Quick quiz. Which utility costs your family more?
- garbage/sewer, or
Yeah, I wasn’t quite sure either.
I actually thought water would top the list since we’ve been living through a severe multiyear drought in our area. Nope. Electricity and the cable/Internet combo are neck and neck at the top. In fact, our combined sewer/refuse charges are more than double our water cost!
And most kids probably don’t realize all those things cost anything at all.
Ummm. Because you never told them!
The next time your utility bill arrives. Call the kids over. Ask them to guess how much each utility costs. Reveal the numbers. It can be a real eye opener.
If your utility bill is like mine, it actually has some pretty interesting details inside. The data and charts make good fodder for a family finance discussion.
I can see the monthly usage trend for electricity, gas, and water over the past year. One stays fairly flat. One dips in the summer. One dips in the winter. Challenge the kids to explain the seasonality.
I can see a usage comparison to the previous year. Electricity and gas are up from last year. Water is down. Why? What can we do as a family to reduce usage? Do we really need every light on in the house? Can we wear our sweatshirts instead of cranking the heat?
I can see the average daily cost for each utility by month too. How do the daily tallies compare with what your kids make in weekly allowance or odd job payments or birthday checks? How does the monthly total compare to your teen’s summer job earnings? Those comparisons will get their attention.
You and your kids might be wondering how your utility costs compare to what others are paying. Check out Numbeo to look up costs in your area. Move.org shares stats for typical US families in Utility Bills 101. How does your family stack up? Are there logical reasons for exceeding the averages?
If the utility audit bores your kids, there’s one sure-fire way to get their attention. Propose divvying up the bill and charging each kid for their fair share like we do with our cell phone data plan. Suddenly, utilities just got a lot more interesting!
Interested or not, your kids will at least be more informed. It’s important to know that the everyday basics we often take for granted cost money.
After all your quick quizzes on the utility bills, your kids will be more prepared for the big test someday: venturing out on their own financially.
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