I’m working on posting (relatively!) easy tips to help you save money this year. Because if you’ve ever had a disorganized financial life, you know that your life can never be organized until your finances or in order.
I haven’t mentioned it here yet, but a few days after my family moved into our new home last month, my grandmother died. Although she was quite a bit younger than my grandfather, she outlived him by just 18 months. I know that she missed him, and I hope that they are reunited now.
My grandparents were a lot alike. When I was a child, my dad used to joke that they were both so cheap, they could stretch a dollar until it screamed. When I became a young adult, my dad commented frequently that I followed closely in their footsteps. He wasn’t wrong. And my grandparents were proud of my frugality. In fact, I’m certain that my grandfather was never more proud of me than when he learned I’d just started monitoring the electricity and water meters at the apartment I shared with my husband. He was proud that I was working to be thrifty. And his encouragement kept me documenting those numbers and using my cell phone to document those readings in picture form on a daily basis. Seven years later, and I have consistently monitored our energy usage, from a one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom apartment to a small house and then to a bigger one.
Until recently anyway.
As I’ve mentioned, my husband and I sold our old home and bought a new one a few hours down the road in mid-March. I stopped taking daily pictures of our meters in early March when our packing became more hurried and the process of selling and buying two homes became quite stressful.
Big mistake. At the very least, I should have taken a picture of our meters before we left our former home the final time. Because Virginia Natural Gas sent us two bills after our service was transferred to our home’s new owners on the 15th of March. And both were breathtaking–and not in a good way.
The first bill Virginia Natural Gas issued to us for February 8, 2018, until March 9, 2018, (29 days) was for 77 CCF totaling $96.63.
The final bill Virginia Natural Gas issued to us for March 9, 2018, until March 15, 2018, (six days!) was for 134 CCF totaling $138.41.
Those numbers don’t seem right, do they? Especially given we moved March 10th and had our Nest thermostat (oh, how I love thee!) lowered to 62 degrees after we left. So I called Virginia Natural Gas and protested vociferously. I was promised a meter reader would revisit our old home and reassess. A few weeks later, after I followed up, I was told “no mistake was made.”
So then my annoyed husband got involved. At first, the folks at the gas company still were reluctant to admit the obvious discrepancies. But when my husband mentioned that I had already begun my complaint to the state’s utilities commission, the representative’s tone changed. He contacted his supervisor, who admitted that clearly the meter reader had made an error–and hadn’t read the meter on the 15th as he or she was supposed to but had instead read the meter on the 19th, five days after we closed on the home and four days after the new owners moved in.
We did get a $50 credit. And we paid the corrected bill to put the matter behind us. But my husband and I feel certain our “corrected” bill was still incorrect. We wish that we had taken a picture of the meter before we left! Just a single, quick picture of the gas meter with the iPhone would have been enormously helpful and could have saved us tens of dollars and some extra hassle.
So I am back to documenting our meter readings and taking daily pictures of our meters. And I encourage you to do the same. Because monitoring your energy and resource usage can help you track wasteful activities (like leaving the heater at 74 all night while you sleep under warm covers) and inefficient appliances that need to be replaced or at least used less (coming soon to our new house: a new clothesline!). And taking pictures of those meters may help you in the event you need to contest the utility company’s assessment.
If you’re interested in tracking your energy or resource usage, I’ve published a free printable, one that will help you easily calculate how much energy you’re using each day. You’ll need to subscribe to my newsletter and then use the password you receive in your welcome e-mail to access the meter readings log file at the freebies library. Here’s a more direct link to the file location:
A few more things:
- If you’re not quite sure of how to read your meter, click here for detailed instructions.
- If monitoring your electricity or gas usage is really important to you, consider getting a smart thermostat such as a Nest or Ecobee. My husband and I miss our former home’s Nest thermostat, which turned our HVAC on eco mode when we weren’t home, allowed us to set the thermostat from anywhere (like in the middle of the night from our bed), and helped us set a schedule to use less energy and still keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer. When we finish our basement in the next few years, we intend to add an Ecobee, which I’ve heard is better for multi-floor homes.
Tell Me: Do You Ever Check Your Meters?
Have you ever checked your electric or water or gas meter? Have you ever been shocked when your utility bill came in and wished you had kept better track of the situation? Post your experiences in the comments below!
Other Ways to Save Money
Have you missed some of my previous posts? Here are a couple of my favorites:
- 100 Ways to Save Money: Quit Buying Bottled Water
- 100 Ways to Save Money: Unsubscribe from E-mails that Tempt You into Purchasing Things You Don’t Need
Don’t Miss Future Posts!