Monday, October 19, 2009

Ah, being a homeowner...

I am pretty sure even Donald Trump hates bills. Well, his accountant probably hates them for him. No one likes paying out money. Sadly, its a part of being a homeowner. In exchange for being all grown-up and responsible, I pay nice chunks of change each month to things like my mortgage, HOA, cable, power, sewer, cell phone... Most of these are obviously non-negotiable. But then I got to researching, and it turns out some of my bills have some interesting payment options that I am looking into, ones that actually might help me in the long-run.

I have already made one change, this one to my GA Power bill. This graph demonstrates my frustration with budgeting for this bill:



As you can see, the bills have been all over the place. The ridiculous summer heat in Georgia of course means I am going to be using more A/C, but the near $100 bill shocked me. Especially looking back and seeing mostly $70 numbers during the other months of the year, or as low as $50 in the spring. There is almost no way to budget for this, other than putting aside a big pot of money to draw from.

A little bit of research later, and a program called Budget Billing turns up. In exchange for a flat $72/month, I can "save" money on the months like October when I actually spend only about $55, and it credits me for months later when I spend closer to $100 in the summer. At the year's end, you get a rebate for whatever the total is when it all averages out.

For me, the flat rate is worth it for my budget, to at least know what I am spending each month. This month, I'll suck it up and pay a bit more than I will have actually used, knowing that come January, my heat bill will be sky-high again.

Have you found any particularly awesome payment options or rates on your monthly expenses? Do share!

3 comments:

Brian McKinley said...

Hey,

Here is what you want to do to actually lower your bills, rather than just let GA Power collect interest on your pre-payments, which is all that's going on under that scenario. First thing is call up GA Power and get them to come do an energy audit. It's free, and they will go through your house and try to find places where there are air leaks and basic stuff like that. They will give you information about the free money, yes it really is free, that they hand out for doing energy upgrades.

One cheap and easy, but also effective thing to have is a programmable thermostat, and then to actually make use of it.

Here is the link to the Energy Audits: http://www.georgiapower.com/residential/energyCheckUp.asp

Here is a link that shows how much money and what its for, that they give out. (Keep in mind there is also 30% tax credits for much of this stuff from Uncle Sam, on top of the rebates/free money).
http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=GA38F&re=1&ee=1

This is just basic stuff, but if you plan on living in your home a while (5-10 years) then there is even more you can do that will save you tons of money, but take a little longer to pay back (though is still a good investment with a solid rate of return, even if you have to finance it).

Last thing is, you may be wondering why in the heck GA power wants to sell you less energy. The truth is that it costs them less money to save energy than to sell you power, because it lowers their investment in capital on things like transformers, power lines, and things called peaking power plants.

-Brian

Bela Naomi said...

I agree with the programmable thermostat. I have a rather large townhouse and have paid as low as $55 in the moderate weather, and as high as 220 in intense heat/cold. I got a programmable thermostat, and really programmed it to optimize my usage, and Almost every month has been around $70. I got it about 5 months ago. It's awesome.

Just an aside, to save money on cable/internet is really easy. Just call and tell them you're going to switch to CLEAR, and they'll give you a GREAT rate!

Katherine Malone said...

Wow! Thanks Brian and Bela, you both rock for all the info!!

I have really been wondering how to best go about it - my condo gets super hot in the afternoons with the setting sun, and I am not usually here to program the A/C to NOT come on, unless I turn it off, and it gets to be like 500,000 degrees!

A programmable thermostat will definitely be on the list, and I look forward to checking out the other options too. Thanks!!