Your electricity bill can be rather shocking. The average American home spends 115 dollars a month on electricity.
That sounds like a small expense, but it can add up, especially when you have to pay for water. Electricity and water combined can cost you thousands of dollars over the course of a year. It’s no wonder that many people can’t cover the expenses.
If your utilities get turned off, you may feel disoriented. But don’t panic. You just need to follow some basic steps to get them turned back on.
Here are those steps.
Pay Your Electricity and Water Bills
The best way to keep your electricity and water on is to pay your bills. Get in touch with your utility provider and negotiate a payment schedule with them. If weekly payments work best for you, you can adopt that approach. If you are unable to make a regular payment, contact your provider immediately. Give them a reason why you can’t pay and what you will do to pay them back. While you may acquire some personal debts in other areas of your finances, you should focus on paying your utilities first as they are essential necessities. In the meantime, try to find some extra ways to make money. Invest your stimulus check in a local business or sell some of your belongings, including clothes and antiques.
It’s also important to keep a copy of your utility contract. If your provider raises your rates, you can look back at the terms to see if they are legally able to do so. If they can’t, contact an attorney and sue for a violation of terms.
Know About Moratoriums
A moratorium is a temporary suspension of shutoffs, and they occur most often during extreme weather conditions. What this means is that your provider cannot legally cut off your access to electricity, gas, and water, even if you have not paid your bills. Shutting off power during extreme weather conditions, whether it’s too hot or too cold, can endanger someone’s safety. Providers may also decline to cut off power during rare occasions like natural disasters.
While your provider can’t shut off your power during a moratorium, you are still expected to pay for the utilities you use during that period. The payments will be allowed to be paid at a later date than their original due date, but it does not function as a grant where the fees would be completely waived.
If you are able to pay your bills during a moratorium, it is a good idea to do so to ensure you don’t get behind on payments. If you cannot, gather information about how much you need to pay so you can plan accordingly.
Talk to Your Utility Provider
Your provider must notify you that they are shutting your utilities off before they do so. As soon as you receive a notice, you should reach out to them. Many providers have connections to groups that can provide financial assistance, while others can develop a payment plan or extend a service to you. The National Grid offers programs such as an arrearage forgiveness program which can forgive your past-due payments. This can be a huge help to getting back on your feet and out of utility debt.
If you believe you are up to date on your payments and have received a notice that says your payment is late, speaking with a representative can clear the matter up. Paying by check can be an issue sometimes. Checks may arrive late in the mail or get completely lost. Notify them on how you paid and try to pay with a credit card for faster and easier payments.
It’s important to note that it may take some time for your utilities to be restored. Don’t panic. Remain in touch with your provider to see when you will get them back on.
Apply for Benefits
Federal and state programs can provide benefits for you to pay your bills. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is a great federal program for utility expenses. To qualify, your household income must be below your state median income. You may automatically qualify if you get help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Your state provides the benefits, so you need to look at your local laws to see if you qualify.
The Weatherization Assistance Program makes homes more energy-efficient. By using less energy, you can save money on your utility bills. You can get benefits to renovate your house, adding insulation, and replacing piping. Eligibility depends on which state you are living in. Most states have income and asset tests to determine eligibility.
Each state also has its own relief programs. The Texas state government runs the Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program. The program gives payments to low-income households so they can cover their expenses.
Limit Your Consumption
When possible, try to avoid using water and electricity. During the daytime, use sunlight instead of electricity to light your home. Open your curtains and doors to allow light to enter and unplug your appliances from wall outlets when you are not using them. They may still use power while idling.
If you’re too hot or cold, warm yourself by wearing additional layers or wrapping yourself in a blanket, or cool yourself down by taking off layers. Keeping doors and windows shut can prevent warm and cold air from escaping as well, whether you are trying to keep warm air in or warm air out.
Making adjustments to your home can also reduce your energy usage. Install weather stripping around your windows to keep heat from flowing out and place radiant barriers in your basement and attic to reflect heat back into your living areas.
When it comes to water usage, little things like keeping your faucet off while brushing your teeth or limiting your showers to shorter times can save a lot of money in the long run. It’s also important to check your pipes and faucets to make sure there are no leaks. A small leak might not seem like much, but over time those leaks can be a major financial burden. Apply an epoxy over any leaks in your pipes. For faucets, dismantle and clean its parts to allow water to flow through more evenly.
Get Your Utilities Back
Having electricity and water can be essential to your physical and mental health. By applying these helpful tips to your lifestyle and knowing what to do when you get behind can help you get your utilities back on or prevent them from ever being shut off. Remember:
- Pay attention to your when your bills are due and pay them on time – some providers offer automatic payments to help ensure due dates aren’t missed.
- Notify your utility provider if you can’t meet an expense. See what assistance they provide and set up a payment plan if you are able.
- Pay your utility bills during a moratorium. If you can’t, have a plan in place to pay them back by the extended due date.
- Apply for benefits you’re eligible for financial assistance.
- Use your utilities wisely to cut down on charges – unplug your devices to avoid using electricity and check for leaks to keep your water usage down.
- Find alternative ways you can save and make money.
If you’re looking for more ways you can save in your budget, Free Stuff Texas provides great financial guides on a wide range of topics. Check out our guide on how to save money on medicine.
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