The Month I Had an $11 Electric Bill

I’m happy to share with you today a guest post from Jen, who blogs at The Happy Homeowner.  A former self-professed Princess of Interest, she’s completed a radical financial change over the past 5 years. From debt-ridden and clueless to a homeowner with retirement accounts, she’s all about finding unique ways to save money.  Thanks for helping me out while I prepare for my preliminary exam, Jen!


Yes, you read that correctly. The amount of my January 2013 electric bill? A whopping $11.55. And this isn’t the first time I’ve had a ridiculously low electric bill: In March of 2011, my monthly bill was a mere $9.02.


How do I know these exact figures? Besides being an Excel uber nerd who tracks every penny I spend, I’m also in the habit of making a game out of lowering my utility bills (sort of like how I employed a variety of game-based strategies for paying off my credit card debt back in 2008–$14K gone in one year, baby!). Over the past three years, I’ve tracked my utility expenditures in an effort to learn about my consumption trends AND to lower my bills.


Below are the graphed figures beginning when I bought my condo in 2010 (January 2013’s bill is that little X on the left bottom corner—February hasn’t been auto-debited yet):


electricity chart THH

As you can see, the charts don’t lie—my electricity expenses are highly variable. When you factor in roommates, no roommates, summer AC needs and my neighbor turning on all the lights in my house for my cats when she watched them while I was on vacation in the past, there are a lot of reasons why the totals jump around a bit.


However, if you look closely, you’ll see that 2012 generally had a downward trend, which means I was doing a better job at keeping my utility bills in check. How did I do this? It’s really quite simple and breaks down into the following tips you can use to reduce your own electric bills:


Unplug anything that isn’t essential


Yes, I know that I unfortunately cannot unplug my refrigerator despite the fact that it uses a decent amount of electricity. What I do unplug is everything else because I hate one sneaky, electric-sucking phenomenon: Phantom load. Essentially, phantom load is the amount of electricity an appliance or charger continues to use when plugged in even if it has been switched off. Sneaky little suckers indeed, eh? By unplugging all unnecessary cords, chargers and appliances, you can easily shave 10-20% off your monthly bill.


TiVo your heating (or cooling)


Much like you can program TiVo or DVR to record a program or movie you’ll miss, you can also program your thermostat. It makes no sense to heat or cool your house when you’re not home during the day! You should also set it to decrease in temperature overnight—your body will also thank you for this move in the form of higher quality sleep; it’s a win-win situation.


Switch it up


Your light bulbs, that is. When I switched all of my lights to run on CFLs instead of standard bulbs, I did pay a bit more upfront. But that upfront cost is nothing compared to how much I’ll save in the long run. Not only do CFLs lower your monthly electric bill, but they also last much longer!


What have you done to cut your electric (or other utility) bills? 


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24 Responses to "The Month I Had an $11 Electric Bill"

  1. Wow – that’s crazy cheap. Mind if I ask where you live and what your $/kWh are? We have pretty high energy costs in our area, so I get pretty thrilled when our bill is < $100/month.

    1. I’ll have to look at my next bill because I’ve already shredded this one (I’m hyper anal about identity theft and shred anything that has my name on it before recycling it…haha).

      One caveat is that my heat is gas–but my gas bill hovers around $60 in the winter and $20 in the summer.

    2. Piss… forgot to mention I live in Boston 🙂

  2. Ross says:

    The “customer charge” on my electric bill is about $16, and that’s before you factor in the $/kwh charge, so I end up averaging about $30/mo. $10/mo is incredible. I’d also be interested in how many kwh/mo you are using? Are you doing time of use pricing? I’m impressed!

    1. Nope…I just try to be very careful about turning off all lights except for the room I’m in (I pretty much live in a cave…hahaha…I just prefer natural light or not much else!).

      I’ll look for the kwh for the next bill & report back!

  3. Sara says:

    That’s crazy cheap. The best way to reduce your bill is to just find every way to reduce your total usage. My bill is $15 before you even add in my usage because of various charges from the utility. But at least for us, we’re about to enter into the least expensive period of the year for our utilities- longer days means less light; “warmer” days mean that we can turn down the heat during the day.

    I’ve also read somewhere that keeping your freezer fully stocked makes it use less electricity?

    1. I think so! I keep my fridge and freezer fully stocked at the very least with water, coconut water, Gatorade, beer and vodka… 🙂

  4. $11!?!? Thats crazy! You guys been wearing a heck of a lot of layers of clothing throughout winter? 🙂

    1. I’m shameful…I should have included that my heat is gas. I put the bit about heat in there though because a lot of ppl I know have electric heat. My gas bill runs about $60 in the coldest months. Usually more like $20-30!

  5. Wow, $11, that’s freaking awesome! We bought CFL’s several years ago and it’s nice how they can lower the bill, plus you do not have to buy them as often. We’d unplug more stuff, though our little ones would probably just re-plug it all back in. 😉

    1. Hahahaha…that would drive me bananas..I’m all about unplugging and turning off everything!!

      1. I actually don’t unplug much. Cell phone chargers, sure. But it takes the DirecTV receiver 10 minutes to boot up after it’s lost power.

  6. There is someone awake in this house 24/7, but I generally keep the heat at 61-62 degrees.

    I am with Ross, however about fees. Half of our electric/water bill this month where charges independent of usage. Base charge for electric, base charge for water, service charge, and stormwater surcharge. In a full month, it’s nearly $70!

    1. Yikes! I’m not sure how I evade higher usage fees—I guess it’s because they probably think nobody lives here with how low my bills are? 😛

  7. $11 is incredible! Further evidence that the area in which I live is very expensive.

    1. Boston definitely isn’t cheap…but I guess maybe I am?? 😀

  8. krantcents says:

    I changed out all my lights to CFLs and replaced my 20 year old refrigerator. My bill has droppe, but I was frugal before the changes.

  9. Wow, this is the most useful post I’ve read in a while! We have been negligent about truly tracking our utilities, and I want to get better about it. I didn’t realize that CFLs used less energy; I’ve just been buying them because they are often all that is available.
    Wayne @ Young Family Finance recently posted..Simple Ways to Save Money

  10. That is a seriously low bill. The lowest ours ever gets is around $70, and we’ve changed out our light bulbs and I unplug every night. My five year old, however, leaves all the lights on all the time, so I’m sure that doesn’t help.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Money Memories-Canon Rebel T4i DSLR Giveaway

  11. […] This Month I had an $11 Electric Bill at Evolving Personal Finance. This is amazing as I’m sure it costs me $11 to open the garage door. […]

  12. Wow. $11. That’s great. This inspires me to get a system in place to avoid the phantom load. I unplug the coffee pot and that’s about it….

    Would love to hear tips on making it an easy process.
    Dianne @ Skinny Seahorse recently posted..Friday’s Letters

  13. Pauline says:

    I have a few CFLs but the power line is unreliable here and they may burn faster, so not sure it is saving money. Prices are high in Guatemala, when I was in the UK I made sure I checked at least once a year for a better tariff with other companies.
    Pauline recently posted..Bang for your buck, UK edition

  14. […] EPF this week Jen from The Happy Homeowner told us about the month she had an $11 electric bill!  Thank you so much for the post, […]

  15. […] The Month I Had an $11 Electric Bill by Jen from The Happy Homeowner […]

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