The more I look to save money, the more often I am finding it’s done over a fairly lengthy amount of time, and a year seems to be where it’s at for me and my family right now. Why a year? Well, I for one have found that I can barely blink before Christmas rolls around from year to year. It seems just long enough to make those pesky “insignificant” amounts (i.e. cup of coffee, vending machine snacks, late fees for utilities) add up to where it seems significant. So we’ll take a look at something we all pay and plan to pay indefinitely, but rarely have the forethought to do anything about to make our lives easier: utility bills.
First, I love a flat fee. Who doesn’t? It’s awesome to know exactly what your bill is going to be each month, and never think about it. Our gas bill is like that. Some time a couple of years ago, we contacted our gas company and asked them about an average bill pay plan. Someone mentioned they work with their customers and we decided to investigate. Turned out our average monthly gas usage based on a year was $90. So that’s what we pay per month, $90, whether we use that much or not. The gas company keeps whatever surplus there is on those months we don’t use as much gas, like in the summer, and credits our account. When we use a ton, say in the winter months, the over credited amount goes to what we use. We pay one flat fee all year-long, and the gas company keeps our gas on. I can’t say I know all about it procedural wise, I am not employed at the gas company, but the logic is sound.
Not all utilities work this way, but that doesn’t mean the average payment can not be made, all it takes is a little forethought and research.
As I added up our electric bills, I found that we spend roughly $1500 to $1600 per year in electricity. Personally, I was shocked we spend that much. I’m not sure why the shock factor, I suppose I’ve never considered the cost on a yearly basis. I normally just cringe when the bill hits the mailbox month to month and hope it’s not too high. So after finding the sum total per year, Karen and I decided we would start setting $130 a month aside for electricity, regardless of how much the bill is. Some months, this self-induced premium will cover the lower amounts, and we’ll just stuff the leftover in an envelope; other months, the bills will be too high for $130 to cover, so whatever’s in the envelope from lower months will come out to save the day. Do this with your water bills, trash bills, or whatever bills you happen to pay a variable amount on.
As Jeff Foxworthy notes in one of his comedy routines, “TURN SOMETHIN OFF!” I cannot count the number of times I’ve went behind my four-year old princess to turn out lights. She’s tall enough to reach the light switches now, and she utilizes every inch of her vertical reach in order to make sure all rooms are well-lit. To not follow her means that I just as well throw my money on top of a lamp shade, let Babygirl flip the switch and slowly watch it burn.
Along those lines, cut the shower time. If you have teenagers, you know this is a must. I want someone to invent a way to cut showers off by remote, or put a timer on the shower head (maybe I’ll invent it). When 10 minutes is up, so is your shower, get in, get all crucial areas washed, finish up any bonus areas, and get out. Money is flowing down the drain.
“That’s a little strict!” You say? How many gallons is your household using a year? Do you know?I can get in and do all things shower and get out in seven minutes. A family can’t help but save money when everyone is running that kind of efficiency in the bathroom.
The dreaded late fee will destroy a yearly budget. Pay utility bills on time. A late fee not paid is money in our pocket. We used to be terrible at this, but realized it was happening a while back. If payday didn’t fit where it should so we could pay it on time, call the utility company and get your due date changed. Most places are pretty reasonable to work with you if they aren’t the size of Podunk, USA.
Try some of these things out and see where the finances are in a year! It might just save you on aspirin too.