Utilities are a hidden cost: You know you’ll need to plan for them, but when you’re looking for an apartment, they’re not at the top of your mind.So, before you sign that lease, make sure you can pay all your rental expenses, not just rent.
It won’t be much fun to sit in a cold apartment, Multi Utility Connections hunting for a neighbour’s unsecured Internet connection, because you forgot to budget for utilities.
Here are some rough rules of thumb for estimating how much you should expect to pay for various utilities:
During winter months, or if you don’t use air conditioning, expect to pay $30-$50 a month for electricity. A lot of your bill will simply depend on how much you’re home, how much you watch television (tube TVs are big electricity drains), how efficient your refrigerator is and how careful you are about turning off lights.
On average, expect to pay about $250-$300 per year for air conditioning. That said, air conditioning isn’t an evenly-distributed expense: Most people only use it about three to five months a year. And, in some places, like Minnesota or Maine, you may only use it a few times a summer, which makes it a much smaller expense.
If you live in a place with average weather, you’ll be running your A/C May-September and spending about $50-$80 a month extra on your electric bill. However, if you live in a really hot place, like Phoenix or Dallas, you’re going to be paying a lot more per month, for more months — $80-$90 a month (plus regular electricity costs), for eight months a year. So keep that in mind. Your silver lining is that you don’t have to worry much about heating costs.
If you are in a multi-unit building with radiators, there will almost certainly be no extra charge for heat. The landlord will pay the building’s heating bill in total and build that cost into the rent. However, if you and some friends team up and rent a house, you’ll be on the hook for keeping an oil burner going for heat and hot water, which could cost more than $300 a month. If you have gas or forced-air heating expect to pay at least $100 a month in the deep winter, though the cost can vary. One good way to find out what to expect is simply to ask the landlord or a previous tenant.
In some buildings, if you have a gas range, you’ll have to pay for the natural gas that you use during cooking. (And in some buildings, the natural gas will also provide your heat.) With cooking, the cost is minimal — $15 a month at most, usually quite a lot less. It really all depends how much you cook at home.
Monthly, expect to pay about $45. Keep in mind that you can split the cost with as many other people as are using your connection, so if you have two roommates, that’s only $15 a person per month. The other thing to consider is bundling your Internet with your cable. You can often get a deal that way, if you decide you want cable.
This is an optional expense. With the new high-definition televisions, and their digital antennae, it’s easy to get great reception on network TV, and then you can use online streaming services for the rest of your needs. This will cost you about $20 a month, if you subscribe to two services.