Examine Your Utility Bills Every So Often

Do you get your bills and pay them without taking a second glance?  What if your bill is higher than normal?   Do you just assume it’s your fault and pay it?

My mother came to live with me recently. She’s very ill and can’t live at her home but she is still paying the utility bills.  She’s also still paying for her rental washing machine. I wrote about that in 2008, and now the machine is sitting there unused. Well, we hope it’s not being used. Her home is in a poor neighborhood and frankly I would not put it past the neighbors to use the washing machine since they know the home is currently vacant.

Since she’s been here, I’ve been helping her pay her bills.  We got her set up with a Wells Fargo account and I’ve put all her bills into the Bill Pay area. It literally takes less than five minutes to pay her bills. I wish it was that easy for mine!

English: GREENVILLE, NC, September 25, 1999 --...
English: GREENVILLE, NC, September 25, 1999 — Free food and water from a McDonald’s franchise. Bill Freelove closed his business to normal clients, and opened it to those in need. Giving away goods, no questions asked, free meals and gallons of water–nearly 42,000 of each (42K meals, 42K gallons of water) and almost 4 tons of french fries. He’s losing thousands of dollars a day but is “giving back to the community.” Photo by DAVE GATLEY/FEMA News Photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been taking a look at her utility bills, trying to see if we can save her some money.  The first thing I found was that she has been paying for every single feature possible for her land line phone.  Call forwarding, call waiting, three way calling, voice messaging, speed dial, everything, you name it, she was paying for it.  My mother has a severe hearing condition called hyperacusis – she cannot bear to talk on the phone.  So… she’s been paying for a lot of features that she would never have used. She wants to return to her home as soon as she possibly can, so we have left the phone turned on, but I did have phone company remove the extras.

I hadn’t paid much attention to her water, trash and sewage bill since her roommate was still living in the home for a few weeks until he found his own place to live.  I figured the bill would be about the same amount, and when he left the water usage did decrease.

When I looked at my mom’s bill, I was not paying attention to how many gallons were being used.  I was paying more attention to the dollars. There’s a $10.50 fee for the residential meter base fee, and then 94 cents per 1000 gallons for Tier 1 fees, $1.44 per 1000 gallons for Tier 2 fees, and $2.16 per 1000 gallons for Tier 3 fees. Those seem to be pretty reasonable prices.

The house has been completely vacant, so we expected the water bill to go down even further.  My husband has been going over weekly to water the fruit trees, so we expected there to be some water usage.  However, I was shocked to see the bill had more than doubled since the previous month.

That’s when I realized something is wrong. I’ve talked before on the blog here about the fact that we haul our own water. As a result, we are hyper aware of how much water we use.  So when I saw that 11,000 gallons of water were used in one month’s time, I was shocked.  We haul our water using a 500 gallon tank.  We’d have to go to the community well 22 times.  That’s a lot of water.

In looking over my mom’s water usage, this is pretty much normal usage. How in the world does a vacant home use 11,000 gallons of water in a month?  How in the world do two people use up to 18,000 gallons of water in a month?

It seems to me that something fishy is going on.   We’re going to have to get to the bottom of this mystery.

In the meantime, do you examine your utility bills every once in awhile?



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4 thoughts on “Examine Your Utility Bills Every So Often

  1. Ok so now I’m intrigued. What happened with the water bill follow up??


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Hi Janet, hmmm… I thought I responded to this already but I don’t see my reply. Well, we’re still not sure. The odd thing is that the water bill format changed significantly a couple months ago and the meter number was lower than the previous month. For example, when the meter was read it was 268 but the next month it was 265. So I don’t know if the meter reader read the meter wrong, or if someone is turning back the meter? Also, it seems that they bill for about six weeks back, instead of the previous four weeks so it could have been lag from when my mom’s roommate was still living there. Every month since the water usage is zero. I’ll keep watching to make sure it stays where it should be. Thanks for asking! 🙂


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