You’re not alone if you have a hard time paying your utility bills. It’s not easy to predict how much your utility payments will be. They change with the seasons.
Most companies understand this. So they offer people the choice of paying their bills through a budget plan.
Budget plans can vary by company. But they all feature a fixed monthly bill that is easier to budget. Your utility company will set your bill based on your average usage. Let’s say you use $1,200 of gas per year. The gas company may charge you a set amount of $100 per month. If you use more or less than the estimate, the gas company will adjust your bill for the next year.
To enroll in a budget plan, call your local providers. You may even be able to enroll through their websites.
If you’re thinking about a utility payment plan, there are a few things to consider. Will you be charged a set-up fee? Many companies offer the service for free, but some charge a fee.
Be sure to pay attention to your monthly bills. They will still report your actual energy usage. This will help you make adjustments to your utility payments as needed. If you manage to cut back, your payment can go down the next year.
Plans to Avoid a Shutoff
Paying utilities should be a top priority. However, if you suffer a severe hardship, there are some steps you can take to avoid a shutoff.
First, contact your company and explain your situation. Many offer short-term payment programs that can help. Some of these programs are for low-income families. Others programs are for all income levels. If you don’t contact the company, you will never know what they offer.
You also may consider seeking assistance from your church, a local charity, or your local town, city, county or state. The United Way (dial 2-1-1) can direct you to assistance that may be available in your area.
Keep in mind that special programs may be available for seniors, active military personnel or people suffering from certain medical conditions.
It may help to carve out a budget with a financial counselor and go over your options. Call us for a free financial counseling session.
Utility shutoff policies vary from company to company, but service may typically be shut off for:
- Unpaid past-due utility bills
- Failure to pay a requested security deposit
- Unauthorized energy use that includes tampering with a meter
- Service typically cannot be shut off if a customer:
- Is enrolled in a Winter Protection Plan
- Has notified the utility of a qualifying medical emergency in the home
- Has advised the utility that an unpaid bill is in dispute