I love seeing how other people budget, getting down to the nitty-gritty of their categories and numbers, but I don’t feel it is fair to gain value out of what others are contributing without contributing something ourselves. As promised, here is the first Budget Breakdown for the Enough Time Machine. This represents how much we budget per month, not necessarily how much we spend. Today we are starting with the essentials – Bills.
Gas, Electricity, Water
$56, $135, $85. These amounts basically correlate to the actual monthly cost. I budget a little more to cover high periods of usage or changes to supply rates. To a degree, these are non-negotiable items in our budget. Why to a degree? Well, I can categorically state that we cannot and do not want to live without water, electricity and/or gas. We are incredibly lucky to live in a country where you can easily access safe, clean water with the twist of a tap, or electricity for light, warmth, cooking and entertainment at the flick of a button. However, what may be possible is to reduce our costs in this area, either by shopping around for other providers with better rates, or by investigating alternative sources such as grey water systems or solar generation. It is possible we could reduce our usage, however according to our bills, we are doing pretty well with that already. According to the Sydney Water “Water Efficiency Targets” website, we are using less than a single person in a small house, while our electricity usage is also less than a single person:
Goal 1: Research whether our gas, water and electricity providers are as competitive as they could be.
Goal 2: Look into alternative sources; costs and practicality for us.
$120. This amount correlates to the actual monthly cost. Our Council Rates are fixed, non-negotiable and non-competitive, having the monopoly. The only possible way of reducing our rates slightly is to reduce the size of one of our bins.
Goal 3: Investigate how much we could save if we reduced our bin sizes.
$90. This amount correlates to the actual monthly cost. Yes, we still have and still use a home phone as I haven’t quite moved into the modern age and embraced smartphones. Actually, I find my mobile to mostly be an annoyance and pretty much only use it for SMS. Because it isn’t a smart phone, I am quite happy to do without it, and have had periods of up to 5 days where it has been out of battery without me realising. While I am still attached to our home phone, as more and more of our friends move to mobile phones only, it is not economically viable to call them from a landline. Anyway, Mr. ETT researches both of these categories fairly regularly to make sure we are getting the best deal for the level of service that we want. We could definitely reduce costs here, but we know that we want more than a basic service, so we are happy to pay it.
Goal 4: Consider getting rid of the home phone. Do you still have a landline/home phone? Why or why not?
$40. This amount correlates to the actual monthly cost. Mine is something like $10/month, Mr. ETT has a full-service smartphone, so the rest is made up here. As above, Mr. ETT is pretty on top of the deals out there.
$25. This amount correlates to the actual monthly cost. We haven’t watched ‘real’ (free-to-air) TV for quite some time. Long before Netflix we’d almost given it up anyway due to the advertisements (when even SBS and ABC got into the act it was all downhill from there). We watched box sets instead. With Netflix, we no longer have to find storage space for DVDs, big win! Also, there is so much old content we’ve never seen, as well as all of the new content to watch that we rarely have time to revisit our old box sets or movies.
$10. This amount represents more than the monthly cost, if I use the data as per the plan. This gives me mobile Internet access on my iPad when I am out of the house. I prepay $140 for 16GB over a period of 2 years ($5.80/month or $8.75/GB). I’ve used 53% in 11 months, so I am pretty much on track to get value out of this. I’ve also recently changed my blog reading habits so any blogs that don’t offer the full feed in my RSS reader now wait until I get home to read them, and any comments I want to make are usually also made at home when on Wi-Fi. This saves me connecting on the train every day, when I really have plenty more offline reading I could be doing anyway.
$5. We almost paid off the mortgage years ago, but when it came to making that final payment I hesitated. My heart said “Yes! Be totally debt free!” My head said “Think about it first, what are the potential downsides?” We have a small chunk of money sitting in the offset account that we could access in an emergency, but until we know what our goals are, and come up with an investment plan, it is cheaper to keep the current mortgage than pay it out and start again if we decided to go down the investment property or house upgrade route. $5/month more than covers the remainder and any monthly interest.
$45. This amount correlates to the actual monthly cost. I belong to the union at work, but quite frankly I’m not sure of the value. This is more than we pay for both mobile phones, which are used daily (in Mr. ETT’s case). Things have changed a lot since the years long ago when I first joined. I should probably look into this further.
Goal 5: Research the current and potential value I get from the Union.
A holding category for any new or forgotten bills that pop up. Hasn’t been used much – once for our PO Box, and once for the tax accountant’s bill.
All up, bills represent 8.2% of our total budget. Watch and see how this graph changes as we investigate other Budget Categories.