Buying or renting an apartment in itself has its costs. Estimating for recurring costs is another. And with the onset of the fall season, it will only be a couple of weeks until the cold, harsh winter months will be blowing by, prompting the heating to go back on. Being prepared for costs that come with the season's change is like insulating yourself from snow itself - keeping you financially healthy all winter long. Here are a couple of tips of the trade that should help you plan out and keep your monthly utility bills at bay during wintertime.
Electricity During winter months, expect to pay $30-$50 a month for electricity. A lot of your bill will simply depend on how much you have the lights turned on when you're home, how much you watch television, how efficient your refrigerator is and most importantly, how careful you are about turning off lights.
Heat With the AC off, you should be able to reallocate your budget towards something more substantial: heat. If you are in a multi-unit building with radiators, there's almost no need to worry about price spikes. Otherwise, you'll be on the hook for keeping an oil burner going for heat and hot water, which could cost more than $300 a month. However if you're like most homes in New England that have gas heating, expect to pay at least $100 a month in the deep winter, though the cost can vary on how tropical you want your place to be. A sure way to find out what to expect to pay based on your space is simply ask the previous tenants about it - provided you have their contact information.
Cooking Gas Because of their age and built, almost all the apartments in Boston have gas lines that provide for both heating and cooking. Consider that your indoor cooking habits will also spike during wintertime, as opposed to other months when dining out or grilling is a definite option. Despite this, the cost of gas consumed with cooking activities is minimal -- $20 increase in your bill, at most. Do keep in mind that keeping tabs on this a bit more tricky to do, as NStar usually bundles gas and heat as one. However, if you really want to cost it out, simply refer and compare a previous month's bill should do the trick (note that you should use a bill that belongs to a period that know you didn't quite cook as often as you liked).
Cable & Internet Consider bundling your cable and Internet (if you already haven't done so). The winter months tend to keep people parked at their living rooms, lounging about since it's too cold to be out and about. Keep in mind too, that internet consumption increases as you're around more and that might eat in to your existing plan. Depending on your cable preference (regular channels vs. all-inclusive plans), an unbundled plan could set you back as much as $80-$100. Internet, on the other hand, should hover between $30-$50. The two prominent local providers in Boston (Comcast Xfinity and RCN) have cable and internet bundles that could save you as much as $50, with plans starting at $79 for both services.
Total Bill If you choose a humble yet satisfying cable & internet option, your total utilities cost comes to roughly $150-$200 a month. Keep in mind, though, that this is for the rental as a whole -- if you have roommates, divide by the number of people living in the unit. Of course, this total will vary depending on the size of your place, and the amount of heat and electricity it needs to keep it warm & toasty.
Lastly, as a rule of thumb, online real estate database site Zillow says that
...one should expect to spend on utilities an amount equal to about 20 percent of your monthly rent if you live alone, or about 10 percent of your monthly rent if you live with roommates.