This past month, a friend of mine had a major water main problem at his home. It turns out a small pipe had been leaking for quite some time and finally those small cracks turned into a large break, ending with water gushing into his basement. This caused significant damage and required some extensive repairs.
Unfortunately, it turns out this is something he could have caught much earlier.
While we can’t spend our time inspecting all of the pipes inside our walls, there is one way we can check the health of those pipes – our water bills. It’s important to always check your utility bills to try and head off problems before they become disasters.
Look At Your Water Bills
In general, if you’re not making major changes to your home (installing a pool or a sprinkler system, for example), your water bills should stay relatively the same throughout the year. Sure, if you water your lawn in the summer months, you may see an increase, but then you can compare those numbers to the same months the previous year.
My water bill comes quarterly, so it’s a bit harder to compare, but I always look back at previous bills and compare the water usage, and it’s relatively stable.
It turns out my friend had noticed an increase in his water bill, but had just paid off the money, thinking the rates were rising. After all, it wasn’t that big of a bill. But if he had looked closer, he would have seen that his water usage had suddenly jumped and was continuing to jump. Why? Because water was leaking from the pipes and into his house.
This can also be a way to see if you have a leak somewhere not in a pipe, such as a trickling toilet you haven’t noticed or a leaky sink. Ideally, these are things you would be checking out regularly, but maybe you have a bathroom or utility sink you don’t use often.
Check Your Other Bills Too
Sudden jumps in any of your usage can be bad. I noticed a jump in my electric bill not long before my air conditioner died. It turns out it wasn’t pumping as efficiently, so it was running significantly more often than it needed to. Of course, I figured it was just that the temperatures had been high, but now I know better. I should have taken that opportunity to check out the major appliances in my house and see if I could determine whether one was running harder than I thought it should be.
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.