I stared at the number in disbelief while a stone sank to the pit of my stomach and stayed there. I had planned for an increase, since our meter was changed recently and the old one had been faulty, but I hadn't expected such a big jump.
While I had a lot of emotions, there was one thing that I didn't have to worry about. I knew I already had enough set aside in my bill category to pay for it. I could thank my budgeting for that.
I'll admit however that it still didn't feel good to have to pay that extra money. The water bill is my responsibility so my first thought was not to ask for help with the bill from my family but I still drew it to their attention and that is when my mood went swiftly downhill.
My family expressed surprise at the amount owed on the bill and speculated as to why it would jump so high, but none of them offered to assist me. And further from what I could see none them even tried to change their water habits or offered suggestions as to how we could consume less water as family.
Then I learned that our bathroom fixtures were leaking and my Father knew this, but had simply never bothered to try to replace them to fix the problem. He informed me also that our kitchen fixture was very inefficient and wasted a lot water because of the design. Again he did not indicate that he had any intention of remedying these issues.
The emotions I felt spiralled from simply being annoyed, to disbelief and then finally anger. I was bitter inside; I felt that I was the only one who cared about wasting water and further about the monetary consequences of this.
I realised that it was in their eyes my problem, not theirs, because I was the one responsible for paying the water bill. This set off another wave of negative thinking that finally wound up with me feeling depressed and demotivated.
On the one hand I felt proud that I could handle it financially but still worried that if it continued to be so high, that it would affect my long term ability to save. The time frame for some of my goals would be changed and I already had to push some of them back or scrap some altogether.
I eventually decided to do something about my feelings before they got out of control. I countered this sour mood with gratitude.
I reminded myself that for some the worry with money comes from being faced with a simple arithmetic problem: They have more obligations than money and it feels as if they are hurtling at top speed over the side of the cliff.
My problem was simply that I would have to wait a few more months to purchase my bicycle. That put things into perspective fast.
I also decided to set a threshold for all of my utility bills and determined that if they went over that amount I would allow myself to ask my family for a contribution.
Yes the bills are my responsibility, but we are all using the utilities as a collective, and if the bills became a burden to me it would not be fair.
This was a huge turn around in my way thinking. I am fiercely independent so it comes naturally to me to make sure that I always have money set aside for medical expenses and any other little stumbles that I experience along the way.
I am known as the one who has money at all times and this can sometimes lead to very negative interactions with friends and family members. They take my financial responsibility and use it against me or they even seek to use me as crutch when they make their mistakes.
I love being generous and so it took me a while to wise up to that. Now that I had to be on watch for the trap of taking on a burden that is my responsibility but not solely my fault.
Another thing I decided that was very difficult, was that I would have put aside saving for my own goals and start saving for new water-efficient fixtures for the house.
In Barbados come parishes water scarce. I am lucky to never have that problem but I know of some communities that can be without water for days at a time.
I feel that it is my responsibility to treasure this precious resource and in fact, all of us in my household should be more responsible with our water usage.
That being said, now that I know that the pipes were leaking, I can't simply brush it off as my Father seemed to. I need to take action and solve this problem.
I plan to ask for some form of reimbursement from my family when I get the new fixture installed. Gone are days when I will do all of the legwork and let everyone else enjoy the benefits.
In the end I can say that the water bill taught me invaluable lessons about my values and my weaknesses. It opened my eyes to some uncomfortable truths about my family but I was able to overcome that bitterness and turn it into positive action.
I urge everyone to look at your consumption of water and do anything you can to make it more efficient. Clean water should be a basic human right, and if you are blessed to have it, please don't take it granted.
Sesame Street says it best: Don't waste water.