The Billing Season

Once a year, the planets align, and I get hit by heaps of bills — often all three utilities, plus car rego and home insurance…

It’s pretty much a consequence of having bought a house mid-year (in 2005) and bought a car mid-year (in 2008) as well. Plus other, quarterly, bills seem to arrive around the same time.

Everything arrives around the end of July, and is payable in August or September, then hits the credit card bill in October. Yes, it’s The Billing Season.

Home and contents insurance (for a year) with fairly high excess I may one day live to regret — $639.95

Car registration (a year) — $270.40 registration + $443 TAC charge + $44.30 insurance duty = $757.70, up about $45 from a couple of years ago.

Car insurance (a year) — ye olde 2000 Holden Astra covered for $2900 (hmm, about a third of what I actually paid for it in 2007) plus Third party property damage = $317.02

So rego and insurance together costs $1074, or about $3 a day, even if you drive nowhere (eg excluding fuel and maintenance).

Rates — total this year of $1427.10 (up from $1351.20 last year) thanks in part to the fire services levy — which moved the cost of fire services from insurance to rates… which makes sense; the burden shouldn’t be just on those who bother to insure. First payment of $356.75 due at the end of September.

Electricity — I recently switched to Powershop, which is interesting — you can pay in advance (and choose between different options at different prices) or just pay afterwards like with a conventional provider. It’s quite interesting seeing what specials come up. Anyway it’s currently costing me $3.83 per day, down from $4.82 at this time last year. But they don’t have a fixed rate all year, and costs may rise a bit as summer demand kicks in, though to an extent you can pre-purchase to minimise that. If anybody wants to switch to Powershop, let me know — if I refer you, we both get a $75 credit.

Gas — $464.50 for 61 days = $7.61 per day over the winter, when we use the heating a fair bit, so this should drop off in coming months.

Water — $212.10 for 76 days, but this includes a government rebate of $100. Without this, it would be $4.10 per day. Apparently we’re using an average 247 litres each day. I’m not sure why the rebate has kicked in now… it’s ages since we switched to the efficient shower head, and I don’t recall any more recent changes. Or was that the thing where they overcharged us in the past?

It’s time to buy a new Yearly Myki Pass — the cost these days for the discounted Commuter Club fare is $1395 including PTUA membership — compared to $1501.50 for a retail yearly. Some people saw price cuts in January, but most fares went up by CPI+2.5% (which is a reason to buy your Yearly Pass before December when the old prices stop being offered).

As a bonus, the drains had their biennual(ish) partial blockage, caused by a tree behind my property. The plumbers came and this time recommended a water jet which they say will clear away more of the tree roots. $250 later, the drains are clear again. I’ve got a coupon for a 20% discount next time.

Some costs are more regular: I get monthly bills for my ISP and phones, for instance, mostly processed automatically.

One other trend is obvious: more bills are arriving online than a year ago. It’s not hard to see why Australia Post is in trouble.

I’m not complaining about all the costs above. I do okay in the income stakes. But perhaps I should try to shift things around so they don’t all hit at once.

New camera

Obviously the best camera you have is the one you have with you.

Normally that’s my phone. Sometimes I’ll also have my ~4 year old Canon IXUS 115, which is compact, but takes some great photos.

But for my birthday I treated myself to a DSLR, a Canon 700D (spotted on sale + cashback offer + birthday contribution from family + birthday present to myself = hard to resist), and have been snapping away during lunchtime walks. Here’s a couple of pics from earlier this week with a telephoto lens borrowed from one of my sons. (We’re definitely a Canon family.)

Footbridge, Princes Bridge, MCG, Melbourne

Looking north up Queen Street, Melbourne

More to come, you can be sure of it.

Old photos from September 2005

Another in my series of photos from ten years ago.

Bourke Street (at Swanston Street) tram platform stops just being completed, it looks like. Note the old “The Met” tram stop sign — in a mix of brands with the then-new Metlink and Yarra Trams. The realtime display must have been pretty new. And of course, lunchtime trams were crowded some ten years before the Free Tram Zone was instituted.
Bourke Street, Melbourne (2005)

Ditto Bourke Street (at Elizabeth Street). At the right, St George Bank has since been bought by Westpac and rebranded as Bank Of Melbourne, but is still in that building. The same building has a Kathmandu (which is moving to the Galleria, at left, this summer). You can also see a glimpse of an Angus And Robertson sign — they’ve since departed. This tram stop (and some others) later needed to be rebuilt to modify the height for level boarding.
Bourke Street, Melbourne (2005)

One morning walking to work I spotted this at the Old Treasury Building, aka the City Museum. Some kind of revolutionary demonstration? No, just filming on the steps.
Filming an ad for Holden Viva, Old Treasury building, Melbourne (2005)

What were they filming? This Holden Viva car commercial:

I’d won the footy tipping in 2004… here I am handing over the trophy to Rob for winning, on Grand Final Day 2005. These days of course the One Day In September is now in October. I won again in 2014, but Rae won 2015, so I’ll be handing the trophy back on Saturday. (Pic by Tony)
Rob and Daniel and the footy tipping trophy, Grand Final Day 2005 (Pic: Anthony Malloy)

Gog and Magog. I used it for this piece of amusement, and also in this piece on the Free Tram Zone.
Gog and Magog, Royal Arcade, Melbourne (2005)

Burke Road crossing removal progressing

On Saturday I took a look at the Burke Road level crossing removal — it’s being done as part of the same package as the North/Mckinnon/Centre Roads crossings, but is well ahead of them in terms of progress.

The official web site has details of the project — because there’s space available, the new rail line and new station are being built parallel to the old ones, similar to how Springvale was done.

Level crossing removal works, Gardiner

Level crossing removal works, Gardiner

Level crossing removal works, Gardiner

Last week the Glen Waverley line and Burke Road were both closed so they could build the new bridge deck, then dig under it later. (A similar method is going to be used on the Frankston line crossings in the package.) During this time train passenger connected from Darling Station to Caulfield by bus. This seems to have gone quite well, with plenty of staff to direct people. Being school holidays no doubt helped.

At Burke Road, signs proclaimed the local businesses are open, but they looked pretty dead. Perhaps they always are on Saturday afternoons; I don’t know. The scuba shop highlighted in the local paper a few weeks ago had signs up saying they had moved to Camberwell.

Level crossing removal works, Gardiner

Gardiner level crossing removal works

A new island tram platform stop is being built, which looks like it’ll be adjacent the new station entrance.

The plan is to close the rail line again over Christmas for about 4 weeks to do major construction and connect the new tracks, with the project mostly finished by mid-2016.

There were a few curious locals wandering about taking a look, and of course government propaganda signage reminding us why the project is being done. Despite this specific crossing removal having been funded last year before Labor was voted in, the Andrews government “Getting on with it!” slogan is used.

Level Crossing Removal Authority signage, Gardiner

To be fair, the current government signed the contract, and while it’s not cheap, $534 million for four (an average of $133m each) has started to bring the average price back down after the $200 million price tag at St Albans. Hopefully this downward trend continues as more crossings are done.

The sign was of course authorised by the Victorian government, and printed by the good people at [printer name] in [place of business].

Printed by [Printer name]

Anyway, it’s good to see the project proceeding. As an occasional motorist and tram passenger in the area, I know it regularly clogs up, and I’m sure train passengers will be happier when they no longer have to slow down to 15 kmh crossing the tram line.

New blog template

I quite liked the old blog template, but I know there were a few issues with it on mobile devices, and I didn’t have the time/energy to fix it.

So as part of trying out new web hosting, and making sure WordPress is all updated, I’m trying out a new template. Again, I don’t have the time to write a template myself, so I’ve downloaded a few that looked okay, and am testing this one (“Clean Journal“).

Let’s chuck in a picture here. Obligatory transport theme.

Bus. tram and V/Line train

If you have an opinion on the new design, or see any issues, including on mobile devices, please leave a comment.

Update 6:30pm: The image at full size was not scaling down on some small screens (eg phones), making the total width go large, and everything else smaller. I’ve tried changing it to a smaller size, but I’m a bit irritated that the theme doesn’t do that itself, and allow it to scale up on bigger screens.

Update 7pm: That’s not working either. I’ve switched back to the old template for now. One of the major problems in the old template was that the ads didn’t resize properly — I’ve updated to the Google Adsense plugin, and configured it to do its thing on mobile screens. I’ve also trimmed the menu, which was (weirdly) blocking things below it on small screens, so hopefully it all looks a bit better now.

Update Sunday morning: I’m going to stick to the old template (which I actually prefer), which seems to look okay on large screens, iPads, and Android. The only problem I’m having is with Safari on iPhone, which is scaling things down because it thinks something (invisible, apparently) is too wide. Odd.