Keep The Lights On: Setting Up Utilities For Your First Apartment
Moving into your first apartment can be both exciting and overwhelming. Between organizing the space so it’s exactly the way you pictured it to managing a new list of bills every month, there’s a lot to cross off your list. One major thing you don’t want to forget about is setting up your apartment utilities. Here’s everything you need to know about which utilities you might need, how to sign up and pay for them, and more.
First things first: Set up your utilities early. You don’t want to move in and have a lack of water, heat or electric holding you back from really getting settled. Ask your landlord or apartment management company what utilities you’re in charge of, as they may differ from one complex to another. Some utilities may take a few days to set up, or you might need to make an appointment in advance.
Be prepared with the right information, too, like your name, address, social security number and bank account information if you want to sign up for automatic bill payments.
There are several common utilities that you may need to set up in your new apartment.
If you’re renting, you most likely won’t need to set up water for your apartment, though every situation is different. To set up water in your new apartment, find out who your water company is and contact it. Many companies will allow you to set up an account online where you can schedule the day and time that you’ll need the water turned on.
Your water bill will vary month to month based on the amount of water you use, so monitor your bills to ensure they accurately reflect your water usage. Your water company may also oversee the sewage for your apartment, so that will be calculated into the bill, too. If something seems too low or too high, then you should contact your water company ASAP.
Gas, like water, may not need to be set up if you’re renting your apartment, but every home is different. Find out who your gas company is and contact it to ensure that your gas is turned on and that your account is set up. Your gas may be connected to your stove and the heat in your apartment, so you’ll want both of those items to be working before you move in.
Pro Tip: It’s important to know who your gas company is and have the phone number on hand in case of an emergency. Gas is highly flammable, so if you ever smell gas in your apartment, don’t light any fires (like candles), and call your company ASAP.
Your apartment’s heat may be generated by gas rather than electricity, so if your gas is set up, then your heat should be working. But if your heat is electric, make sure your electric is set up (see the next section) to ensure that you’re prepared for any cold winters coming your way.
Pro Tip: A home furnace should be serviced every two years or so. Check with your landlord to find out the last time it was serviced to make sure that your heat is running the way it should.
Some companies like PSE&G handle gas, heat and electric for houses and apartments. Find out who your electric company is and contact them to sign up for electricity. If you’re lucky, it’ll be one company handling all of these utilities. If not, make an account and enroll in automatic bill pay to ensure your electricity works when you move in.
Pro Tip: Your bill may fluctuate month to month depending on how much electricity you use. To save money, unplug the energy vampires in your home — your phone charger, coffee maker, television and more — every day when you aren’t using them. It could save you up to $198 per year.
Garbage And Recycling
First, it’s important to ask the landlord if garbage and recycling are included with the apartment or not. If not, then you need to figure out what your city handles. Some have contracts with private waste management companies that you or the landlord need to pay for, while others offer garbage and recycling services that are paid for via property taxes. Check out your city’s local website for more information on these sanitation services.
Ah, WiFi. We really can’t live without it anymore, can we? To set up your internet, consider whether you’ll want to bundle it with a television package or if you’ll be paying for it separately. Next, find out what internet providers service your area and what it could cost you to run your devices every month. Then determine the option that is best for your budget. All you have to do is call or go online and schedule a day and time for the company to come to your apartment and set up the internet. And in some cases, they can even mail the internet modem and router directly to you so you can set it up yourself. It’s important to explore all of your options so that you have a strong internet connection for your Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and more.
Not sure who the internet service provider is in your area? The website Who Is My ISP? can help.
Speaking of Netflix and Hulu, consider whether you even want traditional cable TV in your apartment. If you’re interested in signing up with Comcast, Verizon Fios or one of the other major providers, consider a bundle. A bundle is when your TV, internet and home phone are all wrapped into one monthly fee. If you’re lucky, you can sign up for an introductory offer and save money, but be aware that when that offer period ends, your monthly bill could easily double.
Pro Tip: If you watch all of your shows and movies on Netflix and Hulu, consider skipping traditional TV packages. You could end up saving a lot of money by cutting the cable cord and paying for all your streaming services separately.
Landlines do still exist. But if you’re someone who plans to just use your cell phone as your home phone, then you might not need a bundle through your TV provider. Here’s the catch, though — getting a landline in a TV bundle of cable, internet and phone service actually makes the monthly bill cheaper. Yup, getting one more service in that package makes it more affordable — who knew.
So crunch the numbers. How much does your cell phone bill cost? How much will your monthly internet cost if set up separately? And what are you paying for all of your streaming services? All of this could come out to a total cost that is more budget-friendly than a bundle. Plus, you won’t need to remember another phone number.
It’s not an apartment utility per se, but your own cell phone plan might be the next most important thing to cross off your list. So if you’re someone who has been on their parents’ plan for years and wants to make the transition to real “adulthood” by getting their own, here’s what you need to know.
To make the switch from your parents’ cell phone plan to your own, contact your cell phone provider. You’ll need the person who is the account owner to help you transfer your line off of their account. In order to get your own cell phone plan, you need to be at least 18 years or older (19 in Alabama) and also undergo a credit check. If you have limited credit experience, it could be more costly or difficult to get your own plan. Once the transfer goes through, your parents will see one less phone line on their plan. You’ll then need to sign up for your own monthly service package before it’s officially complete.
Pro Tip: Consider the cost of your own phone plan and the cost of your phone line in a family plan. A family plan is often more affordable for everyone involved. Instead of switching to your own account, consider just paying for your line from now on. You can schedule automatic payments to your parents or write them a check every month.
Protecting Your Stuff
Once your apartment utilities are all set up and you’re moved in, protect your belongings by getting renters insurance. You might think this is something you can skip, but we highly recommend you don’t. Renters insurance is super affordable and can cost as little as a few bucks per month. It covers everything from fire damage to theft to water damage from home appliances and more. Some renters insurance plans even cover your friends’ items when they’re in your apartment or your items when you’re traveling. It’s a no-brainer and a must-have when you move into your new apartment. Add it to the list of “utilities” that you need to sign up for.
Writing A Check
Setting up all of your apartment utilities also means paying monthly bills. Of course, the easiest way to never miss a due date is to set up automatic bill pay through your bank or credit card. However, some companies may be more old school and don’t have that technology just yet. If that’s the case, it’s important to know how to write a check.
If you don’t have a checkbook or checks, request them from your bank. Then get ready to write. Simply fill in the date on the line in the upper right-hand corner. Next, write who the check is for on the first line, and make sure you have the company’s name written correctly.
Then fill in the numerical digit in the box on the right-hand side so you know exactly how much you’re paying. You’re also going to write that digit out in word form on the line to the left of the number box. For instance, if you’re writing a check to New York Electric for $50.00, you would write “fifty dollars and zero cents” — yes, you need to say how many cents there are in this payment. If you have room left over on the line leading to the box, just draw a line out from the last word to the end of the line before the box.
Lastly, sign your name on the line in the bottom right-hand corner of the check, and then make a note of what the payment is for on the line in the bottom left-hand corner. Some companies ask that you also include your policy or account number on the check, so write this information on the line on the bottom left, too. Once that’s done, you’re ready to rip the check out and mail it to your utility company.
Utilities are an important part of setting up your apartment. Make a checklist and stick to it to make sure you have all the technology and services you need in your new home. Once it’s all done, you can sit back, relax and live your best life in your new home.