Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#118 - City to Country Changes in Monthly Bills

A huge bonus that comes with moving to the country from our address within Harris County city limits, just outside of Houston, is that our monthly bills should be drastically reduced, especially since we're not wanting to build "big." We want a simple, country house.

It is nice living by the bay. We've always enjoyed a day on the water or a day of fishing, but the risks that come with living by the bay are rather large. In fact, in 2008, the inside of our house was destroyed by Hurricane Ike. High winds blew our way --- along with a small tornado and the combo Mother Nature pack ended up ripping our roof off, then the rains that pounded the house that night and the rains that continued over the next several days came pouring into our house. Since practically everyone in the neighborhood lost a portion of their roof or worse, the entire bay area was devastated, it wasn't as if you could exactly call the local repairman to show up to help you out.

We did rebuild and we are paying the extra high premiums that come with living in a high risk area. Our home insurance nearly doubled after the storm. This means that home insurance in our area costs about $3,000. per year. Once we move to the country, our home insurance should be drastically reduced. I've heard that the same kind of insurance we have on a house this size (which we won't be living in a house this large) costs around $600. per year.

The taxes that we now pay are hefty. Living in Harris County means higher taxes...lots of city services in a metropolitan area to keep up with. City living requires more streets, more drainage systems, more street lights, more fire hydrants, more, more more. And we citizens pay, pay, pay. Living in the country brings less city services, but the reduction in taxes is a good trade-off.

Once we are moved outside of Harris County, our automobile insurance will also decrease significantly. Living within the city limits of the greater Houston area includes higher premiums because the risk with driving is increased in Harris County. City drivers are usually in a hurry, red lights are often meaningless, and staying in your own lane doesn't mean the person next to you is staying in theirs as they talk on the cell phone, put on lipstick or eat a hamburger. So, we are looking forward to our car insurance bill to go down.

My Heather & Stefie with their country friends.

There will be some shocking daily changes to our lives that will immediately impact our monthly outgoing costs --- a big one will be our AT&T U-Verse services that gives us over 200 channels, six televisions with all of these channels at the touch of a remote control and DVR's in all the main rooms so we can watch our favorite recorded programs at leisure.

As far as we know, our land is located in such a remote area that cable or high-definition television via digital boxes are not yet available. But, here in the city this bill runs, which includes internet usage, runs us about $180. per month. Ridiculous. However, the add-on of internet services is pretty important in my world...that little add-on means I get to read your blogs and have fun writing on my blog. Wireless internet means I can do research as I please and keep in touch with family and friends through Facebook, blogging, email and such. And let's not forget, there is not hardly any kind of personal or professional business that we conduct these days without the Internet.

This is how I picture all of us on Sunday afternoon at the farm.

As for home phone services, we did away with those this past year and bought a Magic Jack, which we love. It is wonderful not having high telephone bills. Since we already have our cell phones, we don't need fancy home phone services any longer. We simply plugged in the Magic Jack connection to a USB port on our computer, then plugged in the phone wire. As long as the computer is turned on and the Magic Jack connection is connected, then we are in business and I have a home phone. I use my cordless phone as usual with the Magic Jack connection. I am not sure if we can't be without a regular phone line in the country...I'm not sure if we will need a phone line in order to get Internet. We might have to suffer through good old dial-up once again after we move to the country.

It will be incredible to not have such a large house to air-condition. The savings in that area will be tremendous. Here, we have a house that's near 3,000 square feet and our country house will probably be approximately 1,500 square feet...tucked beneath the trees in the forest. It should be cool and breezy. The insulation will be carefully considered and installed with high-rating, as appropriate, to give us a noticeable energy savings.

Of course, we will also save on heating the house, but we're not quite sure about how to go about this part of construction. We've always had gas heating, but being in the country will rule that out, unless we want to deal with propane, which I don't. So, I guess we will have electric heat for the first time.

Here in the city, our water bill includes our trash pick up services. Since we won't have trash pick up services in the country, we will be utilizing a dedicated area with a burn most people do in the country. This will wipe this fee off of our monthly map.

Sitting down and crunching the numbers, I figure that we will save approximately $800. per month, at the least, just in cable television and utility costs. That's a hefty chunk of change.

Plus, we won't have a monstrous house with a house payment that is too much...all this space we are paying for and we use 1/4th of it on a regular basis. As we are growing older, we enjoy big open spaces where it counts, but we no longer want to pay for a bunch of extra rooms that we rarely see. Besides, it is too difficult to keep up with a house this large on my own. Since I am the main one doing the bulk of daily work in this house, I don't see the point. And it doesn't matter if a room upstairs isn't used but one day per month, I still feel the need to dust and vacuum it weekly. It adds to my work load.

With one of my last posts discussing the increase in how many eggs we are eating since we have been raising our backyard chickens, we touched upon the savings in gasoline. All of those saved trips from having to go out to eat do add up to savings in our gas expenses. This is an area that will increase once we move. Deputy Dave will still be working in downtown Houston, but the drive is about 50 minutes from our land to downtown. We will be buying an economical vehicle to help reduce these costs. And, he will certainly be making trips to the grocery store on his way home from work to prevent us from having to drive near 13 miles one-way to the closest grocery store from our acreage. In this area, careful planning will help us to save money. However, we will also have much more land and we will be raising farm animals for consumption and growing more crops than ever to enjoy on our plate.

Anyway, I keep thinking about the changes that are to come in our monthly expenses. I think we will be spending our first six months out in the woods with our jaws hanging open from sticker shock reduction. We've been spending big city money on so many hefty expenses that come with city living for most of our lives that I don't know how we'll react to not having those kinds of bills come in the mail any longer.

And if anyone has any suggestions and details --- you know I love details so don't be skimpy on the comment size --- about different kinds of satellite systems, satellite dishes, internet suggestions and such for rural living, I am listening closely. Next week, I'll probably be calling a little convenience store next to our acreage and see what they use and recommend as well. However, they are closer to a main highway which opens many doors for services to them, unlike us country hicks who will be living off the beaten path.

Since we do get AT&T cell phone service on certain parts of our land, I might have to buy one of those cards to plug into the computer to get internet service. I'm not sure. Maybe we will really be stuck with dial-up services with the local phone company. Regardless, I am extremely interested in my fellow country folk giving me a heads up on how all of this is accomplished on their land...and since I've only recently become addicted to the cable network channel of "Lifetime," I guess I could hook up my old VCR and start recording right now, every day. Maybe that will hold me over for a while as we get settled into our country house. Maybe.

For a while, we will probably hook up the old bunny antennae ears to a few of our older model televisions and I bet we will get so many great channels and good programming that we'll never want to pay for tv again. I've always said, "Give me PBS and I will be content." True. I love PBS shows such as "This Old House," and "Victory Garden" and "Antique Road Show," among so many others that I just adore! So, we probably won't even try to bother ourselves with cable television for our move. It would just clutter up our time and bog down our limited funds.

I already tried to start taping Lifetime Channel tonight on my VCR and DVD Recorder...FAIL. But, I'll keep trying. Hopefully, I'll get a good collection of stories to fill my down time on the farm.

Closer and closer, each week we are taking steps to bring us closer to moving to the country.

Today, I finished painting the entrance of the house, the Grand Foyer area and that's no small task.

The country cabin will NOT have high ceilings like this house!

Deputy Dave got home and took over painting the high corners and crevices...thank you Deputy Dave! Tomorrow, there will be more painting, but mostly cleaning because my daughter Heather will arrive sometime in the afternoon. I'm sure I'll wear myself thin. I always do. But, I'm a mom and our get togethers are precious to me. Besides, any extra work that I do in the house right now will only benefit us in a few weeks once we sell the house. More work now means less work later. Sounds good to me.

But, this weekend, we'll be having some fun. Well, as much fun as you can have with FIVE dogs in your house. Yes, Count, two, three, four, five...that's FIVE dogs in the house and FIVE chickens in the backyard. And what would all of this be a recipe for I hate to ask?



LindaG said...

So you're moving to the country. With renewable energy sources. And you're not going to heat with wood?
Since you will have a new place, and you are in the South, heating with electricity may be viable. :)

We do plan on having propane. For our gas stove (never cooked with wood, though I'd love to be as good a cook as Cowgirl's Country Life with pits and home made smokers and such.
And I was just telling hubby the other day that I think I'd like a gas insert for the fireplace. Wood is good, but we would have to buy it, or wait for the forestry service to open areas for cutting - which we did some of when we lived in Louisiana in '94.

In '94 we had a real satellite dish. Not dish network or any of that stuff. A real, 10 foot satellite dish. We LOVED it. Hubby even installed them for a while. But all the regulation to make it fair for the cable companies ruined satellite programming. It's just too expensive now. :(

I won't get started on over regulation of stuff, or making everything fair for everyone...

Sadly, I don't think Rabbit Ears work any more. Thank the government and the crap digital TV; but they do have antennas that will pick up the digital signal. Our trailer has one. So we do over the air TV at the farm, but it's not as far out as you are.
We have Verizon for our cell phone, and still have our old Alltel service plan and use that on the farm for our internet. So I guess we sort of have dial-up. :)

We always like getting back home to cable, but that isn't an option at the farm. Not enough houses to make it pay for them to run cable. We have considered satellite internet, but you are limited to how much time you get.

Before we got Verizon, we had spotty service with Sprint. As in dropped out a lot. So we used the public Library in Alec.
But cell phone service has improved a little since '94.
You could still pay to have whoever is local run the cable line for you. Costs vary over distance...

That's about all I can think of right now. And since it's almost 3 AM, I should probably go to bed. Happy Thursday to you!

Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife said...

I'm a country girl. I was raised on a 3000 acre cattle/wheat ranch. I LOVED it! I live on the very edge of our smallish town now. The biggest things I can think that are money wasters is "running into town" for something small. Gas is ridiculous now! I would suggest using your bread machine. If you can get the internet, buy a ROKU and get Netflix to stream to your TV. This saves us a ton of money and we still get to see our favorite shows AND be picky!

It is going to be a HUGE adjustment for your children. They will get frustrated, but it is essential that you teach them how to work hard and help out with the chores. It truly is good for them. You have to work as a team.

BTW, can't imagine painting that high up! Yikes!!!

Hope this helps.


Stefie said...

Stacie, this is her youngest daughter "Stefie" my sister and me will not be moving to the land with her. My sister already lives in a small town up near the Fort Worth/Dallas area and I will be moving to San Marcos in January. We grew up spending every weekend on that land picking up sticks and other chores, that was enough for me. My sister and parents love country living, nature, farm animals, and such...but as for me I'm more fond of concrete, sky scrappers, and neighborhoods where my neighbors are just a few feet away instead of miles.

I am very excited for you mom though! I'm glad yalls life long dream is finally coming true! I'm also glad y'all will be saving all the money. Just promise me one two story cabin! One floor will be quite enough. Love you!!

Matthew T said...

I have lived both in the suburbs of Chicago, and in rural areas of Illinois. (Not quite as rural as you are moving, but fairly rural none the less.) I also know some people that live as far off the beaten path as you.

For internet/TV. Dish or DirecTV are probably options. Depends on the amount of trees, what part of the sky you can see, etc, but satellite will probably be your best/only option. TV can be had fairly cheap depending on channel choices. Internet, fairly expensive - $70/80/month range. It will be decent speeds, but if you do a lot of gaming or other things that require talking back and forth on the internet, you will notice it being slower.

In regards to heat. I grew up with radiator heat. It is WONDERFUL. My house now has floorboard water heat, and it is almost as good. (The old fashioned, huge, metal radiators were better, but they were, huge...) I'd really recommend some sort of water based heat! You'll probably run your water heater off of propane, maybe electric, but whatever you use to do that, you can use with your boiler for the floor heat.