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Written By: Gary on January 11, 2009 No Comment

As a followup to my post on saving money for the holidays (over at WeLikeMoney.com) I’m going to talk about managing your utility bills, specifically your gas and electric bills.

Your electricity and natural gas bills fluctuate throughout the year: Air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, filters for the pool in the summer, more lights in the winter and many other factors. Many utility companies offer something some kind of balanced budgeting billing (my company calls it BudgetWise® Billing). What they do is figure out what your average bill is, guesstimate what it will be over the next 12 months and start charging you this amount. Every so often they re-evaluate they amount (6 months) and every 12 they credit or charge you the difference.

This is great for those months where you get some outrageous bills, especially if they haven’t done any meter reading in a while. Mine is usually pretty accurate and I’ve never owed at the end. This is a saving feature I’ve never used before a few years ago, I was helping a friend with some really tight budgeting and we wanted a specific amount to budget to; when we set up his, I added it to mine and I’ve enjoyed having it ever since.

Pros and cons:

  • No shocking bills! They are all the same.
  • You could get a big bill at the end (this hasn’t happened to me).
  • If you can do this with gas but not electric (or vice-versa) and they sway differently it might not be as useful (my gas and electric are the same company).
  • If you don’t pay enough attention to your bills you might not conserve enough. Not enough shock might not make you conserve enough, which costs you in the end.

From a budgeting standpoint this makes all my utilities the same every month: cable, cell phone, gas and electric. My water is part of my condo association fees so I’m not sure if anyone offers budgeting on water bills since I’ve always lived in some kind of multi-person dwelling.

Hopefully this works out for you as well as it has for me. If anyone has any experiences on this (good or bad) please leave a comment.

Written By: Gary on May 2, 2007 2 Comments

So I’ve gotten more than a few people hitting my site from search engines from the word “Comcast” and since I just adjusted my plan (again) I thought I’d mention my current Comcast plans and maybe save y’all a few bucks. First I’ll mention that I try to pay attention to recurring costs and utilities especially paying attention to my cable / internet bills since they are more of a luxury that heat or electricity.

If you don’t care about (possibly) saving money, don’t read the rest of this…Cable TV – I generally just get econo-basic, it’s generally available on most cable systems (I think many cities/townships require a cheap plan in the contract), it’s just generally the first 20-30 channels on the cable system, it’s on $12 (on my system) and usually doesn’t require a cable box (on most systems). I don’t want many more channels than that so it suites me fine. I think the next package up these days is $29.99 so that’s a big jump if I don’t want all those channels anyways. Here’s the thing if you want internet, the prices there quote for internet are $15 more if you don’t have cable so it’s really $3 cheaper to have cable TV with your cable internet.

Remember, just because one sales person doesn’t know about a service doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If someone can’t help you, call back later and check with them.

HD TV – So on top of the econo-basic I pay $7 a month for an HD box (it just jumped up from $5), this gets me most of the major networks and a few more channels in HD. Please note, I do not have a HD TV, so I don’t get the full benefit, but it does look like it’s DVD quality (it’s definitely better than digital cable).

Cable Internet – Every 6 to 12 months I call and complain about the rates ($43 a month 6,000 down/384 up). I mention other offers (competing companies and DSL) and they usually drop my bill about $5-$15 a month for the next 6-12 months. Last time I called they offered me the deluxe service for $30 a month and this was 8,000 down/768 up so I took the offer. It’s normally $53 a month but it was a promotion and this expired this week so I canceled it. I do notice it’s a little slower (I actually think it’s the slower up speed that I’m noticing) but I’m debating if it’s worth $120 a year for the faster speed…

And don’t forget you can buy your own cable modem and save $3-$5 a month. If signing up for new service (via Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, etc.) you can generally get these for free after rebate so it’s really worth doing…

Here’s the thing when I called yesterday to change the plan they said they didn’t have any other packages (besides these 6,000 and 8,000) but I just checked my bill to verify these costs for this post and I seen they have a 4,000 (4 meg) plan (the bill was clarifying the names of the new plans starting May 1). FYI, they usually offer a $25 service too that’s 384 down (I think it’s 384 up), that’s not too fast but it’s better than dial-up (and it’s always on).

UPDATE: Tonight, no one seemed to think the 384 down service still exists, which is very funny since they just renamed it to “Economy”. So I’ve had two people tell me the Performance Lite at 4,000 (4 Meg) is $25 ($24.95 actually) in my area so I switched to it (that would really be some savings from $43 a month). But when they switched me I’m just getting 384 up and down, I’ve had this happen before when they’ve offered plans to me. So, it turns out that he thought that it’s an either the Economy (384 down) or the Performance Lite (4,000 down); both are $25 a month, I will be calling back in a few weeks to double-check that is really the case. But they did give me $5 off a month for the next 12 months for the time it took (about 50 minutes) so that’s something; I’d rather have had 4,000 down for $25 a month…

So the end result of tonight’s call is that 4,000 down for $24.95 (performance lite from Comcast) is not an option in my area but it might be in yours (or a similar plan from your company). Just test it while you’re on the phone to make sure it’s really that fast before you hang up…

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