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Tuesday, December 14

My Frugal Miser - How Much Does the Average Person Spend on Utilities?

I often wonder how my spending on gas, electricity, water and phone compares to the average person. I like to think this is an area where I am pretty frugal. One fairly simple way I measure this is by comparing the meter reading for my power consumption with that of my neighbors. I haven't found a single neighbor who spends less than me on electricity.

In November, I spent the following for utilities:

$48.00 Electricity (I'm on the budget plan - the actual amount was $34.55)
$13.18 Gas (water and a "piggyback" heat system)
$32.45 Water/Sewer (our sewer rates are among the highest in the nation and have increased 329% since 1996)
$19.95 Internet (DSL light)
$65.33 Mobile Phone/Internet

Here are a few of the things I do to keep my utilities cost low:
  • Several months ago I downgraded my DSL plan to the slowest available. I am still able to stream movies from Netflix without problems or interruption.
  • I changed the Internet plan on my phone from the unlimited option as soon as AT&T offered it to me.
  • I am mindful of the electricity we use, which I've talked about in the past. Here it is December and we still haven't turned the heat on. As I write this the weather outside is 44 degrees. Instead of heating the whole house we use an electric blanket and space heater to only heat the room we are in.
  • Last (it's kind of gross), "if it's yellow, we let it mellow."
I am doing more research to see what the average cost is so that I can benchmark my usage. I found, for example, that the average household uses about 920 kWh of power in a month. While my household size of "2 + cat" is slightly smaller than the average, it's not by much. My average power consumption over the last 12 months has been 338 kWh, almost 1/3rd of the average. More to come...


  1. You have some low utility costs. Our last electric bill was for $67. Our apartment is all electric but we didn't use any heat so I was a little surprised that the bill was that high.

    We don't have gas and the apartment includes water and internet in the rent. I pay $35 a month for the SERO cell phone plan with Sprint. It is such a good deal that they don't allow anyone to sign up for it any more.

  2. Well if your combined water/sewer bill is $32.45 mo. then you do NOT have some of the highest in the nation.
    Our water is separate from the sewer and we top off at an avg. of $90 mo.
    Our water is measured/metered as some cities charge flat rate and not meter each residence.

    It's very hard to compare your utility charges with others w/out some parameters being applied....such as size of dwelling, mutli-resident dwelling or not, number of sinks/toilets/tubs, dishwasher or no, number of people living in dwelling. These all factor in and can greatly change how you stack up against other's spending on utilities.
    It's akin to comparing apples to oranges.

    My electric co. has an application online that I can use to compare my elec. usage to the other people in my town. While it shows that we are always on the low end of the scale for usage I take it with a grain of salt since they aren't comparing us to similar family size/similar sq. footage/etc.
    Nice money saving ideas tho. Zone heating is great and if you don't have individual controls to adjust the heat in each room, I highly recommend having that installed. Closing up rooms you don't use can save substantial $ on utilities.

  3. Andy - any idea what causes the power bill to be high since it didn't include heat? We have 2 TVs which take up a good bit of power when they are on but usually they are only on in the evening. The refrigerator also uses a lot of power.

    Slugmama - our water is metered as well. The water company bills me on behalf of the sewer company on the same bill, but it is listed as separate charges. I wish the power company had a feature online that I could use for comparison. Even though you are right about it being hard to compare without considering house size, etc., I still like to know how I measure up... part of assessing whether I have a low bill is eventually deciding whether I have too much "house", too.

  4. Part of the reason our electric bill is high is because my wife works at home and I'm home most of the time as well. We have an old desktop computer that sometimes doesn't like to start so we keep it on all the time. We also do a lot of laundry and I like to take long, hot showers. Other than that we are pretty good at keeping lights off and have the TV on a power strip and are pretty good at not wasting electricity. I'd guess our electric bill is lower than most in our apartment complex.