Thursday, September 20, 2007


A Cold & Snow-Covered Thermometer Shows the Impact of a Winter Storm by Stephen St. John
A Cold & Snow-Covered Thermometer Shows the Impact of a Winter Storm

Many of us are governed by the years starting in January and others by the academic year which starts in September.
I use both months as a measuring stick. Both months finds me sitting down with a calculator and my trusty notebook, checking the prices paid for regular items and like a gardener a bit of pruning here and there, and stopping leaks here and there prepare me for the winter months.

A note arrived from the gas company yesterday requesting a 50% increase in my monthly contribution. I would be happy with some increase based on higher fuel prices, but a 50% up trend is telling me something. ( First I panic!) Secondly I checked whether we had used more gas over the last year. The answer is positive as we had central heating installed and although I had increased my payment by 20% and frugally used the heating system, low temperature, timed etc, I cannot justify the by now 80% increase requested. Partly to blame is the way they work out their payment scheme as it happens on a given date and if you have just had a bulk tank delivery the week before that ( as we did) it is likely that the payment scheme will be out of kilter.
The options here are simple: reduce comsumption , discuss payments or cut down in other areas to pay for the increase. I talked to customer services requesting a figure based on actual consumption which she informed me would require a 25% increase on top of the 25% increase I had already put in place. I will go along with that. Secondly, I have looked at how we can reduce gas consumption and can now adjust my expectations of central heating in winter ( reducing the temperature by another 1 degree and delaying putting the system on) and cutting out the Aga in some summer months to counteract the increases.) None are going to be popular but are nevertheless practical measures to do.
It does however leave a hole in my budget and presents an opportunity to check against the other items on the list.
We often do not realise how costs gradually creep up in all areas of expenses and from comparing the costs between January and September, my living costs have increased by 15% average ( which is a lot and bears no resemblance to inflation figures presented by the government).
As a result of not being likely to get a pay rise of 15%, there is only one option which is to cut down on what is already a frugal budget.

The harvest in the garden has been sufficient to eat daily fresh produce. I have not preserved anything like the vegetables last year apart from jams and soft fruits so there is going to be a shortage over the winter months.

Floods, farming crises and poor harvests are going to push prices up. Interest rates are volatile, banks not quite as secure as we thought and the results of all of us cutting back signal a recession in the governments statistics. That would mean that our growth is slowing down and guess what.....I believe it is and is necessary to reach a sustainable future.
Whatever decision you make about your spending power does have wider impacts and the more people ' stop buying into this', the more we reach towards a tipping point in the economy. Its likely to create uncertainty all around but reading the signs is essential to have some idea where you are positioned on the roller coaster.

Its about reducing our expectations to a sustainable level.

Being warm is one of our basic needs so an adjustment for comfort is necessary For us this means going back to sweaters and logfires as well as cutting back expenses in other areas to get our basic need for warmth met.

The weather is autumnal and signals the beginning of a cold downturn and by checking how much fuel companies are going to require of me to stay toasty, I can make adjustments.

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