Budgeting for Fluctuating Bills

September 19, 2013

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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, maybe 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!



Visit A Time for Everything to learn more budgeting tips!

Melissa is passionate about people living within their means and becoming--and remaining--debt-free. She is the owner of A Time for Everything, which includes both a shop where she sells handmade cash envelope system wallets and accessories, and a blog where she writes about frugal living, creating, and life in general. She's been blogging since 2007 and making pretty wallets since 2011.

9 comments on “Budgeting for Fluctuating Bills

  1. Great idea Melissa, such a great plan! When I was a single Mom, and was paid twice a month, I used to deduct half my rent from my checking account on the pay period it wasn’t due so that I wouldn’t have such a big chunk coming out at once.

  2. Kel says:

    We have a different approach. I budget electric/gas/etc. together with household products. Basically I take the highest bill of the year, add $30 or so, and that’s the household budget. In the summer there’s a little wiggle around the bills to refresh toilet paper or whatever, and in the winter when the bills are lower I stock up on Ziploc bags, paper towels, dishwasher detergent, all that stuff. It also works out that, by planning for the bills being higher than they usually are, that I have a little extra in the budget in case of emergency, and automatic savings when it isn’t used.

  3. Jelena says:

    Here in Germany we always pay the fixed price for our utilities and it is based on previous year (in our first year it was based on the people that lived here before us, but it was almost the same as ours). At the end of a year we pay the difference compared to the last year. Unfortunatelly, this year electricity prices went up, so we had to pay extra 30 euros (not that bad for a whole year)

  4. samara navi says:

    Hi Toni: How do I get your budgetting book; I can not find the “add to cart”. Thanks. Samara

  5. bobbie says:

    good tips, i think its a good strategy to always build in a 15% buffer that way if the bills come in a little light for a couple months, you have a little bonus savings automatically built in.

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