When we were children getting the mail used to be something exciting. As adults now it’s a chore because it’s just someone else that wants your money. The same has happened with email. Email used to just have notes from friends or maybe a new sale at your favorite store. But now, the bills have taken over that inbox too.
That isn’t likely to change unless you stop inspecting your bills and just set up automatic payments. But there are some changes you might expect to see in the way you are charged for many of these services. Some may be months away, or you’re already doing them. Others are just proposals. One way or another, you can expect to see your bills change over time and here’s some of what you might expect to see:
Pay as you throw garbage: Right now most of us pay for our garbage through some kind of annual fee or bundled in with taxes or rent. But we’re basically allowed to throw away as much stuff as we can fit in the can or dumpster. But as we become more environmentally conscious and space to dump our garbage starts getting harder to find, it no longer makes sense to let people dump as much as they can. Pay as you throw is a system that will either charge you by the pound or the bag. I say bring it on since I have woods behind my place and already dump just about anything that you can compost back there. Read more about pay as you throw here.
Time of day electric metering: Unlike garbage, we already pay for electricity based on how much we use. So we have a direct incentive to reduce our consumption. This takes it one step further and to help you decide when to use your electricity. Your provider incurs greater costs to buy or produce electricity at certain times of day. When it’s 105 degrees on a Tuesday at 3:00 electricity is a lot more expensive than it is later that night when the temp has dropped to 75. There’s less demand. So time of day metering charges varying prices depending on the prevailing demand. You can see the price at any given time and even some devices can help you time your electricity use without having to think about it. According to one provider, this system has allowed people to reduce their electricity consumption and their bills. Read more about time of day metering here and here.
Metered internet usage: In the late 1990s technology pundits were already predicting you’d be able to watch TV over the internet. Only in the last few years has that started to actually happen on a scale that one could consider on the cusp of mainstream. But we’re still not there. Part of the problem is the capacity of our internet service providers. The tubes that carry your internets have limited capacity, and if everyone is streaming HD movies from Netflix or shows from an Apple TV then those pipes get kind of tight. To help curb that appetite for data and likely increase revenue that is lost from people watching less TV, expect to see some kind of metering of internet usage. It could be rates on data like your cell phone, or pay as you go/time of day like electricity, or a tiered internet where data for things like streaming movies is more expensive than data for email. This is something that will be sorted out in the coming years. You can read more about a tiered internet here.
Shared data plans for your smartphone: Verizon Wireless just announced their shared data plans. Right now, if you want a smartphone you have to pay for your own data. But with shared data you can share your usage like you would minutes on a family plan. This makes more sense but had the potential to eat into the revenue streams of providers. So far the Verizon plan is very expensive and doesn’t make much sense for most users. But in the long run expect many more devices in your home and pocket to be connected to the internet 24/7/365 and shared data will start to become more practical. Bring on the competition! Read more about Verizon’s shared data plan here.
Vehicle insurance and taxes by the mile: We already pay some taxes by the mile in the form of a gas tax. The more you drive the more you pay. But many local governments collect further taxes based on estimated property value. Most insurers charge based on your driving history and estimated usage. But some providers are starting to experiment with devices that track your driving habits. And it stands to reason with GPS or just your odometer that the tax system on your car will be derived based on how much you actually use the car. The only thing that could stop this in its tracks are privacy concerns. But people have shown a willingness to give up a bit of privacy to save a buck. You can read more about Progressive’s driver tracking here.
A fairly common theme among all these changes is a switch to more consumption based billing. And when the meter is running, we typically make ourselves more efficient. The change most of us might have to make is being more watchful of our usage. But that won’t be so bad especially if it reduces your bill.