In January I have a billion more monthly bills than I did the month before. None of them are particularly large – there’s not all that much financial ruin with a moderately priced 1 bedroom apartment – but they show up in quantity.
They’re also highly annoying.
All Grown Up
So this is what responsibility is like, right? Getting nickel and dimed by everybody with too much letterhead and spare branded envelopes in the supply closet?
I’ve heard that responsibility tends to be something like that.
Anyway – of all the bills that come with the new place, there’s one that’s especially annoying. It also happens to be the largest of them all. The utility bill.
Now I should preface this with a little bit of backstory. Being a frugal dude I convinced the home girl to wait patiently for another month in order to get a second story apartment. For one, we’d have energy savings. Secondly, I don’t really like the idea of having a glass door open to a ground floor. Don’t get me wrong; our neighbors are very good people, I’m sure, but you know, paranoia and such.
So here we are in the present day and I’m convinced that we haven’t used our heater but for four or five days out of the December to January period. We used it only over Christmas, when the apartment complex shut off the stairwell heaters presumably with the assumption that most people wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas with their families in 800 square foot apartments.
Gimme $120, Fool!
All this no-heat December should have racked up some serious savings at the cost of the poor guy living below us as well as the apartment complex, which pays for the stairwell heater. There were a few days where I had to pry the girlfriend’s fingers off the thermostat to keep her from turning on the air conditioner to cool off.
Seriously. Free heat is awesome, but sometimes it’s too darn hot.
Imagine my surprise when we get a utility bill for $120. This seems outlandish, and rightfully so. The actual price of electricity was roughly $100, with $20 being the combination of taxes and flat-rate connection fees.
Electricity isn’t expensive here – I live in the ultimate source for global warming if global warming is actually man-made. Kidding. But seriously this is coal country. Electricity is practically free – at least compared to states like California.
After a little back and forth with the home girl about the utility bill she concluded that it couldn’t be right for the size of apartment and our general heating usage. I’m ashamed to admit that I was perfectly happy just to pay it, as I had already spent some time on the phone with a customer service representative from this power company. (Does anyone have pleasant telephone conversations with B2C businesses?)
Estimations, my dear
The quick end to this otherwise long story is that the utility company had estimated the reading at move-in. They did have an “actual” reading for the end of the month, however. That is to say that the month-end reading for our electricity meter was correct. As for the start reading, the company just financed it and said “ah, yeah, how about 340543 kilowatt hours?” Apparently any guesstimate was close enough.
Now, it may just be my inner skeptic but I don’t take very well to the idea that you can read the end reading but not the start. More importantly, I don’t like that the only “actual” reading is one that I can more or less confirm by stepping outside my door. The guesstimated reading is one that cannot be confirmed by footsteps – I’d have to transcend time. That’s a skill I’ve yet to master.
Speaking of skills I have yet to master, this is the part where I tell you that I am far more comfortable with finance than personal finance. Cash flows are make far more sense when they lack pay by dates, customer support lines, and pre-paid stamped envelopes.
So, if you can, help me out with this situation.
Is this normal practice for utility companies?
Have you had a billing problem like mine?
What’s the protocol for this – should you write down the reading when you move in?
Photo by: Serendigity