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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Going Frugal: Filling the Tank $10 at a Time

I stopped for gas this morning at Kroger and nearly fainted: $3.77/gal (with my $0.10/gal Kroger discount).

By this afternoon, I noticed that gas in our town NE of Cincinnati had jumped to $3.98/gal.

There is no easy way to deal with rising gas prices; believe me, I've been noodling over this for months. Ideas my husband and I have discussed and scratched include:

~ Mass Transit. The only mass transit available in Cincinnati is regional bus and it serves primarily downtown. There is a park-and-ride station about eight miles from us; unfortunately, my husband does not work in downtown Cincy but just northwest of I-275 and I-75. He would have to take one bus, transfer to another bus, and still be a few miles short of where he needs to be meaning he'd hoof it the rest of the way. Impractical, unreliable, and a serious waste of his time.

~Carpooling. This option is still on the table should my husband find someone in our neck of the woods who keeps a similar schedule at his new location (he recently took a new position in the same company and his office is no longer at their main HQ). But his job is demanding of his time (big corporate giant-type job) and he often has early calls/meetings. And at the end of the day, he often has either a volunteer meeting/coaching duties to attend here in our town...or I do, and he needs to watch our three children. Still, carpooling is definitely a viable option for even one or two days a week if he lucks into a good match.

~Cycling. I biked all over Aquidneck Island when we were first married and living in Newport, RI with only one car. Of course, as newlyweds we had no children so transporting passengers wasn't a consideration for me. Cycling isn't an option for me now three kids later; for my husband, who travels over twenty miles by highway to work and would need to travel further by bike on cycling-safe roads, it's an option with slim chances for success.

~Trade In One of The Cars for a Hybrid/High Mileage Vehicle. Makes sense in a perfect world, right? Wouldn't we all if we could without the trade-in costing us more than the gas savings? My husband's car has been paid in full for years; our van (my vehicle) will be paid off by the end of the year as long as my debt-buster plan stays on track. While gas prices plain old stink, the net savings effect of a trade-in on either of our vehicles is nil; we would have to assume new debt for a longer period to make either trade work. Not happening until someone unveils a 100 mpg vehicle that will fit our family of tall people (my husband is 6'4" and believe me, height effects what you can and cannot drive) and our two 70 lb dogs.

~Walking. I love walking everywhere. When my two oldest were small, my parents bought us a double stroller and let me tell you - I wore out the wheels on that thing taking my kids all over the small town where we lived in Illinois. We live in a small town again now, too; but I happen to live on the opposite side of all the pedestrian-friendly sidewalks that will take you everywhere in our town. A big bypass, two double-lanes and a median, separate me from all those easy sidewalks. Me, and at least 50% of the real estate tax base for our town. Can you tell I'm steamed and getting ready to contact my city manager?

And while I can somewhat safely navigate crossing the bypass at the traffic light close to my neighborhood, it is in no way safely navigable with one child, much less three. No gas savings is worth risking my kids necks. I'll be on the phone with the city manager later this week to discuss this issue; in the meantime, one thing I do plan on doing this summer is driving the 1.4 miles to the town park and using the park as a home base to walk to our around-town errands.

So as gas prices climb and climb, I try to be attentive to my driving (I take my kids to school - yes, the bus is an option for my oldest (first grade) but her 4 mile ride home takes 1.5 hours -seriously) and combine trips as best I can.

I've gotten to the point where I only put $10 or $15 dollars in at a time; my van is a gas hog and would happily gobble eighteen gallons, but my stomach and my budget just can't swallow a fill up that costs as much as a week's worth of groceries. It's a small strategy that forces me to think twice before dashing down the road.

And as we look to the future, one that I hope includes sidewalks and crosswalks for my side of the hill, we'll replace our vehicles with more fuel-efficient ones as time and finances allow. I'm certainly looking forward to summertime, too, since I won't need to drive to both my first-grader's school and my preschooler's school.

I'd love to hear how you're dealing with the current gas prices and your plans for the future as gas prices won't relent for a long time and will never return to those heady days of $0.97/gal.

Comment and share!


Andrea said...

Good post! I went shopping at Kroger yesterday here and when I walked in the store it was $3.75/gallon. When I walked out of the store 20 minutes later, it went up to $3.95/gallon. Ridiculosity!!!

I'm going to sit down with my hubby and figure out how much we really need to add to our budget for gas. Luckily, I've been able to drop the grocery budget by $25 so I probably won't get to save that now, but I'll have to reallocate to the gas budget.

I'm with you too on walking! I've been doing it for exercise and weight-loss, now it's just become a necessity so I don't scream whenever I get in my car :-)

Diane said...

I can't get around the gas issue, I need the fuel to take my kids to school, doctors etc. It's the pits!
The only way I can afford the nearly $500.00 a month in gas is to cut my grocery spending. I try to limit my trips but it's hard.
That $500.00 is for my husbands car as well, he works an hour from home. :-(