Thursday, July 23, 2009

determine your prorated share of the utility bill

Americans are scared, for these are lean and mean times, for anyone who has read the news, though we may be encouraged by signs that the economy has hit bottom and the downturn could be due for an upswing. With experts saying the unemployment rate is likely to go up past 10% before companies start hiring again, the sheer number of unemployed Americans in the middle of a jobs recession will likely provide the necessary heat to make people change their debt-accumulating, hypomanic ways. What I mean by "necessary heat" is, in a recent Lehrer News Hour segment analyzing the latest political events (concerning David Souter's retirement and Arlen Specter changing party affiliation), David Brooks offers a profound insight that, after turning it over in my head, I would tend to agree with more than not:
You don't change when you see the light. You change when you feel the heat.
Reference: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/jan-june09/politicalwrap_05-01.html

Because this economic slump may be severe and prolonged, an article on how Americans need to start consuming again makes the following points:
  • We've gone from an age of entitlement to an age of thrift.

  • the American population, continually infused with immigrants, has self-selected for hypomania, i.e., a tendency to action, an appetite for risk, an endless belief in human possibilities
Reference: http://www.slate.com/id/2213595/pagenum/all/#p2

Ever since I turned 19 and left home for college, I've lived with other people (and still do). This has not only expanded my social repertoire, but saves me a lot of money. In the spirit of the age of thrift, you, former sole occupant of the 1 bedroom or studio apartment, now may be in a shared housing situation, via Craigslist, living with one or more mates in a room, flat or house. When it comes time for roommates to divvy up the gas and electricity bill by figuring out who owes what, one of the more difficult tasks to settle may be how to fairly apportion the amount you owe, given that the day you move in may be after the day the billing period begins (or the day you move out before the date the billing period ends). In either case, you may not feel it's entirely fair to divide the gas & electricity bill, which accounts for energy usage in the unit, evenly among you and your fellow tenants under the lease, because then you would be liable for days when you could not possibly have drawn power from the grid or gas from the line. Now, courtesy of my former housemate Kimberly Scott (now Kimberly Lightholder), who provided this formula to me after a bit of trial and error, here's a simple and easy way for you to fairly prorate your share of the utilities (assuming, of course, that there are no other issues involved in the fair split, or prorating, of the monthly bill, such as one or more flatmates' constant use of a high energy consuming device, such as the central gas heater, or an electric heater, air conditioner, mini-refrigerator, grow lights, and/or aquarium):

The test for this formula is, if you add up the amount that each person is calculated to owe, for all residents, that should equal the amount in the electric & gas bill.
  1. ascertain the number of billing days in the billing period. Let's call this b. For example, if your billing period is from June 7 to July 8, b should be 32 days

  2. count the number of days you lived in the residence. Let's call this a.

  3. determine the number of total billing days. That is, add up the number of days each person lived in the unit, for all residents. For example, let's say 4 people were already residing in the 5 bedroom house you just moved into:

    total billing days = b + b + b + b + a

  4. divide the bill amount by the total billing days. The quotient let us call k. k is what you will multiply by the number of days you lived in the residence in order to arrive at your prorated share:

    amount of power bill
    -------------------------- = k
    total billing days

  5. k * a = your prorated share of the utility bill

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