I’ve always prided myself on my ability to stay close to my annual maintenance budget every year. In fact, I don’t think I was ever more than 3 to 4 percent off for any one year for more than a 10-year stretch – usually about 1 to 2 percent. There was even a year when I was within about 0.1 percent, which is pretty impressive when dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So now that I’ve sufficiently patted myself on the back, let me tell you that the last couple of years haven’t been quite so great. In 2012 I was about 5 percent over, and in 2013 it escalated to almost 7 percent over.
As we all know, many factors contribute to one’s ability to stay within budget: Unexpected equipment breakdown or an unforeseen rise of prices in line items like fuel, oil, fertilizers, seed and sand. In fact, higher fuel prices tend to trickle down throughout the budget. Anticipating these things is nothing shy of an art form. The other factor that affects our budgets is, of course, Mother Nature.
Storms (cleanup costs), high temperatures (irrigation and electricity costs), above normal rain (more mowing equals more labor and equipment repair, as well as fuel use) and even fog (disease pressure) can contribute to unexpected expenses and thus our ability to control spending.
So when I sat down to tackle the budget for 2014 (trying to get back to those 1 to 2 percent years), I had a sudden brainstorm. The more I can predict what kind of weather year we’re going to have, the more likely I am of keeping the budget down. If I knew a drought was expected, I could add to my irrigation budget. If I knew a damp, drizzly fall and winter were expected, I would know to add to the chemical line item.
Why I never thought of this before I have no idea. I’m sure many of you reading this are thinking this was no brainstorm at all, but simply common sense. Well, I’m gonna stick with brainstorm, if you don’t mind, makes me feel better.
Consulting a solid source
So, predicting the weather. I started to wonder exactly how one could go about this? It can’t be such an easy thing to predict the future, can it?
But then I realized I didn’t have to predict the future. Somebody has already done that for me. In fact, they’ve been doing it for Americans for more than 220 years!
I’m referring of course, to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the oldest continuously published periodical in the U.S.
So I whipped out The Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2014, which is to say I brought it up on my computer – you can get a digital download online at http://almanac.com for $4.95, or you can get the 2014 copy in print for $15.95 at the website.
I learned lots of good stuff to help me in projecting costs for the upcoming year. I still can’t figure out why it took me this long to stumble onto this.
Breaking down the info
In a nutshell, the Pacific Northwest, where I am, is going to have warmer-than-normal temperatures, although the spring and summer rainfall is expected to be about normal, the fall rainfall will be more than normal.
This is useful info once you start breaking down line items. I need to increase electricity expense to run the irrigation pumps in the summer. We don’t pay for water, otherwise I would no doubt increase that as well.
I’ll keep labor the same as I was planning on for the summer, because although the warmer temps may equate to less mowing, the normal rainfall should make up for this. More labor will most likely be needed in the fall to help with extra mowing that the added rainfall will create.
You can really start pinpointing some of your budgeting with this. Of course, you’re relying on The Old Farmer’s Almanac to come through for you. But if you’re going to put your money behind something, I can’t think of a more reliable source than one that was first published when George Washington was calling the White House home.
There’s just something very comforting in that.