What a California Utility Company Can Teach Us All About Saving?

Not many people read last month’s 71-page study from the California Water Foundation called Evaluation of East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Pilot of WaterSmart Home Water Reports.

But Consolidated Credit did.

Why? Because of one novel idea called “behavioral water efficiency.” In a nutshell, this utility company found a way to convince its customers to save water – by making it a contest.

“The behavioral water efficiency approach provides information to consumers that compares their household’s water use to the average use by similar homes,” the study says.

Basically, the utility sent 10,000 of its customers specially designed water bills that contained “their personal water use data, compared their water use to similar sized homes in the area, and made personalized recommendations on ways to save water.” A control group got the usual water bills. A year later, the first group used 5 percent less water – and saved on their bill.

The idea was simple: If we struggle to “keep up with the Joneses” by spending more, maybe it also works in reverse.

It’s a concept that intrigues the experts and counselor at Consolidated Credit. Competitive spending with friends or neighbors almost always lead to financial distress. It can be as large as an SUV or as small as a cup of gourmet coffee…

Consider, does a cup of coffee from McDonald’s exude a feeling of luxury like a cup from Starbucks? The coffee beans are probably comparable and may have come from the same farm in Colombia. But the logo on the cup makes all the difference. That’s how easily the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ dilemma begins.

But if what if this utility company’s idea could be expanded to include everything? That same competitive spirit could be used to promote saving instead of spending. And in truth, that’s already happening in small ways – businesses are luring customers by being greener than their competitors.

But for now, if you want to save on your own bills, check out Consolidated Credit’s Save Energy, Save Money section. The advice is free.