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I'm revisiting my budget and the amount I have slated for electricity was off by roughly 30 dollars or 50 percent. I live in an all electric apartment, no gas or fireplace. Here in Kansas we get cold winters and hot summers, but I've always had a hard time estimating the kwh and total cost.

Given that my utility company doesn't publish historical usage rates from past occupants, is there any hope of building an accurate budget?

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5 Answers

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There are certain companies that will let you pay a flat fee per month instead of billing you for consumption.

You should call your providers and ask them if they have such an option available; this way budgeting will be easy. :)

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+1 for level payment plan - great budgeting tool. For me, once a year they change my payment amount and bill me the difference between actual use and the level payment plan. My electric company does this for me. –  Alex B Jan 24 '11 at 20:22
    
The equal payment plans are great, but most utility companies want you to be living in a place for a year before they offer them. That's because they also want to know how much you'll be spending. –  DJClayworth Mar 25 '11 at 17:23
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If you are just starting out, my tactic would be to go way high and then consider any different play money.

So guess $90 and when it comes in at $60, buy a new shirt or go on a date.

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Even if they did publish historical usage rates, those numbers might not be relevant. The previous resident may have been an energy hog who left appliances on 24x7, or a luddite who sweated out the summers rather than turning on the A/C.

Beyond that, I've lived in Kansas my whole life, and have never found a good method for estimating utility costs. The best I've been able to do is track expenses month by month to get an average. But one year we have a mild winter, then the next we'll have a week of sub-freezing temperatures, and the estimates from the previous year are worthless.

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Hmmm. I hadn't considered that energy usage would be considered confidential. How about asking a nearby neighbor to share their next bill. If it's higher or lower than yours, just scale the history up or down accordingly. Other than that, the utility company might offer its own level billing plan where they handle the estimate and offer you the same payment each month.

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They do offer a level billing plan, but only after 12 months of payments. I don't really need one, but I'd like to start cutting down on the float in my checking account and that means I need better predictions. –  jldugger Jan 22 '11 at 4:23
    
I don't think it is confidential. My bill has a little chart showing in very rough numbers energy usage. –  MrChrister Jan 22 '11 at 4:50
    
@jldugger: Curious: why do you want to cut down on float? I guess by that you mean you want to invest elsewhere and want your checking account to cover your bills as exactly as possible? Or do I misunderstand? –  mbhunter Jan 22 '11 at 6:09
    
@MrChrister - Mine as well, I think jl says it doesn't show history for prior occupant. Which makes sense, I suppose. –  JoeTaxpayer Jan 22 '11 at 15:07
    
I have a large amount in checking, yes, and I'm considering moving it to less liquid investments. This bill is one of many to consider, but it's among the most variable. –  jldugger Jan 22 '11 at 19:24
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Here in Upstate NY, in a house with no air conditioning, my peak winter electric/gas bill is roughly 3x a summer bill more typically, it's about double. A typical bill outside of heating season is $125.

We basically set aside $200/mo for electric & gas, and keep the balance in a separate account at ING Direct (We like ING, as you can easily create and name accounts for specific purposes). We own a house, so usually we rebalance the account in September when the school taxes arrive.

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