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Talk to your neighbors

In a Buzzfeed article about the fiasco, Patterson told the publication that she would advise talking to your neighbors to avoid getting into this situation.

If she had gone and spoken to any of her neighbors and asked them about the cost of their utilities, she would have realize that $400 is not a normal amount for a unit in her building.

However, chatting to your neighbors is not as common as it used to be. A Pew Center study shows that fewer young Americans are familiar with their neighbors. Among adults under age 30, about a quarter (23%) claim to not know any of their neighbors, compared with 4% of those aged 65 and up.

But the key here is to say howdy and get chatting — it could end up saving you a lot of money.

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Have everyone on the bills

Another piece of advice from Patterson is that everyone in your household should be listed on the bills.

One of the reasons her utility bill got mixed up is because there was already an account in place for her unit under her ex-boyfriend’s name. He moved out in 2021 but never canceled the account. So, when Patterson opened a new utility account, SDG&E accidentally linked it with the master meter for the whole building rather than her individual apartment.

Financial transparency in relationships is key to ensuring no money is wasted. Having everyone's name linked to an account can members of any party clear things up in case there's a break up or someone moves out.

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Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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