So what is my contribution on this fine Wednesday? Reading your utility meters! How does it work for me? It helps me keep tabs on my bills.
First off, if this is something new for you, you will need to learn how to read each of your meters. The electricity meter may read differently than the water meter. I can't easily get to my water meter since it is under a huge cement lid, so I don't bother with that meter. Many water meters are on the side of the house and easy to see, so you might want to read it. The electricity meters will be on the side of the house (at least mine always have been) and you can easily read it as well.
Once you have learned how to read the meter, find out what your billing cycle is. Is the meter read on the 20th of the month? Every other month? Our electric meter is read somewhere in the ballpark of the 20th of the month, so the billing cycle is usually between 28 and 31 days.
After you have done those two suggestions, have a consistent place to record and keep this information. I have a notebook that I've paper clipped a page (for easy reference) and I jot down the date and the meter reading. Then I tally up how much power has been used so far. We also have propane, so I check the level of the tank at the same time I'm checking the electricity meter and jot down the percentage in the tank.
By keeping all the information in the same place, it is easy to compare prior readings to see if we are way off the charts in power usage or propane usage. For example, this month our power usage seems to be higher than during the last two months. I'm a bit puzzled by this because last month we had Christmas lights on the tree and the house, and our usage wasn't as high. This says to me that I've slacked off on turning things off that weren't necessary to be on. Things like the printer staying on all day for no reason, the TV on in the bedroom if I'm in the kitchen baking. Last month, my bill was $88.87, but since I can see that our usage is higher this time, I know that my bill will be closer to $100 this time around. Since I'm keeping an eye on my utilities, I'm keeping an eye on my budget too. I have a certain peace of mind each month because I can guesstimate what my bills will be based on my own readings. This is what works for me!
**If you have the ability to check the water meter, I would strongly suggest doing so. While growing up, my Dad worked for and ran a water district. I would hear stories all the time of people who would have a water leak, but not know it until the bill came, and their water "usage" was off the charts because they were unaware that they even had a leak. The water passed the meter, so you are being charged for it. It is best to keep an eye on this and find the problem early instead of having an astronomical bill. If mine were easier to get to, I would read it because we get billed every other month. That means if I had a leak, it would be a while until we learned about it.