If your household has seen at least one of its monthly bills increase this month, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans are experiencing rising prices in utilities and other bills.
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Why are these bills increasing in cost and how can households get expenses under control? Here is a closer look at the top household bills that will become more expensive in February.
Since October 2022, media outlets have been reporting about the price of natural gas increasing.
The closest indicator the United States has for a universal price is the Henry Hub, said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. This price has increased by more than 53% since 2021. Ramhold said households that use gas stoves or gas heaters and those living in areas where there is extreme winter weather will likely have larger overall winter bills.
To combat these costs, money-saving expert Andrea Woroch recommends turning your thermostat down just one degree during cold months. Households can save up to 3% for each degree the thermostat is lowered in the winter, according to the Department of Energy & Environment. For winter months, the Department of Energy & Environment recommends setting your thermostat to 68 degrees when occupying a workspace. Then, set it to 60 to 65 degrees or turn it off when you’re not working or at home.
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Rising electric prices will impact even those who don’t have gas appliances. Ramhold said shortages of natural gas and increased costs will affect areas that don’t seem like they’re directly related because natural gas is used in power plants as part of the process of generating electricity.
“We’ve already seen electrical rates climbing since September 2022 and some states are certainly seeing higher jumps than others,” Ramhold said. “The rate of increase is also not expected to slow down even as inflation may ease overall, which means most Americans can expect their electrical bills to get at least a little higher, if not significantly more so.”
So how can you save on a higher electric bill? Woroch said while the tip of turning off your TV and computer/laptop when you’re not using it may help reduce energy, plugged-in gadgets continue using electricity.
For bigger monthly savings, unplug gadgets and small kitchen appliances when you’re not using them. Woroch said the savings can be up to 10% off your monthly utility bill, as reported by the Department of Energy & Environment.
Remembering to unplug everything all the time can be tedious or easy to forget for households. To avoid forgetting, Woroch recommends using power strips or smart plugs that are Wi-Fi enabled so you can control them from your phone.
Grocery bills continue to take huge bites out of household budgets and, unfortunately, food costs are not anticipated to ease anytime soon. Ramhold said that while some price increases have slowed down, grocery prices for staples like eggs and meats continue to cause a lot of sticker shock due to massive jumps in costs.
According to the USDA ERS Food Price Outlook, 2023 food-at-home prices are predicted to increase 8% with a prediction interval of 4.5% to 11.7% this year. Woroch recommends getting in the habit of meal planning now, if you haven’t already started, to limit unnecessary purchases. Make sure everything you buy gets eaten and nothing is wasted.
Another approach is to use cash-back apps and order online. “This allows you to earn points towards free gift cards to stores like Target and Walmart which sell groceries, to offset future grocery purchases,” Woroch said.
Those who have a variable interest credit card(s) with a revolving balance or any balance on a variable rate loan will likely see their payments increase this year. Woroch said this is thanks to the Federal Reserve rate hike of 0.25%.
To save money, Woroch recommends transferring your balance to a zero-balance transfer card.
“This gives you anywhere from 12 to 21 months to pay down debt without interest fees eating up your payments,” Woroch said. “To find the best balance transfer card for your needs, make sure you compare options.”
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