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The Billing Season

Once a year, the planets align, and I get hit by heaps of bills — often all three utilities, plus car rego and home insurance…

It’s pretty much a consequence of having bought a house mid-year (in 2005) and bought a car mid-year (in 2008) as well. Plus other, quarterly, bills seem to arrive around the same time.

Everything arrives around the end of July, and is payable in August or September, then hits the credit card bill in October. Yes, it’s The Billing Season.

Home and contents insurance (for a year) with fairly high excess I may one day live to regret — $639.95

Car registration (a year) — $270.40 registration + $443 TAC charge + $44.30 insurance duty = $757.70, up about $45 from a couple of years ago.

Car insurance (a year) — ye olde 2000 Holden Astra covered for $2900 (hmm, about a third of what I actually paid for it in 2007) plus Third party property damage = $317.02

So rego and insurance together costs $1074, or about $3 a day, even if you drive nowhere (eg excluding fuel and maintenance).

Rates — total this year of $1427.10 (up from $1351.20 last year) thanks in part to the fire services levy — which moved the cost of fire services from insurance to rates… which makes sense; the burden shouldn’t be just on those who bother to insure. First payment of $356.75 due at the end of September.

Electricity — I recently switched to Powershop, which is interesting — you can pay in advance (and choose between different options at different prices) or just pay afterwards like with a conventional provider. It’s quite interesting seeing what specials come up. Anyway it’s currently costing me $3.83 per day, down from $4.82 at this time last year. But they don’t have a fixed rate all year, and costs may rise a bit as summer demand kicks in, though to an extent you can pre-purchase to minimise that. If anybody wants to switch to Powershop, let me know — if I refer you, we both get a $75 credit.

Gas — $464.50 for 61 days = $7.61 per day over the winter, when we use the heating a fair bit, so this should drop off in coming months.

Water — $212.10 for 76 days, but this includes a government rebate of $100. Without this, it would be $4.10 per day. Apparently we’re using an average 247 litres each day. I’m not sure why the rebate has kicked in now… it’s ages since we switched to the efficient shower head, and I don’t recall any more recent changes. Or was that the thing where they overcharged us in the past?

It’s time to buy a new Yearly Myki Pass — the cost these days for the discounted Commuter Club fare is $1395 including PTUA membership — compared to $1501.50 for a retail yearly. Some people saw price cuts in January, but most fares went up by CPI+2.5% (which is a reason to buy your Yearly Pass before December when the old prices stop being offered).

As a bonus, the drains had their biennual(ish) partial blockage, caused by a tree behind my property. The plumbers came and this time recommended a water jet which they say will clear away more of the tree roots. $250 later, the drains are clear again. I’ve got a coupon for a 20% discount next time.

Some costs are more regular: I get monthly bills for my ISP and phones, for instance, mostly processed automatically.

One other trend is obvious: more bills are arriving online than a year ago. It’s not hard to see why Australia Post is in trouble.

I’m not complaining about all the costs above. I do okay in the income stakes. But perhaps I should try to shift things around so they don’t all hit at once.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

8 replies on “The Billing Season”

Yikes! Yes, shift some of those annual bills to different times of year. Nothing more depressing than a huge credit card bill.
BTW, is there any advantage in paying your electricity bill in advance (eg is it cheaper?). Thanks

Pay the same for my car which I also hardly use. Would be better for environment, congestion, etc. if reg/tac was added to petrol prices. The current high fixed costs encourage people to drive more to defray these costs. If it was charged per usage, there’d be incentive to find cheaper alternatives for some trips… And it would cost me less :o)

My water bill has suddenly gone from telling me we were quite an efficient household, compared with others, to telling me we use about twice as much as ‘similar households in the area’. Our consumption hasn’t changed, and we still get about half of our water from our tank instead of the mains. I hate to think what they’d say (‘they’ being Yarra Valley Water) if we used the mains exclusively. I have no idea how they work out which houses in our area have the same number of people in them as ours, but I think they’ve got this wrong.

Have you noticed a change in the comparisons on your bill, or does your water company not do it?

Philip – you’re not the only one. Apparently we’re using double “similar houses in our area”, which is rubbish. I don’t know what they screwed up… apparently we’re using ~160L pp/day (sounds about right), but our neighbours are using 85L pp/day which is rubbish. Ah well.

@Philip/Shaun, my last bill from South East Water (issued in July) said we were using 247 litres per day (for the whole household), up from 244 the year before, and that the average in my postcode is 440.

In my case, number of people in the household is tricky to calculate as it varies through the week… the closest figure would be an average of 2!

A tip for renewing car insurance (and possibly other policies): always check the price of a new policy compared to the offered renewal price. For the last two years I have taken out a new policy rather than renewing and saved $80-$100. That is with AAMI.

ABC’s “The Checkout” program discussed this last year and called it the Lazy Tax, because if you’re lazy and just pay the renewal without any investigation, you pay more.

Hi Daniel,

I’m interested in the Powershop referral. But first, I’d like to know what gas retailer you use (given that Powershop doesn’t sell gas :-( …). You can get back to me on the email address on this post.

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