Budgeting for Utilities

Welcome to the money tip for September.
When doing a budget, one of the hardest things to do is account for variable expenses like groceries, gasoline, and even many utilities. Now, most of these things won’t blow your budget if you are careful, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that you have a fixed amount you are going to pay each month? There’s good news: many utility companies offer “budget payment plans.”
The idea behind these plans is that they look at the past year of your utility usage, and based on this information, they break that into fixed monthly amounts which you are billed for. At the end of the year, they reevaluate how much you’ve paid, and you start all over again.
I recently sat down (in front of the computer, logged in to the utilities’ websites) and reviewed our past year’s bills. Our gas usage fluctuated from a low of around $25 in August to a high of $225 in February! I calculated the average, and it was around $88. I called up Washington Gas, and they were able to give me an estimate of $93/month on the budget plan. With electricity, we fluctuate less, but still go from $63 to $157. The average Dominion Power bill was $91, and when I called them about the budget plan, their estimate was $89/month.
We went ahead and signed up for both plans, and we now get billed a fixed amount from each of them. Two less variable items to worry about in our budget every month.

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