With possible electricity rate hikes, KC families wonder where they'll find the money

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Just a few items sat in Shirley Smalley's cart. For her and her husband Burk, apples are one of their treats. They bought carnations because they were on sale.

"Fifty cents a piece!" she smiled. "I like to have fresh flowers on the table."

Smalley said they scour for sales at the grocery store because their social security check doesn't go very far. Besides church and a few church activities, they mostly stay home to save money.

A few aisles away, Keri Brewster finished crossing items off a large and organized list. The meals she plans for each day lay out the leftovers she'll use to stretch her dollars.

"We like to overcook so we have some for lunches," she said.

Feeding four teenagers and a husband, a budget is a must.

But other bills outside the grocery store keep ticking up.

Brewster has already been hit with a bigger bill at the gas pump.

"Oh easily ten to fifteen dollars more," she said.

Now her electric bill could be higher too.

Officials with Kansas City Power & Light just requested a rate increase. Rates would differ but would average to be 15 percent higher. For their average customer, that adds up to $180 per year or about $15 per month.

"That's a big chunk of our budget," said Smalley.

Both shoppers said they already live tight.

Oh we're paycheck to paycheck," said Brewster as she looked through her shopping cart at items she has already adjusted.

"These I used to buy Lender's," she said hoisting up a bag of bagels. "Now I just buy Hy-Vee brand." 

"And these! Oh I love my Keurig cups!" she laughed, admitting those will probably be a luxury lost soon.

Smalley and Brewster insist those little luxuries, though, are about the only splurges they have. They already live tight at home.

"We don't leave a lot of lights on," said Smalley who wonders what more she could do to cut electric costs. "I don't know, I guess we could get kerosene lamps, couldn't we?"

Brewster already dreads the costs coming with the changing seasons.

"Boy this summer I don't even know," she said. "I don't even want to think about air conditioning.

If the rate increase is approved, it wouldn't start until January 2013.

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