So far outside the box you can't even see the box from here.
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Sunday, October 20, 2013
The last electric bill
Today my last electric bill came in the mail. Not the most recent -the last. Service is now cut off, on my request. When we get back home in the spring, we will be relying completely on our solar electric system. There are a few tweeks and upgrades that I'll do, but we already generate enough of our own power to get by.
It's both exciting and scary. Always in the back of my mind was the idea that if the solar electric system had problems, the grid was there to take over. The way things actually worked out is that the vast majority of the time it would be the grid that failed. My homebrewed electrical system is more reliable than the system run by a major corporation. Scary to think they are running nuke plants.
Have you ever figured out what it costs just to have services? Most of my electric bill was for “connection fees.” That bill has to be paid even if zero watts were used. Almost all utilities have something similar. Never make or receive a phone call and you still get a phone bill. Don't use a drop of water and there will still be a water bill. Watch no television and there will still be a cable fee. These things add up.
Eliminating the electric bill was just the most recent of these monthly services to disappear. I've my own well and septic so no water and sewer fees. We don't watch cable TV so no bill from them.
So what monthly services do we pay for? Internet is the big one. That's $42/month. Technically, we could live without it, but we don't want to. In fact, being able to pay bills on-line and do research makes it a tool that pays for itself.
Having the Internet allows us to have our phone service over the Internet through Vonage. That worked our to almost half the price of my previous land line service. Messages sent to my home phone catch up to me in the form of e-mail audio attachments. That's useful to me.
Cell phone service is a strange one. We don't get reliable cell phone service at home so we only use it on the road. Most years we got by with a prepaid Tracfone. It's basic, but cheap. This trip I'm using an iphone and paying on a month by month basis. For me, that seems expensive. Once I get home in the spring I'll probably cancel the servcie. It's good to not be locked into a contract.
Now I know of some hard core folk who don't even have phone service. Some are hermits who just don't talk to anyone. Others are hardcore short wave people. Seems that only works if everyone you want to talk with is also a hardcore short wave person. Some just use it as cell phone replacement to keep in touch with family members.
I am surprised at the number of people on very limited budgets who pay large monthly fees and never think about it. It's a blind spot in their budget. TV is the one that drives me nuts. Shut that off and get a library card. Your life will be better. Okay, less extreem, just put up an antenna or get a Roku device for free Internet channels. Small steps, but once those invisible bills become visible, who knows where it will end? Maybe you'll get your “last” electric bill someday too.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.