Today I’m double -dipping. I wrote the post below for my friend Debra Galant’s blog, The Angst Report. It’s a blog about all the things that make us anxious.
I remember visiting my grandmother after she moved from her home in Queens, NY to an assisted living apartment near my parents in Connecticut. She had saved a pile of junk mail and asked me to look through it. The letters — all solicitations for things she didn’t need — combined with an onslaught of telemarketing calls, caused her to worry. To her, if it had arrived in the mail, or someone had called, meant it must be important. When I moved to toss everything in the trash, she became more anxious and insisted I save it to show my mother.
I was reminded of her anxiety when paying bills online last week. I’ve considered myself a rather informed consumer — look for sales, try to only buy what I use, and read labels. At least while food shopping. With gas, I try to find the cheapest, but also don’t drive an extra 10 miles to save 5 cents. But with my utilities, I realized how little I know about what I’m paying.
Why do I have two utility bills: PSEG and JCPL? I turn off lights, lower the heat, and unplug unnecessary chargers but the bill never seems to go lower.
Then there’s the cable television bill. I’m paying for things I have no clue what they are. What is “Blast!?” Why are there two State Treasury fees? (3 cents and 75 cents.) I don’t understand my cell phone bill either — I’m sure I don’t use half the services I pay for.
I know I could spend some time — no, lots of time — deciphering the bills by calling customer service. But that would mean either trying to figure out which number to push, only to listen a recording I won’t understand or trying to reach a human for explanation. I’m not sure who would lose patience first.
With caller ID, I don’t need to answer telemarketers. I toss junk mail directly into recycling. But I’m beholden to those utility bills. Today I turned off the heat. Hopefully there are a few weeks before the air condition needs to blast. Maybe I’ll use the time to learn about my bills.