channels I really want. If I want those, I’d have to get the super deluxe line up. Grrrrrr. Even for internet, there are two options: 1MB for 24.99 and 12MB for $42.00. Can’t we split the difference and have a 6MB plan? Maybe. Who the hell comes up with this stuff? Monopolies make me made.

So I’m pretty annoyed at this point. I’ve called three times and I’ve done my research online…wait…online. I go check the deals online to see if there is anything there. I can get the cable, phone and internet online for $99 with no equipment fee and a free netbook. Really? That sounds good. Oh and the internet is 6MB. I can’t buy it separately but I can get it in the package….Shut up, Kristin and order the package. Yes dear. I log into my account so everything is on the up and up and add the package to my shopping cart. It goes in. I’m then asked to confirm all my info, which I do. I am then connected to a live chat thing and am very quickly told that I do not qualify because I have internet. Had I not had internet, it would have been ok. We get into a bit of an online scuffle over shopping carts and stupid websites that don’t recognize what a customer already has for service. I tell him that I will call tomorrow to cancel my service. He tells me that he respects my decision and is there anything else he can do for me. Sigh.

The next morning, quite fed up with Comcast but willing to give them one more try, I call again. This time I get a lovely woman on the phone who can tell I’m looking to deal. She gives me the two options for internet and then introduces a new cable deal that no one has mentioned yet. How can this be? I drop my internet speed and she knocks almost $20 bucks a month off the cable bill for 12 months and even gives me some more channels.  Still don’t have the five I want but I’ll give me something to negotiate with next year. New monthly price: $77 a month for 12 months. I take the deal before she changes her mind. I call hubby to let him know we will have TV for another year.

The moral of the story here is don’t give up. The better deal is out there. You can achieve it. You just need a bit of patience; some Novocain might help, too.