Coffee heat rising

Costco Day!

So this morning the plan is to make a very fast, very low-end Costco run: the first trip to Costco in a month!

The $50 cash card I bought to pay for gas fueled the car for a month and a half (!!). And I still have enough pork in the freezer to feed Cassie and Ruby almost to the end of the month. The visit from Borderlands — the outfit that hands out 60 pounds of produce for $10, grâce á local grocery stores donating fruits and veggies that come to the end of their shelf life — has stocked the freezer generously, meaning the only food I’ll need to buy between now and the end of the month will be incidentals like salad greens and the like.

Today Costco is going to sell me another cash card so I can refill the Dog Chariot, and while there I figure to pick up a package of paper towels and a bag of mixed veggies for the dog food. That’s it.

The difference this is making in the budget has been a life-saver. The utility bills, which the bastards have been slowly hiking up a little at a time, are more astronomical than I realized, having stopped keeping track of every penny over the past couple of years. This month’s water bill is $218 and the power bill is $248. They’ve jacked up the gas bill, too: $19, a little much when you consider that in the summertime I hardly use the hot water at all.

But the big budget-busters this month have been a $250 bill from the flicking dentist, who inflicted that gouge just to clean my teeth, and the $293 for the countertop oven.

Every time I go in for a routine cleaning, the dentist’s assistant wants to X-ray my jaws. I’ve been able to put her off for quite a while, claiming (truthfully) that I’ve been exposed to more than enough radiation thanks to the Adventures in Medical Science and do not want any further exposure. This time, though, I have a sore tooth — an old, failed root canal that has been neglected since I gave up on the former dentist after three root canals in the same goddamn tooth — and thought it had better be looked at. But nay: nothing shows up on the X-ray. The pain is prob’ly caused by my tooth-clenching habit.

So that was about $100 for naught.

I probably should have bought the $99 Kitchenaid toaster oven that JestJack found at Macy’s. The prospect of dealing with Macy’s, though…ugh! I dislike shopping there so much, it was worth paying twice as much at Williams-Sonoma to get a comparable item, just to not have to deal with the place. It’s no wonder they’re having to close 100 stores. Their customer service sucks.

Anyway, $486 in utility bills plus another $541 in surprise! bills has done in this month’s budget. I have $163 to live on for the next two weeks. The $25 needed to partly refill the gas tank will cut that to $138.

So I’m going to end up in the red again.

I wonder why it is that every freaking time the utility bills are through the roof, there’s some outrageous extraordinary bill? It never, ever fails.

Looks like I’m going to have to budget $500 for the summertime utilities. I wish I dared get one of those solar rooftop plans. But the utility companies here are trying to drive the solar companies out of business, and they’re about to succeed. The Corporation Commission, which regulates power rates (heh! after a fashion) is in the utility companies’ pocket — that’s not an exaggeration. Arizona Public Service, the most rapacious of our suppliers, buys these guys by underwriting their election campaigns, so anyone who’s likely to resist the endless demands for higher rates hasn’t got a chance.

So I’m afraid that doing one of those leases will be too risky. Some people are already complaining that because of APS’s machinations, their solar systems will not pay for themselves over the lifetime of the house. And in Las Vegas, the companies that were selling those installations just gave up and left town, thanks to the machinations of the local power companies and corrupt officials. So…forget that.

If it’s going to cost me $500 just to air condition the house at 82 degrees & water the plants, we’re reaching the point where it may be worth renting someplace where it’s cooler. I could go up to the Flagstaff area and rent a condo or a cabin. The smoke from the forest fires isn’t very pleasant, but most of the time the weather is a great deal more tolerable. I’d have to shut down this house, though…and am not sure what to do about the pool. You can’t drain it in the summer, because the plaster won’t hold up if it’s allowed to dry out in the heat. Plus of course if the irrigation system goes on the fritz unnoticed, half the landscape plants will shrivel up and die within a week. Not even “xeriscapic” plants can survive 115 degrees without water.

Well, onward. Want to get to Costco before it gets crowded. Have an economically cool day, wherever you are!

10 thoughts on “Costco Day!”

  1. My aunt who is not great with finances, nor was she good at being a homeowner, this past year lost her home to foreclosure. It was in her best interest though, being that her financial priorities were so wonky that she had a broken dishwasher, broken oven, failing refrigerator, pipe leak, etc that she just couldn’t keep up with (she never fixed broken appliances but happily kept paying for cable TV and expensive gadgets). She also bought the home brand new just before the market crashed so a home she paid nearly $300k for in a far-flung Atlanta suburb lost more than half it’s value a few years later. She was terrible with her money (has declared bankruptcy more than once and she inherited and sold a southern-California home for over $600k before buying this Georgia home but unwisely didn’t pay for the new home in cash!) but she even says now she’s not built out to be a homeowner and prefers renting. While on the surface her rent is higher than her mortgage, for her, having working appliances and not having to be the responsible party to fixing all issues, coupled with significantly lower utility bills made her wish she got out of home owning sooner. I know you have dogs and have a paid-off home, but perhaps you can get a good deal on your place if you sell. Coupled with reduced utilities, it might make life easier on the monthly budget. But moving and selling is easier said than done. I guess see what your market in your area can bring in and take that in consideration down the road. I can’t imagine those utility bills are going to go down in the future. I did have a college professor at the local community college who took in a room mate to help her out with increased expenses at her home.

    • Glad she found a better lifestyle. Even if the rent is higher than her mortgage, the savings on homeowner’s insurance and maintenance probably make up the difference.

      Me, I’ve lived in apartments. Many of them. For many years. ‘Druther camp out on the desert than do that again! And I’m very good at handling money. The budget is tight this month because of the summer bills and a couple of surprises — but the truth is, if I chose I could pay for both surprise bills out of my emergency savings account. But I don’t have to: in fact, there’s enough in the budget to cover them with a small over-run. And in fact, there’s 14 grand in checking, so if I run one or two hundred over budget this month, the world will not skid to a halt. 😀

      I’d rather not put this year’s overage into the utility bills or the dentist’s pocket, though. In September, I intend to set aside $4,000 of this year’s savings to replaster the pool and use the remaining $10,000 to buy into a Vanguard index fund. Then, with any luck, each September (when I have to take an RMD from the big IRA) there will be something left from the prior year’s RMD to plow back into investments.

      Also, one thing to consider is that yes, the utility bills WILL go down. I don’t do the monthly averaging thing. So this month’s bill is the highest of the year. In November, December, January, and February, the electric bill will run $60 to $80/month. The water bill will drop in half, because the plantings need much less water — irrigation will go from once a day to twice a week (or less, if it rains).

      What causes the Bag Lady Effect is having a finite amount of money to live on for the rest of your life, AND not knowing how long “the rest of your life” will be. If you knew it would only be, say, 10 years, you could give yourself a significantly larger amount of savings to diddle away. But what if, like my ex-MIL, you live to be 102, with no sign that your health is declining? I was laid off my job at 64. If I have the misfortune to live to 100, I will have to stretch my savings over almost 40 years — longer than my working life!

      So…one tends to pinch pennies.

  2. That pool looks wonderful and would go a long way toward compensating one for 115 degrees. If it was shaded I would tend to live in it, with a laptop on the edge.

    If it’s any consolation, energy companies everywhere are wretchedly corrupt. Here in Western Canada, our local municipal utility (supposedly private enterprise, but the city still holds sway in the boardroom) had the gall to lobby the provincial government for funds to build 3 new generation plants (coal-fired, oh we were so naive in the 80’s), then lobby them again to mothball them when it turned out the capacity wasn’t needed. Then, when they tried to transfer the financial liability to from their “private” arm (unregulated) to their “public” arm (regulated), the CEO said it was all very complicated and the average citizen wouldn’t understand it. Oh, how I wanted to be part of the US that day, and watch him marched out in a good old-fashioned SEC perp-walk.

    (Americans, take heart, the perp-walk will be your longest-lasting legacy to the free world. Note that the Chinese have already adopted it, in preference to the traditional “disappearing”, at least for high-profile corruption targets.)

    • The pool is the only thing that survival in an Arizona summer possible! I start and end the day in the pool, and sometimes I take my life in my hands and dive into the thing at mid-day. Who cares about skin cancer? Ya gotta die of something.

      {sigh} Depressing about the utility corruption in your parts. South of the border, we think of the Canadians as basically better than us that way. Oh well. Power corrupts, they say: electricity is power, and so…

    • We have that here in the US …. I believe the “name of the game” is “stranded costs”. For some reason some folks think that utilities are entitled to “special treatment”. It used to drive me crazy….then I bought utility stocks….

  3. Wow Funny…$218 for water…for one month. I’ll never complain about my $20.33 bill again….which I thought/think is too much….it’s water for crying out loud. I’ve installed two rain barrels and hope to do install 2 more. I pay right around a penny a gallon….BUT off my roof…it’s free. As for the electric….it’s crazy….BUT I’ve seen crazier…A friend of mine just got his bill +$500 for one month. If you get electric from the local “pirates” you pay right around 15.5 cents a KW…I choose to “shop” for mine and pay right around 13.2/KW…”soup to nuts”. My goal this year is to not have an electric bill over $100 in any month…So far so good. Thank goodness the place is paid for…………… As for the countertop oven. Thank you for the kind mention, how sad that Macy’s just doesn’t get it. BUT a couple days after you shared your desire for an oven I get the Aldi grocery store ad….and there it is….I’m pretty sure the same countertop oven but with Aldi’s brand logo for like $34.99…I swear….WITH a 2 year warranty. I didn’t see it at my local Aldi when I went…So I’ll have to look around. How about an update on this little gem you purchased?

  4. Ohhh I’d like to have a rain barrel! I heard it’s illegal here, but have never tried to confirm or de-confirm that. I don’t know how they’d catch you…except they’re constantly photographing people’s yards. Between the county and Google, I guess they couldn’t miss it.

    Wow! A $500 power bill…how large is his shack? My son gets bills over $300 for his little 1300 s.f. house — and he keeps the temp in the in the uncomfortably high side. But he’s in the Arizona Public Service district.

    Hereabouts you have no choice about the electric utility: it’s either Arizona Public Service or Salt River Project. The latter is a kind of quasi-governmental thing, and its rates are significantly lower than APS’s. But the only way you can get into one or the other of them is by your choice of where you buy a house. The only way you can evade APS’s outrageous rates is by leasing a solar system, but APS and SRP are lobbying vigorously to get rid of that. In Las Vegas they’ve already driven those companies out, and it looks very likely they’ll succeed at that here, too.

    Zowie! Great discovery at the Aldi’s! We don’t have one of those here.

    I’ve used the Breville oven three times and it’s worked like a charm. So far it looks like it’ll do the job for most of the things the wall oven does. The few things that won’t fit in it can go in the propane grill, which I’ve used in the past for oven-like tasks like baking bread. It DOES get very hot, however. I think you absolutely wouldn’t want to turn your back on it while it’s running.

    • Sooo no problems with the breakers getting kicked out with the new oven? I mis-spoke about the price of the oven at Aldi…it’s $36.99….I’d like to get it just to see how useful it would be….DW is not a fan and fears it would find a “seat” right next to the never used bread maker. As for the water it seems EVERY year there is a 10% or more rate increase for reasons which include but are not limited to ….infrastructure improvements…employee raises….government regs….you name it. The case for rain barrels is compelling. I have two so far which can hold over 50 gallons each. I use that water for the garden, washing cars, etc. The REAL problem IMHO is the way the water is priced. It seems to reward large water users as the more you consume…the cheaper it gets per gallon. If they really wanted to conserve, as they claim, they would make it more painful for more consumption per gallon. It is truly amazing how fast these barrels fill during even a light rain. How is the composter doing?

      • It hasn’t thrown a breaker yet. I talked with Honored Handyman about that issue. He said the outlets in the garage should handle an 1800-watt appliance. I didn’t ask him about the kitchen outlets…but the one I’m using is newly installed and so presumably should be up to the task.

        That said: I haven’t used the gadget for a task that takes longer than about six or eight minutes (mostly crisping toast and melting cheese on bread). What it would do if you tried to roast a chicken in it remains to be seen.

        Mrs. JJ is right about the potential for it to become yet another kitchen sculpture. I wouldn’t have bought it if the real oven hadn’t crapped out and been beyond my means to replace. It’s redundant: everything the gadget does can be done by a real oven or a regular toaster. And it gets VERY hot: to claim it doesn’t heat up the kitchen is pretty silly. The regular oven emits nothing like this kind of heat, because it’s heavily insulated all the way around.

        Is it difficult to install these barrels? I don’t have gutters and would prefer not to — on my first house in the ‘hood, water would get in behind the gutters and rot the fascia boards. I had to have some of them replaced, to the tune of more money than I cared to spend. Plus some of the yard guys flat refuse to clean them out, and I am just too old to be clinging to a ladder up at roof level.

        Water bills here are set according to how much water you use in the early spring. That’s why, if you’re going to drain & refill the pool, you need to do it in November or December. The more water you use in February and March, the more they jack it to you when you need the water to keep your yard alive in the summertime.

        The composter is WORKING! It’s very happy. By the time the heat breaks, there should be a nice little stash of compost for the roses and proposed vegetable pots.

  5. Wow, your utilities are outrageous! I haven’t received any utility bills for the new house yet, but I doubt they’ll be that crazy high. I’ve had to run the A/C only two times at this new house, and that was just for a few hours. The house seems to be well insulated, so even on hot days it stays cool inside. I now have an electric dryer instead of a gas one, but I usually hang clothes to dry, so I’m not sure that will make much of a difference, either. I’ve found water rates to be ridiculously cheap here, so even though I have more landscaping to water I don’t think the bill will be too astronomical. I’ll just have to wait and see.

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