Finances & Money

Estimated vs Actual Readings: It’s an expensive month

It’s July 31st, and we haven’t paid an electric bill since April 5th. It’s been almost 4 months since we sent a check to Pepco.

Because we have a pool, we must have a 6 ft privacy fence and a locked gate. Unfortunately, our power meter is inside the gate, so we either need to call in the actual reading or keep the gate unlocked on the scheduled reading day. In May, I called in an actual reading, but they didn’t use it. I left the gate unlocked in June, but they didn’t get an actual reading then either. This month, they finally took a reading.

Apparently the previous owners used much more electricity than we do, so when an actual reading has been taken, we usually get a giant credit ($300-400). That means we are overpaying each month that the reading is estimated, but getting a few months with no payment. This time, I was surprised that our credit lasted so long since it’s summertime and we use A/C and a pool pump. Turns out it all caught up to us though.

This months electric bill is $398! There’s a good and bad way to look at it though. Basically, that means we’ve only been using $100 per month in electricity since opening our pool and using the A/C, but the bad thing is it hits us all at once.

Luckily, I keep reserves for just such an occurrence, but I shouldn’t need to. I should have paid more attention to the energy usage and budgeted accordingly for when they finally took an actual reading. When we had a credit that covered our usage for a month, I should have been skeptical. I should have taken the actual reading myself and compared to our bill to find out whether we were over or under since Pepco wasn’t doing it for us properly. But instead, I just let each month slide, assuming that Pepco knew better than I did.

Overall, it’s going to be an expensive month. Not only do we have the high electric bill, but I also paid for a day at the spa for my wife’s 30th birthday, as well as bought her a small Coach handbag (she’s afraid to use it though). I splurged for her gifts because I knew she deserved it for being such a wonderful wife and friend. We spend so little on ourselves that it was nice to spend a bit for a special occasion.

So the lesson is to monitor your bills and spending. Don’t let the utility companies get away with estimates as it could come back and bite you in the end. Also, stay true to your budget. If you skipped a month because of a credit, move that budgeted amount to the next month instead of spending it on something else (I spent it on debt pay-down). This usually applies to things like utilities and groceries, but also to any other fluctuating bills.

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Clever Dude


  • Similar thing happened to me a while back. We rented a house in North Carolina and the proration of the bills made it look nice. However, the insulation in the house wasn’t up to par and we were wasting tons of energy.

  • They did that once to me. I had a note on my bill that said “a recent month has been an estimated billing, your next few bills may be higher or lower than normal”. It was a little higher a couple months later (compared to the previous year) but not by much.

    Still, it upsets me a little that they even do “estimated” billing.

  • so spending more on electricity is good to save money, but paying more in taxes to get a refund is bad?

    ya lost me there bud.

    (o yeah, hit me up about the house i am looking at)

  • […] last month, I told you we were hit with an almost $400 electric bill. We had some major discrepancies in how they were calculating our estimated vs actual bill, but it […]

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