Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Gotta brag a little

I got one of those energy profile letters from our utility company in the mail yesterday and I was shocked.  You can click the photo to make it larger for a better view.  I’ve tried to get a smiley face profile report for years.

It says over the last six months I used 60% less electricity than 90 of my energy efficient neighbors.  I wonder who those neighbors are.   Are they even real people?  Wow, I finally see the results of all those LED bulbs and off button surge protectors.  The report also says in the last six months I used $48 more gas than my energy efficient neighbors.  This is not surprising considering my kitchen stove is gas and I do quite a bit of canning.  You think maybe those 90 energy efficient neighbors don’t can as much as I do?  🙂

My water heater is electric so its not that.  I did notice my gas furnace running more than I thought it should during the cold months.  This was my first winter living in a two story house so  I didn’t know what to expect for the heating.  I don’t know if the furnace is energy efficient or not either.  Plus, our weather did stay fairly cold right up until May.  Maybe before winter arrives this year I can afford to have the furnace checked for efficiency.  I would love to have a split system installed which I’m sure would be expensive.  I don’t know how I could afford it which means a split system will be a someday project.  As in, someday if I’m really, really lucky and win the lottery.

My water bill was in the mail too.  It was a mix of good and bad.  At my old house I got bills based on 4,000 gallons used.  That would be 2.000 a month because we are billed every other month.  Here at the new house, before I started capturing water and recycling water, I got bills based on 2.000 gallons or 1,000 per month.  Even with my new conservation methods the bill says I’m still using 2,000 gallons.  I just don’t see how this can be true.  I suspect the meter wasn’t actually read and they billed based on past usage.

I began to think about possible reasons for the high consumption in an effort to cut back even more.  One reason might be that they only bill in even thousands by rounding up or rounding down.  Maybe the canning I do could be the reason but I don’t see how.  The canning water is re-used for dishes or mopping or washing while its still hot.  Re-using the hot water should be saving water as well as electricity.  Some bad news is that our water and sewer companies each got another raise starting with the next bill.  They each got 6 1/2 percent.  Twelve percent more is a lot to absorb in a limited fixed budget.  This means I really need to cut back on water use even more.   Hmm… If they got a 12 percent raise would cutting back the amount of water I use by 12 percent balance the bill?  It can’t hurt to try.

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31 comments on “Gotta brag a little

  1. jestjack
    September 3, 2017

    I’m with ya on the water bill “shenanigans”…I have TWO rain barrels and began using the water for gardening and flushing commodes. In addition, we began paying attention to conserving water….Yet the bill comes and it still says we use 6000 gallons for a 3 month period. I’ve checked for leak outside as well as inside…no leaks….I really have my suspicions with the water company…

    • Anita
      September 3, 2017

      From what I’ve learned the water company only uses 1,000 as their multiplier for billing. You are not billed for actual gallons of use. This means if you use only one gallon for the bill cycle you are billed for 1,000 gallons. Use 1,001 gallons for the bill cycle and you are charged for 2,000 gallons. Each bill cycle is a new reading which means the last reading does not have anything to do with the current reading. So, using one gallon this bill cycle means you are again paying for 1,000 gallons. Does this help?

  2. T
    September 2, 2017

    You asked what crops are grown in Texas: cotton, hay, sorghum, rice, corn, vegetables, peanuts.

    • Anita
      September 3, 2017

      Ok, so those items will have immediate price increases with more coming later using the cost of gas as the excuse. It doesn’t matter if those were actually affected, they can claim they were as justification for a higher price.

  3. mem37814
    August 28, 2017

    Have u thought of using solar panels?I watch a lot of YOU TUBE RV and van living and they have them on their traveling vehicles-from Amazon,some fold up an put away in vans.These r women who can not live on social security and opt to live out of their car,van,or RV’s. when u think u r bad off there r others who are worse off.

    • Anita
      August 31, 2017

      Yes, I’ve thought about using solar. I’ve even checked the pricing of different brands and gone to some solar seminars. Solar won’t work for me but maybe in the future.

    • jestjack
      September 3, 2017

      I’ve watched those videos on you tube and it’s kinda sad. The one gal says she makes it on $540 a month…that’s food, meds, car expenses, insurance….Don’t know if I’m cut out for that life-style….

      • Anita
        September 3, 2017

        You would manage that kind of life style if you had no other choice. There, but for the grace of God, go I. No one PLANS to become low incomed and/or homeless. It just happens and when it does we deal with it the best we know how. I applaud their effort to keep a roof over their head even if its a car roof.

  4. T
    August 11, 2017

    PS did you see this Anita Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act https://www.moran.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/3/1/3130231f-a391-4b55-8979-910fcdd2a32c/A81D6523109F75D73775C99A5C30668F.hfaaa-summary-final.pdf
    an attempt to tackle food deserts in America.

    • Anita
      August 11, 2017

      I’m pretty sure there are a few churches and a tiny food market that have taken advantage of those grants at the old neighborhood but not this one where I live now. Maybe there will be some takers later. Grants are always popular.

  5. Rebecca yourig
    August 9, 2017

    Congratulations on the electric savings. And boo to the water company. I’m in the same pocket of water use. Doesn’t matter how much I work to conserve! I pay the minimum. So I put my efforts into saving and conserving where it makes a difference. Use that water liberally and enjoy. Don’t matter in cost. But you can then focus energies in saving on other things where you can make an impact. Cool showers and rinse offs are great. A garden hose mister can help keep you cool too. Water is not where you have to scrimp. Enjoy a garden you liberally water.

    The humidity is more the killer for me than the heat. A dehumidifier uses less electricity than an air conditioner so those cheap little Honeywell fans from Walmart going to keep air moving and a dehumidifier can make a big difference for less cost.

    Keep those posts coming. I can’t find powder milk cheaper than the $2.60 a gallon I pay at Costco in the gallon jugs

    • Anita
      August 11, 2017

      Hmm… a dehumidifier should help with the high humidity making it easier to stay cool. This might be worth me doing more research before next summer. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Yes, the powdered milk is higher in cost. Its the convenience of having it on hand when you run out of liquid milk that’s important. Also it doesn’t need refrigeration until water is added and it has a long shelf life. Convenience products always costs more.

  6. Lilly pickles
    August 6, 2017

    Last month’s water bill was 36.00. The lady swore it was accurate. I was hoping the bugs in their new system was worked out and we could afford it. No such luck. Dang bill is 101.00 this month. Lights up 40.00 even though I am suffering with no AC. Having surgery Tuesday so I have no time to explore issue. I have no idea how long I will take to recover with a second surgery three weeks later. 300.00 a month for electricity and water is killing me. My house is small and we conserve so much. I mean geez, I am only showering once a week and sponge bathing from the sink the rest of the time. There is something fishy about this water issue. I just read the city council is having a special meeting Monday night. Reading in to it , I see there is a proposal to raise our rates. OMG, I am thinking I am going to have to investigate where you report them for fraud etc…. Members are quitting and being re elected. The water lady quit. Yep , something ain’t right.

    • Anita
      August 7, 2017

      I hope things go alright with your surgeries. I’ll be thinking of you. Take care of yourself.

      It just became known that our water and sewer companies are allowed to raise rates by 6 1/2 percent without approval. Anything higher must be approved so they stay with that amount and do it more often. They know the loophole and don’t hesitate to use it. No matter how much we conserve, the cost will go up anyway.

      • T
        August 10, 2017

        Last month’s bill was lower but we were miserable with the a/c turned up so I have had it running pretty much constantly this month, consequently the bill which arrived yesterday- $323. My home is 1200 square feet. The interesting thing is the averaged cost went down from 17 cents kwh to 13 cents kwh; as you say it’s like they want us to use more not conserve energy? One third of the bill is for meter charge, delivery charge, fees etc. Interesting when everything is computerized and should be virtually free it isn’t any cheaper to the consumer for firing all those meter readers.

        The gulf coast is getting hotter, 2016 globally was the hottest year on record according to BBC news. So we should be preparing for this ‘heat apocalypse’, I suppose when the power grid can’t keep up we’ll be expected to endure rolling blackouts then rather than plan for the future now.

        Our heat index was 87 degrees today yet it’s 82 indoors right now at 8 pm.

        I feel like I hit a wall re. budgeting, Part of that was buying a condominium, part of that is having an HOA. The HOA seem to leech money and are incapable of prioritizing work needed over trivial aesthetic issues. But they also set the condo dues. I was paying $225 a month two years ago and it seemed like a good deal for external repairs until they raised the monthly charge to $373. Their repairs slipped too, new roof has had endless repairs ( might as well have repaired old roof ) and new siding ditto.

        I would hope there is no issue of ‘kickbacks’ in our property but the incompetence of the contractors and the fact we keep using them. Makes me wonder.

        • Anita
          August 11, 2017

          Yes, they do want us to use more. I don’t understand their logic other than its corporate greed. Less employees, more use, higher cost, means bigger corporate profits. I do believe in global warming. If we could look at the temps of the 30s or 40s compared to today we’d see the difference. If I had a choice, which I don’t, I’d live in a house built underground. It would be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter because deep underground the temperature remains constant. Our night time temps have cooled into the low 60s. This makes it easier for sleeping but it also reminds me that winter is not far away so I need to be preparing for that.

          I feel that brick wall too. Just when I believe I’ve gotten the budget stretched to cover everything somebody raises their costs which makes everyone else do the same. I don’t understand HOAs as I’ve never had to deal with one. The worst I’ve had to deal with are the city ordinances at this new house. You mean you pay $4,500 a year just for repairs? How many people (units) pay that much a year? Are the units so old there are constant repairs requiring that much payment? Do the owners not have any say at all what the HOAs do? Do the people running the HOA get paid? Are there other condo owners complaining too? Can you investigate?

          • T
            August 11, 2017

            I went to meetings at first but the attitude of HOA board, people who have been in place for years, was- we will do what we like. It’s fairly common apparently https://hoareformcoalition.org/ and is being legally contested all this nonsense, but until then it seems like a handful of neighbors can run your life. A lot of people don’t realise how easy it is for them to get in trouble with a HOA.

            The monthly fee does cover trash pick up ( no heavy items ) water and sewer and maintenance of the community pool and grounds, but the gardeners hired- again are poor quality, the pool has needed repairs for months now, concrete repairs are needed, lights are out….

            The latest I heard was that one of the board members has made herself in charge following the loss of the chairperson. No vote.

            I believe it’s all fairly common ‘legal corruption’. People don’t get the details until they are signing to buy, and there’s hundreds of pages.

            All the other owners have thrown their hands up and left, they rent out the properties or leave them empty. I am the only owner lives in my building.

            I had a repair issue recently and the management company ( another scam ) sent the workman to the wrong address then the wrong window so far, I suspect they are pushing me out because I ask too many questions.

            • Anita
              August 11, 2017

              I guess no one in that group has figured out that many empty houses are an invitation to crime. Empty houses are open space for illegal gambling, drug use, squatters, and eventually other crimes. No matter how nice a neighborhood starts out as, those abandoned places are invitations.

              Here in KY it is required that all such information about HOAs be furnished and explained thoroughly before a sale. To not do that is considered a fraud and punishable by law. Sounds to me like they have themselves open to a liable suit if someone gets hurt because of neglected repairs.

              • T
                August 11, 2017

                It’s fortunately in one of the best zip codes otherwise you would be right. Very safe, very little crime. But it’s not for me, community property ownership, I get a bit paranoid when someone else has control over my life- my finances especially.

                It’s bad enough that health insurance companies and doctors are allowed to so exploit americans, been watching that spin further out of control for the last decade. Hoping as it affects more and more americans directly finally people will push back and insist on a decent health system, but not holding my breath.

                The home prices went up here this year, so I should make a nice profit, even if I sell cheap, but living in a place where we have big storms and floods, I think I would rather rent and be able to just walk away if there’s a natural disaster. Especially if I am not happy with quality of repairs yet have no say in it. Or in the ever rising condo charge and property taxes. I’ll soon be paying as much in tax insurance and HOA fees as renting!

                A lot of people do not realize the tremendous powers in HOAs, it is totally unconstitutional but has become very common across America. From petty nonsense like not being allowed to fly a flag to having the wrong shade of paint. Fines can be applied then if they are not paid a lien on the property. My experience the kind of people who want to run HOAs are the pettiest…they don’t always act in the collective financial interests of the whole community.

                All these things we are trying to budget- water, housing, electricity, healthcare, they are the basic human needs. I keep thinking to myself ‘it shouldn’t be this hard…’

  7. Cynthia
    August 6, 2017

    When I called my city to ask questions about my water usage and how it could be the same whether I was home that month or not (and therefore using a normal amount of water or none) I was told that they always round up. So if I used 1001 units or 1999 I would be charged for 2000. Unless I could get the usage under 1000 the cost would remain the same. Further, there was a minimum usage amount charged for whether I used any water or not. Your city’s system may be similar.
    Good for you on reducing your electric usage!

    • Anita
      August 7, 2017

      Yes, apparently our city is the same. The taxes and EPA fees and surcharges get billed to us even when there is zero use too. Many large cities in other states offer water saving devices free but our water company doesn’t. One water company, can’t remember which one, offers low flow shower heads and nozels for sinks plus rainwater catch barrels. Our water company is very backwards.

  8. Melinda
    August 6, 2017

    We got one also showing that we used less electricity than all of our neighbors. It made us glad to know we are doing well.

    • Anita
      August 7, 2017

      Yea! Feels like winning a prize doesn’t it?

  9. Jill
    August 6, 2017

    Those are good numbers!
    I wouldn’t fret over the gas all that much. What was your average heating bill for those months in the last home? There might not be much of a difference when you compare, especially after an unusually cold winter like we just had. If you can manage it, a furnace check up before the winter is overall a good idea but it doesn’t sound like you have all that large a margin of error. Your next bill will be interesting to see.
    Also, while for us it is normal to cook regularly and can as well, many people just do not use their stove tops, let alone their ovens. They rely on microwaves, toaster ovens and electric kettles….. and take out.
    One of the things I notice about all my utility bills is how little actual $ cost there is for my actual usage of whatever is being provided. The bulk, after their ridiculous delivery fees, are ever increasing and non negotiable fees, such as various taxes and surcharges and for water/gas/electric the manipulating of the basic charge for the first so many units of what ever is used. The more people conserve the higher cost becomes for the first so many units.

    • Anita
      August 7, 2017

      You are so right about that, most people don’t use their stoves much these days. I forgot about that.

      My budget is already stretched very thin because of all the raises on absolutely everything that I may have to skip getting the furnace checkup this year. I have a carbon monoxide detector though.

      I’m on the equal payment plan but if I had zero use there would still be $20 charge each month for gas and electric. Zero water use would be $15 every other month. Cutting utilities off because of high bills is the cities worst enemy. Many houses dark from no power creates crime, in more than one way.

  10. Sue
    August 6, 2017

    Bragging a little keeps you encouraged and me, too! I have been using your water saving idea to water my tomatoes and other plants. Don’t know how much I’ll save but it helps me feel like I am doing something to have control. Keep those ideas coming!

    • Anita
      August 6, 2017

      Thank you for telling me Sue. It feels good when someone puts my thrifty tips into practice even when its only to save only a penny or two. I always say, a penny saved is better than nothing saved.

  11. Belinda
    August 6, 2017

    Way to go on saving 60% less electricity than 90 of your neighbors. I just found your blog this week and have been enjoying it immensely. You are setting a great example for your readers. 🙂

    • Anita
      August 6, 2017

      Thanks Belinda, glad to have you here. Really all I’m doing is telling my own story and letting other people read it. I’m always hopeful there is something useful for others.

  12. Sandy
    August 6, 2017

    Good luck with cutting back. As my grandmother used to say, “Sometimes you can’t win for losing.”

    • Anita
      August 6, 2017

      Yeah, I used to say that too but lately I’ve started saying; I think I can, I think I can. Gotta keep myself encouraged to keep trying. A little online bragging helps too.

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