FOOD FOR THOUGHT - Chit U. Juan - The Philippine Star

When young people choose to take charge of responsibilities they refer to it as “adulting.” They look at their financial obligations, they pay their own bills and other tasks that otherwise a child will not have time for or care to think about.

Well, I have my own version of adulting, even if I am already an adult. It’s probably called “being senior and active” and it does keep your mind very active. I am trying to pay my bills online, check my electric consumption and looking at monthly bills with eagle eyes when I never cared that much before. I now have time to nitpick and check the line items.

Did you ever take a second look at your electric bills? I challenge you to get your past year’s bills and compare your monthly consumption pattern, the many weird line items like generation charge, distribution charge and cost per kilowatt hour. I had to get a professional energy expert to explain each item to me. What can I control? What is beyond my control?

Next, check your mobile phone bill. Do you know why you are charged such and such amount that you have no control over?

And finally your water bill. For those whose water meters are located in vulnerable areas like outside your gates, look again. Your meter may not be there anymore, especially if it is the brass kind that junk shops easily buy from petty thieves. Am glad Manila Water now changed meters to PVC, which thieves will no longer take interest in. When our meter was stolen a few days ago, I was aghast but had to find friends in Manila Water who helped reconnect the water immediately (I had free running water for 12 hours) and install a new meter the very next day. But that is how lucky I got. What about others who suffer the same fate but have to wait for regular service? Check your water bill, know your meter number and take a photo and keep it in your notes in your phone.

What an adulting experience. At the farm, my water bill increased three times because someone broke a pipe. This is real adulting – knowing what happens when a pipe is run over by a vehicle. Your bill can run up to three times the usual, and you need to relocate pipes, etc.

Many seniors and adults leave it to their assistants, secretaries and staff to pay their bills and analyze their consumption pattern. But part of adulting is to know where your hard-earned money, pension or social security money goes. You must not take these matters sitting down. But have a voice and know what you are talking about. I like to understand how billing is done and if every consumer did this we can let these utility companies (whose mission is of great public interest) shape up and explain every bill they send us. I bet even the most intelligent Wharton graduate will be challenged to analyze our electric bills!

Another annual bill we pay are realty taxes. If you own any real estate you probably should know about discounts when you pay your realty tax early, like before Jan. 31. I paid mine last year to avail of the 10 percent discount. That gives you a 10 percent effective return on your money. You should be able to save if you pay these bills on time. Some other expenses like condominium association dues, membership fees in organizations and other groups also extend an early bird discount. Be an early bird this year rather than a buzzer beater forever.

Another adulting experience is checking your cable and internet connections. While it is easy to call a friend to just choose the best plans for you, you are the one who lives through the choices. Did you know for example that there are prepaid cable services? A cable company or rather a satellite provider gives you a choice of 50 to 200 channels and you pay what works for you. You may also pay monthly like a prepaid load but it does give you a choice of number of channels.

For the internet connections, you can choose the speed of your service. Not all providers give the same service, unfortunately. You might even be paying for two providers (like me) for guaranteed uninterrupted internet connection.

This year, start to take things into your own hands and learn a little bit about where your money goes. Though it is a fact of life that we have monthly expenses, many household members do not bother because they do not pay the bills.

I remember when I first paid my own electric bill, I made sure all lights are off when not being used, I learned the difference between fluorescent bulbs vs incandescent and these days, LED vs CFL. You have to keep up with the times and new technology. I try not to use phantom loads (the lights on appliances that are plugged even when not in use) by using power cords that have switches, etc. We did this back in 2007. Then it becomes a habit not to be wasteful about electricity, even when it was much cheaper.

When we start adulting, we pay the bills. Then we learn to conserve or at least know where our money goes. It is, however, still a choice. I have friends who turn on their air-conditioners and leave the doors open…just because they can afford the bill. That is a big no-no, but they claim it is an inverter anyway. I do not know if that is a smart thing to do. Use inverter appliances because they save electric consumption, not because we want to be wasteful more efficiently.

Check your bills. We cannot just grin and bear it. We have to know what we can do to change things. Then we can lobby for better services.

That is real adulting.


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