When making the transition into a new living space, budgeting is key. Your moving truck bill or the price of a new couch comes to mind. Don’t forget to ask yourself: how much do utilities cost? The monthly payment for your apartment utilities is an expense that could go overlooked.
If you start a new lease in Boston or Chicago during the balmy summer, you may forget that your heater will be on non-stop come winter. Your utility costs can add up quickly, and it’s important to consider them before moving into a new apartment.
The average utility bill can fluctuate depending on a number of things. However, plan on your utility bill being around $200 in a standard one bedroom apartment.
What Utilities are Included in my Lease?
First things first, review your lease and read it thoroughly. If you see that your landlord covers the cost of many common utilities (i.e. trash and water), you are likely paying a premium for rent. If your rent looks like an absolute bargain, you might be covering the costs of all of your utilities. Check your lease to see what utilities you will be paying for, and make sure to factor that into your budgeting.
While it varies landlord to landlord, it’s common for renters to have their trash and water bill covered by their landlord. The renter will then be responsible for the electric and gas bill. Although it’s common for these utilties to be covered, it’s not guaranteed by any means.
The bill for trash and recycling services usually costs between $12-$20 a month. Water usage varies, but plan on the average water bill for a one bedroom apartment to be around $50.
Your electricity bill will likely be the largest (and most necessary) portion of your total utility bill, so it’s important to know what you’re paying for. There are two major contributing factors that will determine the extent of your electricity bill.
Simply put, the bigger the home the more space you’ll have to heat or cool if those appliances are electric. Consider both floor space and the height of your ceiling. Both can have an effect on your electric bill.
Number of Roommates
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you have multiple roommates, that’s more lights being on, more appliances being used, and more phones being charged. Prepare for your electricity bill to be significantly higher if you live with roommates. For a typical one bedroom apartment with no A/C or heater usage, your electricity bill will likely be around $30-$50.
How to Save on your Electricity Bill
There are a few ways to cut down on a large electricity bill. Try a few of these out if your bill is larger than you hoped.
- Invest in products that specialize in energy efficiency like Energy Star labeled appliances and LED light bulbs.
- Turn your electronics and lights off when you’re away. It may not seem like much, but getting in this habit will eventually add up.
- Do energy-strenuous chores like running your dishwasher and laundry machine late at night or early in the morning when costs are cheaper.
- Make sure your appliances are in great condition. Cleaning out dirty filters and vents and proper maintenance will lead to more energy-efficient appliances.
- Heat and cool only the rooms you use. If you need to crank up the heater while you watch TV in the living room, close off your bedroom vent.
The Cost of Air Conditioning
If your apartment comes equipped with an air conditioner, know that the cost of running it can add up quickly. Your air conditioning usage will vary depending on where you live, what season it is, and your tolerance of heat. Living in a cooler city will limit your AC usage and have your wallet thanking you. Just open up the windows and let the breeze roll in.
If you use your air conditioner frequently, your electricity bill will likely be an additional $50-$70. This number will obviously differ depending on your usage and the size of your apartment.
The gas bill can be a bit tricky. Make sure to check out your appliances to see what can be affecting your gas bill. If your oven/stove uses a gas range as opposed to electric, you’ll be charged for the use of the natural gas. Fortunately, gas appliances tend to be cheaper than their electric counterparts. Even if you’re passionate about cooking and cook every night, that cost of the cooking gas shouldn’t equate to more than $15 a month.
Your gas bill and electric bill will usually be lumped together. Going on to your utility provider’s website and looking at a bill summary will give you a look into your gas and electricity usage.
The cost of heating can be included in your electric and gas bill, or lumped into your rent. For a gas heater, the average monthly cost is $40. Electricity is more costly and could come in at around $160 per month. If you are unsure of what to expect for heating costs, ask the landlord what type of heating is in the apartment and call the utility company and ask for the average monthly bill for that address.
Another apartment essential that’s easily overlooked is internet. Before deciding on what internet service plan to go with, think about your internet usage.
Consider how many devices will be using internet and what they’ll be doing. If you just casually browse the web or social media, you can make due with a cheaper plan. Speeds of about 6-10 Mbps should be adequate for your usage.
For activities that require more data like video streaming or online gaming, you’re going to need faster speeds. Look for a plan with speeds of at least 20+ Mbps. If you want to get rid of any lag issues, you’ll want to bump that up to 50+ Mbps.
If you’re having a difficult time determining how fast your internet speed need to be, this quiz will give you a better idea. The cost of an internet bill for your typical internet user will be around $30-$60 a month. If your internet connection is spotty, Wi-Fi extenders can give you a more steady connection without needing to upgrade your plan.
Cable is not as necessary as it once was with more streaming alternatives than ever. This is a completely optional expense, and many can get by without paying for cable. The number of cord-cutters (those who cancel their cable services, often in favor of less expensive Internet-based options) in the U.S. is expected to reach 33 million this year.
If you can’t live without cable, consider what you are watching. Lower tier packages might suit your needs just fine and can be as cheap as $10. Most people opt for more premium packages. Average cable plans are around $50 a month, and adding on the extras can put you in the $70-$80 range. The top tier packages could put you over $100 a month.
Consider what you watch, and consider whether or not you could save money by switching over to streaming services. To put things into perspective, you can subscribe to Netflix ($8-$14), Hulu ($8-$12) and HBO Now ($15) for a total cost between $31-$41 a month.
If you use streaming services often, keep your internet plan in mind. You’ll need a fast, steady connection to stream HD video smoothly. Another factor to keep in mind is that many services can bundle internet with cable for a cheaper price. If you need you’re unwilling to cut the cord, look into these packages.
Although it’s not a utility, another cost that you should consider while budgeting is the cost of renter’s insurance. Renter’s insurance is usually not required, but double check your lease as some landlords demand some sort of insurance.
Renter’s insurance is similar to homeowner’s insurance but differs as there is no coverage for the physical building. This covers the cost of your possessions that may have been lost or damaged due to burglary, fires, vandalism, etc. Renter’s insurance will also you cover you in any potential liability claims.
Even if it’s not necessary for your apartment or required by law, look into coverage as the small monthly cost is worth it. Renter’s insurance is usually only around $15-$30 a month. Well worth the price for a little peace of mind!
Total Utility Cost?
Your total apartment utility costs are obviously going to depend on many things such as where you live, how many people you live with, and what you do on a daily basis. To get a better idea of what you can expect to pay, here is a breakdown of costs.
If you don’t run A/C or pay for cable, expect your average utility bill to within $90-$150. Heating and air conditioning costs are going to vary based on a number of things.
The rule of thumb is to prepare to spend 20% of your rent on utilities. Asking your landlord or a current tenant for the average monthly utility bill to get a more accurate estimate.