When you're on a tight budget, paying fluctuating bills can be a little frustrating or even stressful. Your natural gas bill might be nice and low in the summer and then skyrocket in the winter. And vice versa for your water bill.
You can help your budget and reduce your chances of not having the funds to pay a monthly bill when it comes due in one of two ways:
1. Pull out the bills from a particular utility company (or look up your account online) from the past year. Add up the totals and divide by 12 to calculate the average. Write that amount into your budget with a little padding in case of increased rates or usage. In months when your bill is lower than the average, set aside the excess. Don't view it as extra and move it into another category! Do this each month until you reach the season when those bills are higher than average, and then use the reserved funds to supplement your payments.
2. If you've lived in your residence for at least a year, contact your utility company about enrolling in comfort level or budget billing. Most power and natural gas companies offer this option. They will look at your usage over the past year and use those figures to determine an average that you will be expected to pay each month. There will always be a balance or credit showing on your account depending on the time of year, but it should level out for the most part. These companies usually evaluate once or twice a year to see if your monthly payment needs to be adjusted.
As you can see from the note on our last gas bill, sometimes budget billing amounts go down after evaluation. Hooray!
Some utility companies charge an administrative fee for this service. If that's the case with yours, you may decide it's a better option to carry out the budget billing yourself via the first method.
With a little planning, you won't have to wonder from month to month if a regular bill is going to take you by surprise and wreck your budget!