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Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday By Request

This week’s request is from Seamhead Gypsy. He’s looking for fuel economy ideas. Aren’t we all? I, with a sarcastic gleam, will tell you that I’m saving gas by not working - no commute at all! But seriously, I’d love to have a commute, you all know that!

Here is the note SG left me:

“Here’s what I’m doing to keep from going broke at the gas pump.
1. combine several trips into one.
2. Plan better so I don’t have to run out for something I forgot at the grocery store.
3. Ride my daughter on the back of my bike to Dairy Queen instead of taking the car
4. Properly inflate my tires.

What do you do? What else can the rest of us do? Do you think if we all cut back on our gas, the prices will drop? And, why after 30 plus years does this country still not have a viable energy plan?”

Oh boy, this is going to be a lengthy FBR!

First off, I don’t think we CAN cut back enough to make the prices drop. The current gas crush is not just keeping our cars running. There are still parts of this country that rely on fuel oil for heat and petroleum is used for other things we use every day, like plastic! It’s just that where we feel the sucker punch the worst is at the gas pump. But cutting our gas consumption isn’t really about trying to get the cost of gas down right now, it’s about having enough left over to keep our collective heads above water! I haven’t heard of any employers extending compensation adjustments for their employees’ commutes. (And if you work for a company who is doing that, please leave me a comment so I can send in my resume!) I look at the price of gas as a pay cut for every working American and that much less I’ll be making when I get back to work.

As to why we don’t have a viable energy plan, well, part of that might be the 2004 election and the votes for me that somehow didn’t get counted! ;) My own political aspirations not withstanding, it indeed is politics that have governed the nonexistent funding for research for better energy alternatives. When you are researching candidates, find the one who has a personal financial interest in alternatives to our current energy materials and vote for that candidate. Then there is someone in a position of control with America’s interests in mind. Oh, it’s really just another politician looking out for their own financial butt, but at least they have their butt someplace that is beneficial for us all.

Now I’ll step off that collapsable soap box that I carry in my bag. Gypsy, we’ve discussed that soap box in email. It’s not JUST for Barry Bonds! But for Friday By Request, I will address the things I am doing and what we might all be able to benefit from in facing the money eating demons at the pump!

Avoiding Gasoline Rape
for Seamhead Gypsy

Here in Northwest Ohio, the price for a gallon of gas is at the $4.00 mark. When I was a Michigander, if I was traveling South, I’d try to plan to have just enough gas to get to Ohio and then gas -up because Ohio gas was cheaper by a good ten cents a gallon. When gas was approaching $3, Michigan and Ohio prices were about the same. The very automobile dependent Detroit Metro area seemed to try to stick to $2.99 as long as they could, like putting a “3” on the signs was profanity. At that time, when this Ohiogander traveled back to the Motherland, it was a good idea to investigate before topping off when leaving home. Ah, but the $4 milestone doesn’t even seem to rattle Michigan! It’s back to a good dime to 15 cents more, OVER FOUR!!!

What’s a person, any person, employed or not, to do? As I’ve said, I truly look at the speed with which the prices of gas are rocketing up too be a general pay cut for every working American. I find myself looking at job postings and asking myself, “If I get an interview here for this position, is it worth it to even go to the interview, much less accept the job?” If it’s an administrative assistant job in Ann Arbor, it probably doesn't even pay enough to commute that far, where a marketing coordinator or graphics designer job in Ann Arbor might be feasible. So, administrative jobs, which for my career level would be a pay-the-bills job, I don’t even consider applying for unless they are within a 15-minute commute. A year ago I left an admin job in Southfield, MI. At a mere $3 a gallon, I couldn’t afford the commute on what I was making.

So now, after paying up my bills through the end of June, I’m surviving on what’s left of the “gas compensation check” I got from the feds last month. That really is what that check most of us in the US got amounts to. We got to live like gas was only $2 a gallon for a couple months! Of course, for the unemployed, it’s like being able to afford a tank of gas! Oh wait, it’s not LIKE that, it IS that! **smiles**

As far as the ever rising cost of a gallon of gas, like Seamhead Gypsy, I’m careful about planning my trips. I don’t ever go to the grocery store without a carefully planned list. David and I have a dry erase board on the refrigerator and when we run out of something or think of something we want to pick up at the store, we write it on the list. Before we go to the store, I write the list out on the pad in my purse, so we don’t have to make a second trip. The Kroger we shop at is a block away, but a long enough block that my knee isn’t about to make it walking and I just won’t start the car twice for that trip!

And I do plan the trips I make carefully. The bank, grocery store, post office and my storage can all be made in one trip. I usually won’t go if it’s just for one stop unless it’s an emergency stop.

David and I have seen some changes in our hobby as well. A year ago, a day railfanning on a moderately clear day to chase local trains was normal. Now we don’t go out unless the sky promises to be truly clear, free from haze and very few clouds and the trains expected need to be more than average local trains. An upside of that is that when we travel, it’s truly a fun trip, not as ordinary, but now, at least for me, I can’t afford to have any mediocre shots. Sub par photography and fewer days of shooting means no end of the year show! Again, I have to plan and monopolize what I do have.

I’m going to be extravagant this month and fill my tank with gas for a trip to the Motherland. I’m going to see my Dad for Fathers Day, but in that trip to Michigan, I’m going to see my friend Liz for brunch on Saturday, I’m hoping to see the girls for a Girls Night Games Night on Saturday night and spend he night and day with my Dad Sunday, stopping for coffee with John and Scotty on the way home. I miss the family in Michigan so much, but I MUST make a tank of gas stretch!

In an email, Seamhead Gypsy tells me he has started using a non-power mower and trimmer for his lawn work. While we are still using the power mower, we have a small lawn, we do make a point of using the gs discounts whenever we can! We have savings cards at Kroger, Giant Eagle and Speedway. And those cards and the gas discounts have definitely earned our customer loyalty. If you’re going to buy the groceries anyway, buy them where they’ll earn you a little of gas!

On the way home from Pittsburgh, we added Sheetz key fobs to our collection. When we travel east, it’s pretty much a given that we’ll stop at Sheetz at least once for lunch. I GOTTA have my pretzel melt! When we do travel east for fun or to visit the family in the New York/Connecticut area, we take the gas savings even further by either taking my car rather than his SUV or renting a car. Yes, the price of gas makes renting a low-mileage car cheaper! The last rental was a Kia Spectra. Not a bad looking car, (it was red, that helped!) good leg room, important for my almost six and a half feet tall honey and we averaged about 38, THIRTY EIGHT, miles per gallon! I have finally grown up to the point that after driving Camaros for 21 years, I’m thinking maybe the Spectra isn’t a bad thought for a next car. That mileage is ten per gallon better than I get highway on a good day with cruise control set! At 42, it’s all abut the mileage now!

The last suggestion, or rather warning, I’ll give is to beware of where you’re buying that liquid gold that keeps your car going! After years of indoctrinating us to the “pump and run” style of gas dispensing, where we zoom in, use the card to pay for the gas and zoom out, many gas stations have begun to charge a premium price for using that same technology. So much for the Visa Check-Card ads where the world stops if you pay cash for something, at the pump, your heart stops if you use the card! In a world of frightened Internet chain letters about miscalibrated pumps dispensing less gas than they report (according to Ops a lie, think about it, that’s a violation of federal law!) there is very real and obvious gouging going on in bold letters on signs. I have seen the price difference for credit up to 20 cents extra PER GALLON.

At the end of April, I went to Grandma’s to do some work on her computer. She sent me a check to cover gas to get there. David cashed the check for me in gas gift cards from BP. He has a BP credit card and part of their incentive program to use their card is in gas gift cards for a rebate on money spent. I filled up in Toledo on the way out of town. On the way home a few days later, I stopped at a BP in Michigan. The sign said $3.58 a gallon for regular unleaded. I got to the pump, it said $3.62. The 4 cents cheaper was the price if you were paying for a car wash. I didn’t want a car wash so I elected to pay the extra 4 cents. Then I put the gift card in the reader. PING - $3.72 a gallon, 14 cents a gallon over the advertised priuce on the sign. A ten cent charge PER GALLON to us a BP GIFT CARD! Not just credit cards, but gift cards too. If the gift card is purchased with a credit card, then the surcharge the gas station is receiving is 20 cents a gallon. Let alone that those particular gift cards were incentives on a BP credit card that if it was used for gas is also paying a premium in order to earn those gift card. Remember folks, I’m a former small business owner. I researched a few credit card accepting services and I never saw one of them that extracted 2.5% or double that for processing and why all of the sudden is that NOT part of the pricing? If you see a gas station that charges a different price for cash or credit, don’t go there unless you are about to die on the roadside without more fuel. If you HAVE to go there, go inside and pay for the gas. Ask them to be sure the pump stops at ONE DOLLAR and explain that you need just enough gas to get to the next station that doesn’t charge a penalty for using their state of the art equipment at the pump.

That also has a lot to do with why I don’t think the prices will come down. As high as the prices have gotten, they still try to gouge more from customers. I don’t expect prices to come down and I do expect that if the consumers win at the credit card terminals, we’ll lose with the prices staying higher loner when the prices to the oil companies fluctuate. The prices per gallon already rises much faster than it goes down. Think about it, gas prices go up quickly for gas already bought based on speculation that the next purchase the company makes will be more expensive and come down much slower because the gas at the pumps was already paid for at the higher rate. We are already getting extra charged wherever companies can fudge it in. In the day and age of the “fer us or agin us” leadership, in this country anyway, the gas companies “sure ain’t fer us!”

So, there are my suggestions for coping with gas-rape to add to SG’s ideas - Make shopping lists, plan trips to include as many errands together as possible, when making car purchases, move up in mileage rather than style or status and even if you plan to pay cash anyway, don’t go to stations that charge extra for credit, they are advertising that they WILL find a way to take more from you for the same product.


seamhead gypsy said...

I honestly had no idea that oil would spike $10 plus today when I sent in this FBR, or that Morgan Stanley would be telling us oil will reach $150 per barrel. Or that Iran and Israel would trade barbs with one another. My personal feeling is that by the time the family takes off for our annual vacation we will be paying $4.35 plus at the pump. Maybe even $4.50! YIKES!

One of the two still standing talking heads running for President has promised more nuclear plants. in theory anyway that should reduce demand for the liquid black gold.

I think I might have learned something here too. I'll have to pay closer attention to the accuracy of the pumps. I did notice that our local kroger store seems to always have their gas prices 10 cents more than everyone else. Now I only gas up there using their 10 cent discount when I am in the area, like after buying groceries.

The bottom line is I think that we all are going to have to be smarter with our weekly trips, commutes, and overall general use of our autos.

Anonymous said...

The biggest gas-saving advice I have for anyone is SLOW DOWN and pace yourself. All over town I see people jamming on the gas when traffic lights turn green only to slam on the brakes when they get to the next red light. Idiots. Know your community and know how the traffic signals are sequenced and you won't waste as much gas rabbit-running from one red light to the next. Every time you step on the brake pedal you're actually burning away energy, so try to make braking as unnecessary as possible.

Nani said...

Excellent advice on the timing of the lights!

Our main drag is very well-sequenced. There is no reason to have to stop at all if you time the lights and pace yourself. Unless you're speeding, you'll never hit a red light. Still, I see people passing and stopping all the time, then gunning it just to pass people and have to stop again.

DigiLover said...

great post Nani!!!

petrol prices here in OZ are also at an all time high. Yesterday our local gas station was charging $1.60 a litre for unleaded which equates to just over $5.60 a gallon. Don't get me started on diesel as it's somewhere in the vicinity of $1.75 - $1.80 plus per litre.

I've got a little surprise for you on my blog when you have a minute to pay me a visit.


(I've had to divide the link into 2 - so if you copy/paste it back together you should get it all ok) the silly space that we have in the comments field won't allow me to put the whole link in without doing it this way as when I click PUBLISH YOUR COMMENT it cuts off the tail of the link and it won't work.

seamhead gypsy said...

I wanted to post a follow up comment. I just returned from a "bicycle" trip to the post office with my 4 year old. She rode on the back of my bike with me providing all of the power to get us there and back. Upon arriving at the post office I saw a lady getting out of her suv (and I have nothing against suv's nor their owners, nothing at all) she walked in to the post office leaving her auto parked out front, running, and presumed to be unlocked! I continued around the corner to the drive up mailbox where we were nearly run over (by an suv, but I still having against suv's) and then waited a minute or so while that guy placed his mail in the mailbox. When it was finally our turn to mail our bills,
I did so and decided to circle back to the front. Sure enough that lady's auto was still out front idling waiting for the driver to return.

Two things crossed my mind. One was to confront her about her waste of a resource and the second was that apparently $4 a gallon gas still isn't to much for some people!

In the city that I used to patrol if someone had left their car unattended and running it's a pretty safe bet that it wouldn't be there when they returned. But where we live now that isn't the case and that isn't the point either. I really don't have any faith that society as a whole will do whats necessary to reduce our demand for foreign oil or gas.

According to an analyst at Goldmen Sachs we will be paying $6 for a gallon of gas at this time next year.

And after today, I believe him. :-(