Let's chat for a minute about your living situation. Do you live by yourself? With a roommate? (A roommate of the friend variety, or a roommate of the significant other variety? or a roommate of the family variety?)
For those of you living with a roommate(s), you might often find yourself in a battle in your home.
A utilities battle.
When you put multiple people in the same house, differences are going to appear. Not everyone has the same frugal habits. Some people like being toasty warm all day (ahem, me) and some people like cooler temps. Some people like taking really long showers, and some people don't. Splitting utilities can seem like a crazy disorganized mess and you might start feeling resentful that your roomies aren't as frugal as you.
No, never lived in this house. But it was one of the places we checked out in Rochester when we were apartment hunting and I think it's cute and kinda fits with the post. Also I'm classy and managed to get my finger in the frame. So that's always good.
So how do you save money on utilities when you have roommates to contend with?
1. Don't be confrontational.
Present this as a problem you can both solve. "Hey, I was looking at our utility bill last month and it was like, really high! Did you notice that too? Would you be up for trying to save some money on our next bill?"
Hopefully your roommate is a nice person and will agree. If not, you might need to go into a bit more depth and beg a little. "I'm struggling to keep up with rent, utilities, all my other bills, and my student loan payments. I'm trying to cut my spending overall and I think we could try a few things to lower our utility usage and have a smaller bill. Would you be up for helping me with that?"
2. Come up with some suggestions.
If your roommate agrees (or even if they don't) have some ideas ready to suggest... like:
- Put a post-it note on the front door reminding the last person to leave in the morning to turn down the thermostat (or up, in the summer) while everyone's out of the house.
- Buy that plastic sheeting stuff to put on drafty windows in the winter.
- Go halfsies (how do you spell that?) on a space heater to keep your roomie's basement room warm in the winter so you can lower the temp in the rest of the house. Or vice versa: a fan to keep her upstairs room cool in the summer and the rest of the house warmer.
- Split the cost of CFL lightbulbs that will save you electricity.
Remember that if you are the one who wants to save on utilities, you might need to put in a bit more effort. Volunteer to be the one to turn the thermostat up and down every day. Volunteer to count the number of lightbulbs to replace with CFLs. Search Amazon for a reasonably priced space heater. Do the legwork so it's easy for your roommate to just say "yes"
3. Discuss & compromise.
Come up with a temperature to keep the house at while you're home and while you're away. (Mike and I agreed on 68 when we're home and 62 when we sleep... I would much prefer somewhere in the 72-74 range but I know this will save me a lot of money. Plus I'll get my warmer temps in summer when we don't turn our AC on until it's like 80... yay!)
Another perk of discussing things-- you might find that your roomie has legitimate reasons for her "wasteful" habits. Maybe she drives you nuts because she leaves all the lights in the house on when she goes to work. By discussing it, you find out she does it because she feels scared to come home to an empty, dark house. After she explains her side, you realize that you can compromise and leave a foyer light on and all the rest off.
4. Consider their side.
Does your roommate live in the basement where it's wayyyy colder than your room upstairs? In that case, you might be annoyed thinking that the house is too hot, but she's annoyed thinking the house is too cold!
Maybe she takes super long showers and that drives you nuts, but then you realize that she only showers 3x a week, so her water usage ends up being pretty normal when averaged for the week.
Maybe she does a lot of laundry (like, how the eff does she create so many dirty clothes?!) but remember that your boyfriend is over like, allllll the time and showers at your house, so his utility usage probably cancels out her extreme laundry habits.
5. Is it worth a fight over this stuff?
Probably not. You're still saving a bunch of money compared to if you were living on your own, so sometimes you just have to grin and bear it. If it's really bad, look for a new place and new roommates. And maybe even make this part of your interview process... "so... how are you when it comes to utilities?"