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The bumpy road to financial independence. . . .


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Frugal driving. . .

The average cost of gas shot upwards of $3.50 a gallon yesterday, and there is some major squawking going on in the news, in blog posts, and in other online forums! As I drove the 3 miles home from the transit center today, I realized that I'll have to go over my budgeted $30 for gas this month---which is still not a lot compared to SUV (or other gas guzzling) drivers out there who are paying upwards of $300 a month to keep their vehicles going. I'm glad I was able to switch wireless providers, as the added $20 a month will more than cover my higher gas costs. Eventually, I'm going to buy a used, lightweight bike, and ride to the transit center in good weather.

When I read the comments about how much rising gas prices are affecting budgets, I can definitely empathize and relate---up to a point.

But really, we in the United States have been incredibly lucky to have had extremely low-priced gas for years---when I studied abroad in Europe (twice, 15 and 20 years ago), gas was over $4.00 a gallon! That was about four times more than Americans were paying at the time. Who knows how much gas costs now in Europe---but I can tell you, there are far fewer Cadillac Escalades on European roads, and many more efficient, smaller cars.

Second, everything else being equal, an additional $75 or $100 shouldn't be killing anyone's budget---if it is, I'd have to question what they're driving, what they've been spending on other areas (like mortgage, eating out, and vacations), and whether they're driving efficiently in the first place. The problem is, food prices are going up too---that means we're getting a double whammy in terms of how far our money is being stretched.

I guess the real bummer is that higher gas prices are here to stay. We will never see $2 gas again. So given this new environment, how can you save money at the pump?

Ditch the SUV and buy an efficient, used car. Yes, I know, there are people with families, and dogs, and stuff that they need to carry around in their car. Europeans and others outside the U.S. seem to get by without driving a Ford Excursion; I think Americans can probably survive it too.

Walk, bike, or take public transportation. Yes, I know it might take a little longer to get to and from work. Slow down. Enjoy the trip. Catch up on your reading. Take the opportunity to downshift. Make walking home or riding the bus a time to connect with your partner or your kids, if you are bringing them home from school or daycare.

Keep your tires inflated. This is something I rarely pay attention to. Luckily, I have a neighbor across the street who gives me a yell when he notices that my chronically-low back tire is looking dangerous.

Get a tuneup. Yep, this costs some money. But it might save you more than that in better gas mileage. Plus, your car will last longer over the long run.

Avoid idling. Now, this just annoys me. Walking past a line of idling cars at the transit center waiting for their human 'pickup', makes me crazy! It makes me want to knock on the window, shake my finger, and give 'em a piece of my mind. I don't do it, because I don't have a death wish. Turn the car off when you're not driving it.

Combine trips. I used to be one of those people who would run to Target, go home, remember something I needed at the grocery store and go out for that, come home again, then run out to the library. All of these places are within a two mile radius of my house. Making lists before leaving the house has helped me to group my errands within one trip, meaning fewer back and forth trips.

Slow down. Your parents were right. Slow is better. Not only is it safer to drive the speed limit, you'll be increasing your car's efficiency and reducing the amount of fuel your vehicle uses.

These are just some of the many tips that are floating around the internet right now. Can you think of any that I've missed?


Scott said...

With gas at $3.80 for unleaded and $4.10 for supreme, I think a lot of drivers will find the car pool or van pool a great option. I also think slowing down and leaving for a destination early is a great idea as well. Great blog. I will add you to my blog roll list and would love if you add mine to yours.

Keri said...

I would love to take a bus or carpool but because I live out in the country, there aren't any city buses and there isn't anyone that I know of that works the hours I work in the city that I work in. So that sucks... and it's too far to ride a bike...
BUT! I have slowed down and now use cruise control on a constant 55mph. I did that yesterday morning on the way to work and I think I might have pissed off a couple of people. BUT! you know what... they should have left in enough time to drive 55 themselves! so HA! and BOO TO GAS PRICES! :)
By the way.. I love the blog!!!

Finally Frugal said...

I am so with you on living in the country and being unable to take buses---I used to live in a town where the "transit center" consisted of a gravel-filled lot on a side street! And, yes, our buses came once every hour. If you missed the one you needed, too bad. I really feel for people who don't have access to great alternatives to driving.

One of the reasons I moved to Portland was for the public transportation, and I haven't regretted that decision. However, lots of people aren't in a position to relocate.

I'm glad you like the blog! I'm having fun and learning so much. Hope to see you here again!

Monty Loree said...

The lease on my cadillac came up last September. I said that I would not get another car until I lose 85 pounds.

Since March 1st, I've been riding my bicycle. I'm not going to worry about gas prices for the summer at least.

It's not glamorous going from a Cadillac to a bicycle, but I am learning about new things, that's for sure.

Finally Frugal said...

Good for you, Monty! I hope to be doing the same (riding bike more, driving less) by the end of summer. Having been a regular bike rider (for fun, not commuting) in the past, I'm going to predict that the fun and satisfaction of riding your bike will outweigh the glamour of driving a Caddy anyway!

p.s. for your next car: how about a Prius? (-:

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