Sometimes weatherizing, hanging blankets, plastic wrapping the windows and stuffing towels under the doors isn't enough to bring a heating bill down to a budgetable range. This typically happens when the individual or family has extremely low income. Thankfully, there are ways to manage winter heating bills. Electric companies and gas companies have programs available for the very poor and families and individuals experiencing temporary hardships.
Electric companies are willing to work with the disadvantaged. However, the individual or family must be willing to communicate with the electric company. My electric company has two billing programs to help individuals, who are short on cash, including short term and long term extensions.
Short Term Extension
A short term extension splits the current electric bill in half and delays the first payment by seven days. The remainder of the bill is added to the next month. I utilize this option three to four times a year, depending on my financial circumstances.
If my current electric bill is $130 and due on the 11th, a short term extension will reduce the current payment to $65 due on the 17th. The remaining $65 will be added to my next electric bill.
Long Term Extension
A long term extension splits the current month's bill by 12.
With a long term extension, my current electric bill would be reduced to $10.83 and $10.83 would be added to every electric bill for the remaining 11 months.
Energy Efficiency Kit
My electric company also offers a free energy efficiency kit. The kit includes four CFL light bulbs, two low-flow shower heads, three aerators for kitchen and bathroom faucets, a hot water thermometer card and a thermometer for the refrigerator. By ordering this kit, I am saving myself more than $50 in supplies.
My gas company offers two budget plans, including flexible payments and budget payments, and they offer a complete list of charitable organizations that help the economically disadvantaged pay their gas bills.
The flexible payment plan is based on an individual or family's financial circumstances. To initiate this payment plan, the individual must contact the gas company and work out payment arrangements.
Budget payments allow households with gas services the ability to pay 11 months at a pre-determined amount. On the 12th month, the household must pay the remaining balance.
There are several charitable organizations that help families pay their gas bills. To find out the names and phone numbers of those organizations, dial 211 from your cell phone. The number is a nationwide number like 411, except is it a directory of charitable organizations that help families with their heating and cooling costs, home renovations and finding food.
Energy Assistance Program are available in most cities and communities. In Indianapolis, the EAP program is handled by the Community Action of Greater Indianapolis (CAGI). This organization helps the economically disadvantaged by paying a portion of their gas bills each month during winter. The funds are directly sent to the gas company on behalf of the disadvantaged customer.
Does your teen need something to do? Volunteer work is an excellent way to prepare teens for the career world. It also gives them great references for college and an opportunity to make a difference. But where can teens volunteer? My teenager and I have been researching the options to decide which one is best for her. Volunteering is a rewarding experience. But it's important to do all the research and find out which program your teen is most suited to. Many programs have one or two day positions that would be a great way to test the waters in several programs before finding a more permanent one.
Working with animals is fun and rewarding. There are various opportunities for teens to do so. Rescue organizations, veterinarians, horse ranches, and more often allow teens to help out. Call around to the organizations in your area to see who needs help. My daughter and I learned that, depending on age, the nature of the opportunity, and each organization, an adult may need to volunteer along with the teen. Some opportunities may include cage cleaning, dog walking, playing with animals, socializing animals, and more.
Help out the elderly. Nursing homes and assisted living communities may welcome teens willing to help out. This could include a variety of tasks, such as playing games, pushing around a wheelchair, talking, and more. Some of these people will have little to no contact from relatives. Someone just being there to spend some time can make a world of difference for them. Even those who do have loved ones who visit, another visitor can really brighten their day. If there are no such communities in your area, there may be an older person you know who needs help with groceries, walking the dog, washing dishes, and other small tasks.
Pitch in for those in need. Teens can volunteer at sorting centers, soup kitchens, churches, and other organizations that help assist those in poverty or homeless. Each has different rules on the ages of volunteers and what they can do to help. Listings can be found under homeless shelters, food banks, soup kitchens, charitable organizations, and churches. Not all churches have these types of programs, but many do. So if you can't find any shelters or other organizations in your area, call the churches.
Sharing knowledge helps fellow students. Tutoring other students in the subjects your teen excels in may be another option. This volunteer opportunity could be through your teen's school or through a private organization. Call the school first to see what is available there. If there is nothing available at the school or your child is homeschooled, call various educational organizations. Homeschool groups also may have opportunities for students to help each other. Some high schools may even have a class that allows students to help teachers in elementary or middle schools. I attended a class like this in high school and was able to assist a class of third grade students during their literacy block.
Search volunteer match programs. If the above options are not ideal or you have trouble finding them, try a volunteer match program. United Way and Red Cross are two good places to start in every area. They can help you find out some of what's available in your area and help get your teen started. There are also several great online volunteer matching sites that may assist your teen. Simply fill in interests, location info, and more to find the best volunteer programs for your teen. The application process may take place online or in person, depending on the organization.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
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