Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Decreasing My Natural Gas Bills Monthly

Good news! My natural gas bill just went down. YAY!!

When I moved into the house in June, one of the first things I had to do was get all of the utilities put into my name. My ex and I historically had used the budget plan for heat and because I'm living in a 200+ year old house in Michigan winters, I did the same. When I switched the heat over from his name to mine, I was disappointed to find that the monthly budgeted amount went up by quite a bit.* The customer service person I was speaking with said that natural gas prices were on the rise. With my service plan warranty, my monthly gas bill has been $146.95, which was about $15 - $20 more than what my ex was paying.

Apparently the gas company just did a 6 month correction. My new bill is $109.95. I now have $37.00 less to pay each month, which is another $37.00 closer to my $900 a month goal! Interestingly, this does not take into account the fact that I just had my furnace repaired and it is running far more efficiently. It is entirely possible that in six months I might see another correction for the better. It is funny, what happens when you become frugal - your gas bill goes down and you end up doing a little happy dance in your kitchen!

I have had some other thoughts on the budget plan and how to modify those monthly heating costs...

Part of that monthly cost is a service call warranty plan that is $12.95 a month. I have considered dropping the warranty plan, but I haven't because I am a landlord. I can't afford to have my heat out when I have a tenant. It did certainly came in handy recently, but I have to say, I really do hate warranty plans. I would prefer instead to have enough money in my emergency funds to cover it should there be a problem. Unfortunately, my emergency fund just isn't there yet, and frankly, it is still needed for other emergencies... like not making my $900 a month goal. Once I get it further built up and have enough stocked away, I am definitely doing away with the warranty!

I also have mixed feelings about using the budget plan. On one hand, I love the simplicity of it. Each month my budget is exactly the same - I know in advance how much that bill will be. Without it, I would easily have $300+ bills in the winter months. This way I can set my payments up with my automatic bill pay and I never have to worry about it - they just take care of themselves.

The downside though is that I am spending a lot more on heat in the summer than I should - essentially I am paying into an account, and they are the ones getting the interest! If I could, I would be more inclined to pay the same amount each month into my own account and pay the bills out of that, so I am the one getting the interest. The problem is that I don't know what to predict for heating costs yet. I don't have much in the way of historical data at this point, nor do I know what gas prices will be in the future. Perhaps once I have lived a full year or two in the house I will get a better feel for it.

I also have as one of my goals this year to winterize my home. Each month I am trying to do a couple of projects that will help with that - even in the summer. I hope that will also help on that all important bottom line as well. I keep the heat at 69 degrees in the morning between 6:30 and 9:00 a.m.. After that, it goes to 65 degrees until 5:00 p.m. when it warms up again to 69. At 11:15 it goes to 62 degrees. Personally, I would keep it a lot cooler if it were up to me, but again, because my furnace also heats the one bedroom apartment, I try to keep it at a comfortable temperature for her.

What about you? What do you do to keep your heating bills down? Where do you set your thermostat?

*We had attempted to sell the house from January to June. He had made a spreadsheet of his utility bills for the Realtor and I had a copy. At the time I was determined to keep my costs low, so I was disappointed that my bills would be higher right off the bat.

Photo by: Maroon Michelle


Anonymous said...

I love it when utility bills get reduced. Well done!

Dawn said...

Me too! Thanks No More Spending!

Fit Wallet said...

Our house is poorly insulated, and our furnace is apparently very inefficient--it costs well above $300 (and sometimes more) to keep the house at 58-64 during the coldest months, though that also includes hot water and cooking gas. But ughhh, an old home sure is expensive.

Miss M said...

I've never understood budget plans, what if you don't use much gas at all. Will they refund you the money? I prefer to pay as I go.

Dawn said...

Fit Wallet, I'm with you! Although, I'd be interested to find out what people with newer houses are paying. Anyone??? Have you thought about adding insulation at all? I need to do that myself this year.

Miss M - Yes, theoretically they would send you a check for the excess, but in my experience they hit it pretty close. I have been under and had to pay a small amount to catch up, but never over. Pay as you go wouldn't be bad if it wasn't that the biggest bills hit during the most expensive months - December and January.

Kristy @ Master Your Card said...

Living in Texas I don't so much have winter bills to worry about, it's the summer bills that kick me in the pants. During the winter I can easily get away with a $50-75 bill. Mostly because I don't like it hot. I prefer the cold and will use multiple covers and wear extra layers to bed in the morning. The down side to this is that in the apartment I live in, it doesn't have a programmable thermostat, so I have crank it in the morning to warm up enough for a shower - I don't like the cold in the mornings. I'm also not one who can wake up an hour early just to adjust the thermostat. So, that part gets me on the winter bills.

Congrats to you on the lower bill, though! That's great news!

Dawn said...

Kristy - I lived an apartment like that recently. I'll tell you, having a programmable thermostat is one of the best things ever!