Analyzing Your Electric Bill
As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and a financial coach, analyzing electric bills is something that I've wanted to talk about for a while. For those living in Texas, you already know the recent weather crisis that our state has had. For those who don't - recently, Texas had a once-in-a-lifetime winter storm that rocked our state. Many were left without power for days and weeks. All of the winter weather led many in our state to use way more energy than they'd anticipated (or even the energy companies expected). Many have found energy companies making sketchy charges on their bills, spurred a slew of lawsuits.
Now, I'm not a lawyer, so I won't go much more into depth about the suits surrounding the energy crisis plaguing Texas. However, there's still some great information that I can bring to the table. With all of the wild things happening in the energy world, it's more important than ever to be analyzing your electric bill. Many just take their bills "as is" and pay them, even if they're unsatisfied with the validity of their charges. Throughout this post, we're going to talk about all of the different ways that you can check your electricity bill and lower it to make sure you're staying within the bounds of your financial plan!
Energy Rates Differ from State to State
Each state has various factors that effect the energy rates. Hawaii has the highest rates at 31.7 cents per kilowatt hour, whereas North Dakota comes in at only 9.01 cents per kilowatt hour.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration(EIA) says that the average monthly usage across our country is only 897 kWh per month. Which seems a little low in my opinion for a HOT Texas summer!
The rates set by each state have a lot to do with supply and demand, as well as energy spikes in usage from seasonal and unseasonal storms. May states have also decided to deregulate the electricity, giving citizens the right to choose their energy provider. This also means that these deregulated states have an additional energy expense tacked on to your bill!
Make Sure You're Getting the Best Rates
Electric bills are seemingly pretty cut and dry. Either the company sends your bill in the mail or online with an "energy used" and "amount owed" spot. However, there's a bit more involved than that, and there are various ways you can lower that amount owed. One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to "trust, but verify" what the electric company tells you that you owe. So, how do you do this?
First, know what your rate is. This information is something many people never question. Still, it is an essential first step in getting to know your bill. Once you know what your rate is, you can compare it to other rates in the area. For some, your energy company is something that you get to choose. If that's the case for you, make sure you're getting the best rate by checking out and comparing your rate with websites like, Choose energy. Once you have your company and your rate locked down, it's time to do some math. You can check your used kilowatt-hours in a few different ways. One way to do this is by keeping a log of your used energy by checking the energy meter attached to your house. Compare that information with what you see on your bill to make sure things are inline.
You can also contact your energy company and ask for an energy audit. According to Dave Ramsey's website, "They'll run tests, inspect your home for air leaks, and check the quality of your insulation. Then they'll give you their best recommendations on how you can fix any big issues." You may also look into a smart energy monitor. These may cost you a bit up front, but they'll provide you accurate third-party information on your energy consumption.
Suppose you find that your energy consumption doesn't align with your bill. In that case, this could be caused by your energy company estimating your consumption. If you find that your bills are estimated numerous months in a row, you should contact your energy provider to inquire. While it may be more convenient on their end, if your trying to cut your energy usage to save money, this could be very frustrating (and costing you money). Make sure that you're keeping track of which bills are being estimated and which bills aren't. Keep them organized and filed in a safe place that you can easily access.
Your energy provider may also give you access to online tools that you can use to keep track of your bills and consumption. Some may also provide resources for ways to cut your bill (like energy audits). Be sure to look around and familiarize yourself with your provider's website. If they don't, some sites will help you calculate what your bill should be. If you're interested in that, they're easy to find on google, or you can check this one out, which gives you the freedom to be as precise or broad as you'd like.
Ways to Cut Down on Your Electric Bill
If you've gone the route of checking your electric bill and verified that it's correct - you don't have to stop there. There are various ways that you can lower your bill that vary in efficacy and ease. The easiest way to lower your bill is to form a few good habits! Turn lights off in rooms you aren't in! While this is a simple change, it's one that often goes over-looked (and can save you a chunk of change in the long run. Another simple shift you can make is turning off appliances that you aren't using! Many younger people leave their televisions or gaming stations on when they aren't using them. Often, this uses the same amount of power as when your TV or game console is in-use. Some appliances use "phantom power," meaning that even though they aren't being used - they're still drawing power. If you have ever walked into a dark room and noticed little lights shining from charges and other electrical sources... that's your phantom power! Because of this, you may save money by unplugging non-essential appliances when they aren't being used.
For many in southern states, we're well aware that our house's main power-drawer is our air conditioner/heater. There are a few ways to lower your bill here! On nice days, turn the thermostat off and open the windows. If it's hot outside, be sure that you're wearing comfortable clothes and turn your thermostat to auto at a higher temperature. This will keep your air conditioner from running non-stop, which will save you power and money. If you're doing this, you can also open doors and turn on fans to be a little more comfortable. In the winter months, bundle up and put your heater on auto and a higher temperature. A space heater may also be a good investment! They'll keep you warm using less electricity without working to heat your entire house!
To ensure that you're being as efficient as possible, check the seals around your windows and doors for leaks. Small leaks can lead to significant increases in energy consumption, and you may thank yourself for checking. Lastly, make sure you contact your energy provider and ask for discounts! Many offer various discounts for automatic billing or going paperless!
Getting to know your electric bill is a great step in financial planning; lowering it is even better! If you're interested in learning how to make a financial plan and how your electricity bill fits into it, I'm your gal! Please, feel free to call or email to schedule an appointment with me. I work with my clients to make sure they're making the most of their investments and know what they're doing and why they're doing it.
Until next time...this is Melissa Making Cents!
Melissa Anne Cox, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, is also a College Planning and Student Loan Advisor and Financial Coach in Dallas, Texas.