Sunday, September 18, 2011


One of the strategies that Fritz and I use for running our household on a single income is to minimize and eliminate recurring and operating costs. We have share a car, we have no cable and no landline phone, no housekeeper nor landscaper, our cell phones are prepaid, and we monitor our utility bill carefully. 

The utility bill while we were renting produced hours of concerned discussion once we discovered, about 6 months after moving in, that the utilities company was estimating our usage. They were estimating our usage the day we began renting and they were STILL estimating our usage 20 months later when we moved out. More disconcerting? The ACTUAL meter was always higher than the ESTIMATED meter. Meaning that, at some point, somebody used a lot more electricity than the utility company charged for. And we were pretty sure it was some previous renter...but it was going to be impossible to prove by the time we figured out what was going on. We felt simultaneously lucky and guilty when we moved out without the incongruent readings falling upon our shoulders. Whew! or Shame on us!

Now that we have our own house with a radio-signal-sending-meter-reading-capabilities, we're more nerdy than ever about walking around the house and trying to figure out where our utility money is going. This summer, we received our lowest utility bill ever in Denver. In fact, every month our utility bill is lower in the new house than the old rented house, despite the fact that our new house is about double the square feet of our rental. What a difference 60 years of increasingly energy efficient building technology can make! Awesome.

The utility company further fed our nerdy nature by sending us a little comparison between our house's energy consumption and the energy consumption of 45 neighboring houses. It ranked us. (Just like high school, right?) I don't know if this is new: 1) for the utilities company 2) because of the radio-signal-sending-meter-reading-capabilities in our new house or 3) because we're owners now instead of renters. However, there's nothing like a ranking to bring out my delightfully charming competitive nature. And there's nothing like a lot of charts to bring out Fritz's supportive scientific reckoning.

Me: "Look we got a 'GOOD' - That's only ONE smiley face, not TWO. Hmmm. Our rank is 17 out of 45! And we're not using AC! Who could be better than us? What are they doing differently?"

Fritz: "Did this ranking account for household size? What about square feet?"

This ability to support and validate your spouse in their silliness is really is one of the wonders of marriage. At the beginning of our marriage it seemed to be one part intuition and one part consideration, but it's increasingly becoming some sort of subconscious dance. And while it seems harmless now, I do wonder about where it could go.

And as for that ranking? I think it's smart that the utility company is doing something like this. As long as WE continue to get a smiley face, that is. I just hope the water supplier doesn't follow this lead, because I'm pretty sure with all our yard work this summer, we'd be getting frowny faces; that's one operating cost that needs some work.

1 comment:

Meredith said...

That's cool about the radio signal meter readings! The guys ride around our neighborhood going from driveway to driveway, leaving their cars on the entire time! What a waste of gas.