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Cutting utilities costs

There are many commonsense ways for students to cut the costs of utilities. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

You’ve lined up your house for next year; the roommates are chosen; you live close to your favorite bar academic building, and the lease is officially signed. But as you go to budget rent into your finances for next year, you realize you might have forgotten about utilities.

On the other hand, maybe you and your roommates are having problems keeping utility costs down in your current living situation.

Either way, this guide is here to help you manage those costs.

Heating and cooling

Technically, these costs don’t stand alone. They’ll show up on your electric bill, but for all intents and purposes, they are their own category.

Adjust that thermostat. A few degrees here or there — such as setting it at 70 degrees instead of 72 in the winter — can make a huge difference in how often your furnace is running.

The same concept applies in the summer with your air conditioner. On really hot days, it can be nice to make your house an arctic refuge, but it comes at a hefty price.

In all honesty, there’s a lot of times you can live without running either unit. In the summer, throw open some windows. If it’s 90 degrees outside, I get that you need the AC, but if it’s 80, do you really need to pay for AC?

You might not want to turn your heat off altogether in the winter and end up freezing your pipes, but you can definitely turn the heat down at night. Sleep in warmer clothes or throw on an extra blanket so your furnace isn’t running when you are asleep.

Electricity

This one is tough. The house I live in struggles a lot with it. We live in a technology-intensive time, and all those computers, televisions, gaming systems, etc. are using precious electricity.

But there are still some common-sense habits that can cut your electric costs.

Turn off lights. It’s easy. If you aren’t using them, then turn them off. Too many people don’t do this, and it costs them. Same goes for computers, televisions and anything else that is plugged in.

Another really good tip that isn’t as obvious: do your chores at night. Washing machines, dryers and dishwashers use a lot of power, so running them at off-peak hours can save you a lot of money.

Water

To be honest, a lot of places end up including water in your rent because it tends to be the cheapest utility. That being said, some landlords will still make you pay for your own water.

One simple tip: don’t run it when you don’t need to. Some people like to let the water run while they brush their teeth. That adds up.

But what it really comes down to is shower times. Showers don’t need to take 30 minutes. Get in, get clean and get out. I understand that a super long, hot shower is great. Take them on break at your parents’ house on their dime.

If a roommate is attached to their long showers then arrange for them to pay a bigger portion of the water bill. Don’t be timid; if someone is taking showers that are much longer than the rest of the roommates combined, call them out on it.

Gas

When you set up your gas, go with the on-budget option. This will give you the cheapest bill at the same price every month. It’s just that easy for this bill.

Internet

Look for deals around move-in time and be aware of how much internet you really need.

My roommates and I are internet intensive. We have multiple gaming systems and desktop computers used for gaming, running along with streaming devices — usually at least three at a time.

For us, we had to go with the 500 Mbps option from WOW, which is pretty much the fastest internet they offer that residential living would ever need. You probably don’t need internet this fast, so do your research and figure out what’s best for you.

All this being said, we were able to get 500 Mbps for $75 a month. Split between the three of us that’s only $25 a month to be sure we never have issues with lag. A deal like this is not always around and came from when WOW was offering its best rates during move-in.

Final verdict

Just be smart. Using common sense can go a long way in cutting utility costs. Communicate with your roommates to set up good habits and standards, and a way to hold people to them.

Don’t hesitate to make someone pay a larger share of the bills if they always forget to turn off lights or take 30-minute showers. Don’t pay for someone else’s bad habits.

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