I woke up early this morning in a panic realising that yesterday I forgot to pay the weekly instalment on my energy bill. Stressed and harrowed, I got out of bed immediately and phoned through the payment before 7am. I just have my fingers crossed that everything works out okay.
“That doesn’t sound so bad” I hear you say. “Why the panic?”
The stress stems from the fact that our energy bill for the quarter was over $1000.
I hear you gasp and mutter under your breath…
“Oh my goodness, why is their bill so high? Those inefficient energy users! Wasters of energy! They are singlehandedly using up all of Australia’s Coal Reserves!”
Maybe you are not saying that and what I am hearing is just the guilt-ridden, judgemental voices in my own head, followed closely by voices of justification…
Think rental property. Think open plan kitchen-dining-lounge area. Think large old inefficient box airconditioner struggling to reduce the oppressive tropical summer heat and humidity. Think 2 box bedroom air conditioners overnight. Think clothes dryer to help cope with the laundry on those many rainy days (and also because I work full time and don’t get a chance to hang things on the line as much as I would
like toshould). Think 5 overhead fans to keep the air in the house circulating as much as possible. Think ridiculous light fittings that are linked together so that when you turn on one light, you turn on two. Think kids being afraid of the dark and leaving bathroom light and bedroom lights on all night. Think Dishwasher. Think 2 computers. 2 Televisions. 2 fridges.
I could go on, but our house is starting to sound like the electronic version of Noah’s Ark and I think
you are getting sick of me saying the word think you get the picture.
I am not proud of our energy bill. I live in dread of each meter reading and when I discover an envelope with the energy company logo has arrived in our letterbox my heart starts flipping over in my chest. To make matters even worse, they have these nifty little graphs on the back of the bill that shows you how much energy you are using, compared to the rest of the people
in the world in the region. The graph on our energy bill always shows our power consumption being 50 gazillion times higher than everyone else in our area. Oh how I wish we could have solar power. If we owned our home, rather than renting, installing Solar Power would be one of the first things on our to-do list. But that is not our reality right now.
Because we have a tight budget, and we don’t have a lazy $1000 hanging around, I made a payment arrangement with the energy company to pay off the bill over several weeks. I am meant to pay $120 each Friday and the energy company is quite militant about this. If you don’t pay on the day, you have broken your arrangement and it can hurt your chance of getting another payment arrangement in the future. When I made this arrangement, I was warned that i MUST pay on the date. And I was also warned that I had NOT paid on the date once before, so basically, I was on my last chance for arrangements.
So far each week I have been trying to put between 10 and forty dollars more on top of each week’s installment, so that by the time the arrangement is over, I will be in front and will already have paid money towards the next bill.
My aim is to then keep paying the same amount each week so that by the time the next bill comes, it will already be paid for in full, or at least down to a manageable amount. The trouble is, by the time the arrangement is over, the strain of paying these amounts has left our cupboards so bare and our list of necessities so high that it is almost impossible to keep paying money towards the next bill. If feels like we are operating in a never ending hand-to-mouth cycle. I am starting to feel like a professional money juggler.
Sometimes I look at the amount of money we have left to buy groceries and I don’t think we are going to make it last for the week. But miraculously, we somehow always do survive. No one goes hungry. Even if that means that I have baked beans on toast for lunch.
The baked beans on toast thing doesn’t happen very often, though. My husband does most of the cooking becuase he loves doing it (yay me!) and has a knack for making everything we eat super tasty. I am not too bad at this myself, but the hubster sets the bar so high that on the rare occasions that we do lash out and eat at a restaurant, we often find ourselves wishing that he just bought the ingredients and cooked it himself at home.
Usually our ‘budget’ food is healthy. We try to stick to fresh ingredients – and tend to steer clear of processed food as much as possible. Spaghetti bolognese with heaps of fresh vegetables and fresh herbs. Chicken Curry with heaps of vegetables and rice. Tuna pasta using fresh cream, onion and tinned Corn. Bangers and Mash with Peas. Teriyaki Chicken with vegetables, rice and salad.
It may feel like a struggle sometimes. It may feel like we are living hand to mouth. But to be brutally honest, in a very first world kind of way.
I complain about my power bill, but the reason my bill is so high is because of all the ‘necessary’ devices that we run in our household, yet there are so many who don’t even have access to power at all. There are so many people in this world who don’t have access to fresh clean water, let alone the fresh food that we do. My anxieties, my worries, pale in the face of the cruelty, hopelessness and despair these people face every day.
There are people right now all over the world that don’t have a safe place to sleep tonight.
So as I ponder all of this, I will stop whining.
I have a lot to be thankful for.
I will stop the panic.
I will just ‘BE’.