The average monthly cost for utilities in Texas is $396. This is a hefty bill that’s often overlooked when designing the average homeowner’s/renter’s monthly budget, and keeping track of each utility you’re paying for can be difficult.
Utilities like electricity, gas, and water are crucial to a safe and comfortable home, so it’s important to stay informed and develop a plan and budget each time you move into a new home. Read on for our best tips on getting settled in your new Texas apartment (when it comes to utilities).
- Setting up utilities such as electricity, water, natural gas, Wifi, cable, and alarm/security systems is a crucial part of moving into any new home.
- Start by determining which utilities are handled by your landlord and which you need to set up yourself before move-in day.
- Contact local service providers for each utility service you’re responsible for, find an appropriate plan for you, and schedule an appointment for setup as necessary. At your appointment, come prepared with questions.
- It’s crucial to budget appropriately for utilities each month and to create a plan for making future monthly payments on time and in full.
Determine What Utilities You Need to Set Up
Utilities are a crucial yet frequently overlooked part of getting settled at your new address. When moving, it’s important to understand which utilities might be included in your rent and which you’ll need to set up and pay for yourself. You should look into setting up your apartment’s utilities a few weeks before you move in so that you’ll be able to settle into a fully functional home.
Check in with your landlord or examine your lease to find out which utilities are covered. When you determine which utilities you’ll need to cover yourself, ask whether your apartment building recommends any local preferred providers in particular.
Common utilities to consider include electricity, natural gas, Internet, cable TV, security/alarm systems and virtual doormen, trash collection/disposal, and water and sewer service. Many of these services are absolutely essential to a safe and comfortable life in your new home.
For instance, electricity is necessary to power your home’s lighting, appliances, air conditioning, and anything else that plugs into an outlet. Natural gas is needed for heat, and cooking if your apartment has a gas stove and oven. Internet service, cable, and/or landline phone service is essential for communication, especially if you work from home.
Running hot and cold water and a functional sewer system is crucial to a clean and healthy home. Proper trash collection and disposal is paramount in keeping your unit and building clean and pest-free, and a security or alarm system could save your life in the event of a break-in, fire, or gas leak.
Contact Service Providers
Once you’ve determined which utilities you’ll need to cover yourself, research providers in your area. For instance, there are five electric utility providers in Texas: Oncor (serves most of the Dallas/Fort Worth area), CenterPoint (Houston), AEP North (Abilene and the surrounding areas), AEP Central (Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley), and TNMP (Lewisville, much of the Gulf Coast).
You can search for water and sewer providers in your area of Texas here.
There are dozens of Internet, phone, and cable providers on the Texas market: Among the most popular are AT&T Internet, Xfinity, Spectrum, Nextlink Internet, and Rise Broadband. ADT, Texas State Alarm, Texas Security & Surveillance, and Smith Thompson in the Dallas/Fort Worth area are all popular Texas security/alarm system providers.
Once you’ve done your research and chosen a provider for each utility you’re responsible for, contact your provider to set up an account and/or schedule any necessary appointments (i.e., installment or setup appointments). This initial setup period is the perfect time to ask as many questions as possible.
You might want to ask if there is an introductory rate in place for new customers for each utility and how long it lasts in order to avoid a surprise spike in your monthly bill. Ask your electricity provider whether they offer the ability to choose between energy sources (i.e., the option to choose renewable energy).
Ask your Internet provider about data limits and whether a certain speed is guaranteed/whether there are speed options available.
Ask your water provider about the recent history of water leaks and main breaks and what they’ve cost for the local water system. Asking these types of questions upfront will help you ensure you’ve made the right choice with your provider and plan (and save you from added costs and inconveniences later, granting you peace of mind).
Depending on the utility and provider, you may need to schedule an initial appointment for installment and/or an introduction to your new plan. Most providers allow you to schedule an in-person appointment via their website, or you can schedule an appointment over the phone.
It’s important to make yourself available for these appointments during your move-in process (i.e., Wifi or alarm system installment), as this time spent with a professional will pay off in the long run. You’ll get all the necessary information and ensure that your utility system is installed properly.
In order to prepare for an appointment with your service provider, write down any questions and concerns you have and educate yourself about your chosen plan. Be prepared to discuss any potential changes to your rate and to schedule any necessary follow-up appointments. Be aware of any installation fees before scheduling an installation appointment.
Setting Up Utilities
Most utility companies offer several payment options and plans. For instance, autopay might be an option—you can simply allow your provider to automatically withdraw funds from your bank account each month. You may also be able to pay online via bank account or credit/debit card, receive paperless bills via email, and sign up for email or text reminders.
Most utility providers also allow you to pay via phone or send a check or money order in the mail. You can even pay in cash in person via an authorized payment agent or at a customer service walk-in center.
Budgeting for utilities is often not prioritized, but utilities are important to consider as a regular part of your monthly expenses. It might help you to factor in your average monthly utility costs as part of the money you set aside for rent each month. Credit counseling agencies nationwide agree that utility payments should constitute about 5-10% of your annual income.
Plan for Future Payments
In order to ensure you pay your monthly utility bill on time, set monthly reminders or sign up for reminders from your new provider. Pay the bill along with your monthly rent (or as soon as you receive it in the mail or via email).
If it’s financially feasible for you, setting up autopay for every utility possible may be the easiest option to ensure a bill is never paid late.