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Housing in the US
Amenities and Utility Costs
As soon as you have found a place to live, no matter if you have decided to rent or buy, you need to set up your US utilities (if you want heat, running water and electricity, that is). This can be a little bit more confusing than you would expect. But never fear, we’ll walk you through the process.
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Phone, Internet, and Cable TV
While not as important as setting up gas, electricity, and water, many expats just cannot do without certain amenities, such as an internet connection or cable TV. It might surprise you that many internet and cable TV providers offer package deals at a reasonable price. In some cases, this option is much cheaper than buying cable TV individually. It makes sense to shop around to get a good deal.
Some expats choose to forego your traditional landline phone in favor of your mobile phone. Particularly those who are out and about a lot might find that relying solely on their cell phone can be an advantage. You can choose among many providers and many plans or buy a prepaid cell phone for starters. The options are endless and which one you ultimately choose depends on your needs. Do you need that bigger texting plan? Can you live without HBO? Keep in mind that much like other utilities providers, your phone or cable company will need some time to set up your connection, so get in touch with them early on.
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Timeline for Setting up Your US Utilities
You will probably not want to move into your new home and find that you’re stuck there without access to electricity or running water. This is why it is important to take care of your utilities early on in the game. In some cases, your utilities can be set up rather quickly, in others you might have to wait a while. So contact your providers early on and find out how much time they need and what the exact process will be like. You should also ask them if you are required to pay a deposit, so that you can plan your US budget accordingly.
Some upper-class residential areas in the United States are gated communities. If you are choosing such a community as your new home, you should find out how to navigate the security fence when you are moving in and/or when an employee of your utility company has to visit your house for some reason. You might be able to get the security code from your landlord.
Utility Cost Factors
Although you will probably invest a big part of your budget in your rent or mortgage payments, you should not underestimate the cost of utilities. If, on top of water, gas, and electricity, you factor in phone and internet costs, the total might not be much less than your monthly rent. This is why it is important to know how much you will have to spend on power, water, and waste disposal. Also keep in mind that these costs can vary strongly depending on if you live in a small apartment or in a big house with a yard.
Power (through gas and electricity) is probably the biggest figure on any utility bill. The amount you will be charged at the end of the month depends on how much you use and how much your provider charges per kilowatt-hour. Keep in mind that the prices fluctuate heavily depending on the time of year and even on the time of day.
To estimate the costs, ask your landlord what exactly is included in the rent and how much their previous tenants paid for their gas and electricity. In addition, you can use a utilities cost calculator to get a better idea of how much you will have to spend. In general, these are the monthly costs you can expect in additional charges:
- Water and sewage service can amount to anything between $10 and $200 per month (depending on the size of your home)
- Garbage pick-up starts at $10 (additional fees may arise for recycling)
- Home and cell phone bills can amount up to $70-$250 altogether
- An internet connection can cost up to $50
- Cable and satellite TV are between $25 and $150