Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Are rising gas prices causing your blood pressure to rise?


(Additional content at the bottom of this post -- May 19, 2013)

The price of gas jumped 30 cents per gallon in one week! That's huge! And it went up again yesterday from morning to afternoon. (edited: gas jumped another 10 cents Tuesday from morning to afternoon. We're close to a 50-cent increase in just 10 days.) Yikes! Whether this is just a tightening supply issue or something more, what can we do to save on fuel purchases?

Here's the thing. Most of us are already batching our errands. We're driving sensibly -- easing into the acceleration, and beginning to slow before needing to actually break for a stop light. We're doing the things we've been told to keep our fuel use down.

This past month, I've been studying up on how we can save even more on our gas, without too much extra work, time, or know-how when it comes to cars. So, I thought I'd share with you, what's been working for our family.

Maybe you already know these 5 tips. But sometimes, a little reminder gets us back to actually following them. Read on.

1)  When driving around town, unroll the windows instead of turning on the A/C. This is a good time of year for using windows for ventilation, as we haven't reached the super hot days of summer, yet. A rule of thumb number is about 40 MPH. Speeds above, use your A/C. Speeds below, use windows. There are a lot of variables with this basic formula -- make, model and year of car, but basically about 40 MPH is the number.

I checked a couple of different sites on this. Mythbusters recommended 45 MPH, but their testing didn't seem as scientific as that from this site, auto.howstuffworks.com, which recommended the 40 MPH.

I am a lover of A/C. But for in-town driving, I am using my windows this spring. What about the whacky hair that window's down can cause, you wonder? To keep myself from looking like Einstein's sister, when I arrive at my destination, I've been using a scarf to contain my curly locks.

2)  Keep your tire pressure to the manufacturer's recommendation, for your vehicle. You can find this information in your owner's manual, online for your vehicle, or on the inside of the jamb of the driver's door.

So you've heard this before. But did you know that you can improve your fuel efficiency by up to 3%, simply by maintaining proper tire pressure? If you're spending $150 per month on gas for your cars, multiplied by 12 months, that 3% is over $50, by the end of the year, my friend!

Many gas stations have air refilling pumps, some charge 25 cents or so, but many are free. This is a super cheap way to gain back some of that $$ that gas price increases have stripped away from us.

One of our cars has a tire with a very slow leak. It needs a top off of air every one to two months. Until we can get this tire patched, checking air pressure and adding a bit here and there is one of the cheapest things we can do to boost our fuel efficiency. The gas station we use offers free air, so no cost, just a tiny amount of time.

What about over-inflating your tires. This myth has been around for a while, that if under-inflating your tires reduces fuel economy, then over-inflating should improve fuel economy, right? Wrong. According to Popular Mechanics, not only do you not boost fuel economy by over-inflating your tires, you create undue risk to yourself, as handling is compromised on over-inflated tires.

3)  This tip is more likely to save you time, which you could put to better use, which in turn could potentially save you money. Know your car's cost per mile. Cost of gas per gallon (or litre) divided by your vehicle's MPG (or miles per litre). Use this to figure if driving out of your way to get cheaper gas is cost-efficient. So, yesterday's gas price was $3.58 per gallon. Our car gets 24 MPG. Our car's cost per mile is about 15 cents, when the cost per gallon is about $3.60.

If I drive 5 miles out of my way to buy cheaper gas, then I need to save about 75 cents on that fill-up to "break even". We typically put about 11 to 12 gallons into our car per week. If gas is only 3 cents cheaper per gallon, but I have to drive 5 miles out of my way, then I've only saved about 35 cents on that fill-up, and don't reach the "break even" point. But if gas is 10 cents less per gallon, and 5 miles out of my way, my savings on the price of gas is about $1.20/fill-up, or about a 45 cent profit. Depending on the value of my time, this may or may not be enough of a savings to drive out of my way.

Even driving just 1 mile out of my way will cost me 15 cents in gas, and most of the time, isn't worth it to me if I will only be saving 3 cents per gallon, for 11-12 gallons, or 33 to 36 cents savings, netting me just 18 to 21 cents total.

If your car only gets about 20 MPG, then at yesterday's prices in our area, your cost per mile is about 18 cents. Driving 5 miles out of your way will cost you 90 cents. If your tank holds about 13 gallons (which is about average for sedans), and you fill it to FULL every time, you would need a price difference of about 7 cents per gallon just to break even.

The poorer your car's fuel economy, and the smaller the price difference in different gas stations, combined with the less gas you add to the tank at a time, then the less valuable it is to drive out of your way for a few cents worth of savings per gallon. You can probably find something more lucrative to do with your time, than driving all around town to save a couple of pennies.

The most cost-effective way for us to buy our gas, is to make a stop at the lowest-priced gas station, that also happens to be along my regular route, or is very close to someplace I need to go anyway.

My son drives 20-25 miles to work each way, each day. When his tank is low, he checks seattlegasprices.com to find the lowest-priced gas at both ends of his commute. He discovered that it's less expensive to fill up down near his office. Getting gas near your destination, instead of near your home, on a regular basis, could save you a couple of dollars per month.

4)  Buy gas on Wednesday mornings, before 10 AM. When you buy your gas matters, especially with a holiday coming up. Memorial Day is just around the corner for the US. Canada has Victoria Day  next Monday, May 20. If you know you will likely need fuel just before or during that weekend, refuel a few days early, like on the Wednesday morning before the holiday. Wednesday mornings, before 10 AM is often the least expensive time and day of the week to buy gas, and by refueling a few days ahead of the long weekend-pack, you'll snag a cheaper price per gallon.

If you've been in the habit of buying your gas any other time of the week, an article from business.time.com explained why Wednesday mornings are THE best time/day of the week to buy your gas. Switching our gas buying routine from Sundays (our old day to buy gas) to Wednesdays is saving us a few dollars per month, or over $30 per year.

5)  Make sure you are driving the most economical car (that you already own) for your purpose. In the US, many families have 2 cars. Usually one car is designated as Mom's car and the other is designated as Dad's car. You may want to switch this up during the week. If your car gets better fuel economy than your husband's, but you need to travel less during the week, it may make sense for the two of you to switch cars, so that the person traveling more miles per week is driving the car that gets better MPG. We get into habits. And this is one habit you may want to alter.

What are gas prices doing in your area? Did you notice a huge jump in price this last week? What are your plans for dealing with rising gas prices?

One thing I'll be doing this summer, is riding my bike more for errands around town.

(added content 5/19/13) The price of gas in our area has now gone up over 60 cents per gallon in two weeks time. For one of our cars, that's over $7 per week. What am I going to do about it?

Well, I'm carefully laying out my driving plans for the week. I managed to shave 25 miles off my driving this past week, by making 3 trips to our church for drop offs and pick-ups for activities rather than 5 trips, by finding work that I either needed to take care of, or could volunteer for, and be nearby my daughters, minimizing my driving to/from.

I've changed my driving style, allowing more time to get to my destination, accelerating slowly, taking my foot off the gas pedal and coasting for a bit before braking, all the stuff they tell you to do to lessen gas consumption.

And I will likely have to allocate more money towards gas in our budget, and reduce another category, especially when it comes to our family vacation later in the summer.

If you came to my site via Google or other search engine, then I'm assuming that prices have risen for gas in your area, too. Some cities have been impacted more than others. If you are uncertain whether to buy gas today, or hold off for a day or two, gaspredictor.com could give you the info that you need. They base their forecasts on Futures trading.

What are you paying per gallon this week? 

18 comments:

  1. There is so much variability of prices from neighborhood to neighborhood, that it's hard to track prices. However, we have not seen the huge jump you have seen. Also, I didn't realize that Wed. morning was a good time to buy gas. I'm going to have to remember that.

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      The variability in pricing is why websites like gasbuddy.com have become so popular. In the situation where prices are going up, everyone wants to find that one station that has not raised it's prices yet.

      I drive along the highway everyday, and I watch a few station's prices. I can accurately guess when one station is going to raise their prices by day's end, based on what another has done.

      I'm really glad for you that you haven't had the huge price hikes we have this past week and a half. One station I pass is already over the $4 mark again.

      The thing about Wednesday mornings was a shocker to me, but I have found it to be true, over the course of a month.

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  2. Lili,
    What great tips on how to save money at the gas tank-all of us are in a pickle where this is concerned. Live and Learn is correct too-from neighborhood to neighborhood or town to town the prices are all over the place. I just want it to go back to 25 cents a gallon!!
    Happy Tuesday-
    jemma

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    1. Hi Jemma,
      I know, when I'm out far from our house, running errands, I can't believe the differences in pricing.

      And even locally, I live where 3 towns converge, if I buy gas in one town, it's much more than the other two. But like I said in my post, I've found it to not be advantageous to drive out of my way more than a mile or so, just to save a few pennies per gallon. And instead I'm doing other things to save on our gas costs.

      Unfortunately, increases in gas prices will affect prices in the rest of our goods, once again.

      Hope you're having a good week!

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    2. The differance from city to city has to do with local taxes.
      I console myself when I purchase gas in my home town then see it cheaper as I drive to work that at least my home town benifits from the tax revenue.

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    3. Hi frugal spinster,
      That was what I was figuring, in addition to higher and lower property values. Your gas is cheaper than ours up at this end. My son buys his gas in Kirkland, near his office. So you can also console yourself in that regard.

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  3. Thanks for all the tips Lili. I've been meaning to work out my car's Km per L, but never got around to it. Petrol (gas) is around $1.30-$1.45 a litre here (roughly $5.20-$5.80 a gallon), but luckily I don't drive much :)

    I can walk to and from uni and only use the car to get to the supermarket and to band rehearsal every week. So I can get by putting $40 of petrol in the car every 4-6 weeks. Even so, if I can get a few more kilometres by inflating the tyres and buying petrol on a certain day of the week, it all adds up :)

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    1. Hi Economies,
      it really does all add up. I figured that we could save over $100 per year just by making a few simple changes. And since buying gas has no "fun value" to me, I'd much rather spend that $100 or so on something I'd enjoy more!

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  4. Gas/petrol prices are very high in the UK too. Our new small car is not a gas guzzler and is cheap to tax and insure. But we consider our journeys carefully nowadays.

    It is so true that making small changes DOES make a big difference! We have certainly found this with our monthly grocery shopping bill recently. Keep the wise tips and reminders coming. They are appreciated

    Lesley x

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    1. Hi Lesley,
      I understand your gas is over double what we pay here. I'm not sure Americans are ready to rethink how we allocate our money when it comes to gas. Just today, on the highway to get my daughters from school, I was noticing just how many SUVs and trucks are on the road. Over half the vehicles today appeared to be large ones. I know those large cars/trucks can't be doing too well with fuel economy.

      That is great that you have a new, and economical to operate, car. I am hoping we can be in the position to replace one of our cars this next year. It would make a difference with our budget, I am sure.

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  5. Gosh... I have to say that I am blissfully unaware of gas prices, since I generally only fill up the tank a few times per year. These days I only drive about 1000 miles per year, and the vast majority of that is for the benefit of the cats - trips to the vet & pharmacy, or hauling cat food & litter.

    Most everything else can easily be accomplished on foot or bike, both of which I VASTLY prefer to getting behind the wheel of a car, especially since the weather has finally warmed up. My challenge this summer will be driving enough to keep the battery charged!

    I heartily approve of your plan to start running some errands by bike. Not only does it save gas, it also does wonders for my waistline! Your son's commute is probably also accomplishable by bike, though it might take some working up to.

    As a recent convert to the world of biking, here are my top tips for making your life easier in terms of running errands by bike.

    1) Invest in puncture resistant tires (mine have a layer of Kevlar in them) and, at least until you're comfortable fixing a flat on the road, you might want to invest in some "slime" inner tubes. These are tubes that have green stuff inside them that will automatically seal most punctures. They make your wheels slightly heavier, so it is a tiny bit harder to pedal, but at slow speeds (under 15 mph) you're unlikely to notice the difference, and the peace of mind is WAY worth it.

    2) Learn how to fix a flat at home so it's not a disaster if it happens on the road, and always carry the tools with you. I'd also suggest investing in a CO2 cartridge pump. These are basically bicycle pumps that get their air from a small CO2 cartridge, so you don't have to actually pump. They're small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and it makes life SOOOO much easier if you have to fix a flat on the road. I also generally carry a spare tube with me so I don't have to deal with patching a tube on the road.

    3) Make sure you have an easy way to carry stuff. There are all sorts of bike baskets out there these days, and some really nice bike bags too. I'm currently drooling over some rear bags that detach easily from the bike rack. They're basically like shopping bags, so you can bring them with you into the store and then just pop them on your bike for the trip home. Sorta like these: http://www.ecovelo.info/images/market-pannier-1.jpg They're not cheap though, so at the moment I'm making do with the baskets I got on FreeCycle, and an old backpack.

    4) Try to plot your route ahead of time. The best roads for biking are often different from the best driving roads, so it can sometimes be a challenge finding a nice route. I'm a huge fan of Google Earth for this purpose. You can zoom down into the neighborhoods, and it really helps you see things like if there's a bike lane or not, and/or how wide the shoulders of a particular street are.

    5) Make sure you have a good helmet and bike lock and don't forget to use them! I also have a lightweight neon yellow visibility vest that I use when I'm going somewhere that I'm likely to encounter any meaningful traffic. I look like a total dork, but I really notice a difference in how drivers around me behave when I'm wearing it. You can't be too visible when you're on a bike!

    OK, sorry to blather so long, but those are the things I wish I'd done when I started out. Good luck with it, and I hope you find it as rewarding as I do!

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    1. Hi Cat,
      We only have a small window of weeks that biking will be feasible (all the rain we're so famous for puts a damper on biking). So I intend to use this brief time the best I can.

      What do you think of fix-a-flat for bike tires? For carrying stuff I was planning on my backpack for the time being.

      Thanks for all your tips!

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    2. Ha! I forgot about the rain... I guess that could put a "damper" on biking fun (yuk, yuk).

      Anyhow, sorry for pummeling you with what was obviously WAY more information than was helpful. I just get so excited about bike riding and want everybody to enjoy it as much as I do!

      I've never used fix-a-flat, but CatMan has some back and neck problems that make it hard for him to change a flat on the road, so he's tried it with mixed results. His first complaint is that it apparently makes a real mess, and you end up with goo all over your bike, and your hands and anything else in the vicinity.

      He's had about a 50% success rate with it depending on the type of flat. Apparently it works like a charm with small punctures like a thorn or something similar, but doesn't do so well with bigger stuff like nails or a pinch flat (which is a flat caused by getting the inner tube caught between the tire and the rim - usually happens if you hit a curb too hard or something like that.) I once ran over a piece of glass and sheared the stem clear off the inner tube, and fix-a-flat wouldn't have been much help in that situation either!

      Anyhow, it's probably not a bad first line of defense, but you might want to learn to change a tube too... which really isn't that hard. Or you could simply limit your bike trips to a distance where you could push the bike home if you really needed to. :-)

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    3. Thanks for the feedback, Cat. I guess most of my biking for errands would be walkable, if I had a problem. Actually I know they're walkable, because that's another thing we do more in summer, walk up to the bank or store. It's a fairly long walk, but makes for a good Saturday morning excursion.

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  6. This is so interesting - petrol is very expensive in the UK right now - around £6 per gallon which is about 9 us dollars. It's a real concern for many families. I think though, on the whole, that British cars get more miles to the gallon - our car does about 40 or 50 mpg on average. 40 mpg if I'm driving around town, accelerating and braking a lot, 50 mpg if i'm doing a steady speed on the motorway.

    Best tips I heard were don't accelerate/brake too much, and don't carry unnecessary stuff in the boot (trunk) like buggies.

    Great tips though, thank you. x

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    1. Hi Gillian,
      I think you're right about British cars getting better fuel economy than American one. I think that's true of most of Europe as well. Americans love their big SUVs. But even with our smaller cars (such as our family car, it;s a small-ish sedan), the MPG isn't all that great. My son just bought a hybrid, and he's getting about 55 MPG, and that is considered excellent for MPG.

      You're right about style of driving really adding up. I try to leave the lead foot at home, and that does help!

      Thanks for visiting!

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  7. My new car is only marginally smaller than my old one but gets 33% better mileage. I know not everyone can do a trade-in, but if you do some research and buy as small a car as you can, it sure helps! I think lots of people don't try to scale down their gas use. For example, my dad drives an SUV. Ten years ago, his SUV got about 20 mpg. His new one is rated for 30. He thinks he is doing better, but never considered buying a smaller vehicle, although his needs have changed. Also, he didn't check how his new SUV compares to others on the market - he just likes the make and model, so bought the same brand again!

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    1. Hi anexacting,
      I know what you mean. I think it's going to take extremely high gas prices to move many Americans to scale back on the size of their cars. On the highway today it was SUVs everywhere I looked. And most of the time there was just one person in each car. I can understand having an SUV if you haul around a lot of stuff, or you camp a lot. They could have a purpose. But not all of those people on the highway today were camping or hauling large loads! Just one of my gripes.

      I am so eager to replace our oldest car, and hoping to buy something so much more fuel efficient, as you have. In time!

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I'm so glad that you stopped by today. Please comment, and let me know what you're thinking.