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The Budget and Fiscal Delusions

I thought a $4,000 Budget would . . . ah well.
20190110 kitchen walton

The yearend review of our finances was a little disheartening this year. The careful and thoughtful planning that went into the household budget last year fell apart about midsummer. We had to dig into our small reserves just to cover a couple of overruns. The looming problem is that we find it difficult to build the reserves in our present circumstances. I mentioned that we could just shut down the finance department like Don Trump with his budget and Wall tantrum but any mention of Trump policies gets my Speaker of the House up in arms.

I was hoping that the Governor of the Bank of Canada might raise the interest rates because that would help our meager savings grow instead of diminishing under the present circumstances. Maybe we could have invested in the stock market but the way that has been fluctuating would have thinned my hair even more.

A couple of council members have come up with schemes to ease the tax burden but it’s not going to work. I mean, when you have been doing things one way since time immemorial, new thinking is a hard sell. For instance, last year’s budget at our house saw a cut in one of the most basic of services: we were going to cut food costs by 2%. That is akin to saying the City was going to cut staff wages by 2%. It is just not done.

Nonetheless we would shop at No Frills and not at Parkers where I prefer to shop because I know where everything is. Almost. I have nothing against the No Frills stores. Ours has a Fruit and Veggie manager that does a really good job. I countered this argument by saying Parker’s bakery is top notch. Still, the boss said, we are cutting expenses. The Food budget came in right on target. I credited that to my buying fewer cookies and that can work again as long as my sister-in-law drops off test cookies every few months.

The utilities budget is surely hard to control. We wash dishes after 7 p.m., do the laundry on the weekends, and still the electric bills creep up. I didn’t water the lawn once last summer, trying to let the hardy natural grasses (okay, some of them look like weeds) survive as best they could. I only washed the vehicles a few times, using Swifter dusters between washes to keep the shine up. The crazy thing is the cost of water goes up no matter if I use more (like I did the previous year) or less as last year. My neighbours say it has something to with fixed metering costs but I think somebody is juggling the water books downtown.

The Travel and Entertainment budget line took a big hit last year: my motorcycle needed an expensive repair and that took away any reserves I had secreted away. (Motorcycles cost a whole lot more to own than anyone admits to their significant other.) However we already know we will have savings under Travel. Our Florida winter retreat has been cut short by me having a kidney stone attack and having to return to Ontario for treatment. Oh well, the recovery of some health insurance dollars should offset the gas for the snow blower.

However the big drain of the last budget was the cost overrun on the Capital budget line. We thought just to refinish the kitchen cupboards. Maybe we would have to do a little rewiring and plumbing. And painting. New stove, sink, lighting . . . you know the routine. Somehow we ended up with less storage space than we started out with. And a slight cost overrun. I ought to have known better, after all, I did work on Capital budgets years ago. The trick at City Hall was to over-estimate the project budget using a convincing story and when it came in under budget your department would get kudos for contributing dollars to the Capital Reserves. Maybe the auditors caught onto that one and they just do that with the Operating Fund now.

However, as one of our councillors says, you never know what will happen next year. Good thing, too.