$55.12. That’s what I just paid to fill the tank of my Nissan Maxima—a mid-sized car. I generally view $50 fill-ups as the tipping point on gas prices. You can buy dinner for four at a moderately priced restaurant for that kind of money. That’s the kind of money that makes noticeable dents in a budget. And it’s ongoing; you’ll pay it every time you fill up.
Most of us seem to get seriously concerned only when gas prices set a new record. When prices pull back—even a little—we settle back into the comfort zone we call “normal”. Right now, with gas prices hovering in the $3.50 to $4.00 range—we seem to be right about on the border of the “serious concern zone”. We’re watchful, but not overly concerned.
Despite all of the rosy predictions of energy independence in the nearly 40 years since the 1973 OPEC Oil Embargo, we’re more tied to oil from unstable sources than at any time in history. The current rumblings in the Middle East and the gas price spikes they’re causing make our inability to deal with our energy problems on a collective basis painfully obvious.
That means we’re on our own folks!
Here’s my thought on a constructive long term energy outlook: assume the worst with gas prices and be prepared—even if they seem to be behaving, assume it will get worse.
The evidence of that assumption is playing out right now at a gas station near you! We aren’t powerless though, not if we if we have a plan or two. But just understand that options are harder to come by as gas prices move higher, and make a commitment to do something. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Saving Gas on Transportion
Get a bicycle. You did it as a kid, why not do it as an adult? A bicycle won’t replace a car, but depending on where you live it might enable you to eliminate a few short car trips each week. Get a bike with a large basket for local runs to the store, the bank, the pharmacy or any place within a couple of miles of home. Not only will this cut back on gas, but it’s also great exercise.
Invest in a moped. OK, let’s say that riding a bicycle even for local errands sounds like too much work—let’s put a motor on the bike. Also known as a moped! If you’re interested, Matt Jabs at Debt Free Adventure has a great post chronicling his moped purchase. If you think it might work for you, Matt says you can get over 100 miles per gallon, and you can buy a late model used version for well under $1000. By the way, if you think the weather in your area might be a problem, consider that Matt lives in Michigan!
Sell your gas guzzler now! I know, this sounds radical. But it’s a fact that a gas guzzler will be a liability without redemption if gas prices go much higher from here. You’ll pay through the preverbal nose every time you take it on the road and worse, no one will want to buy it from you. Conversely, the price of economy cars will soar. Bad trade off? Sure, but that’s why you want to do something about this before things get out of hand.
Saving Gas Getting to Work
Bring your lunch to work. Kay Akers came up with this brilliant idea in a post she wrote on the same topic at Couple Money a few days ago. Most of us are well aware of the amount of gas we use commuting to and from work, but few of us ever consider how much added fuel we use driving out for lunch every day. The trips may be short, but lunch hour traffic can be brutally heavy in and around many office parks, and that kind of driving is particularly hard on gas mileage.
Set up a work-at-home arrangement with your employer. High gas prices function like a pay cut at work. The only way to offset this is by cutting back on commuting. And the most effective way to do this is through work at home arrangements. As I see it, there are at least three ways to approach this and how far you go with it will depend on how high gas prices go.
- Ask your employer to allow you to move your job to full time work at home. If they agree, higher gas prices will have only the slightest effect on your lifestyle. And even if they say no, it may open up the negotiations.
- If your employer won’t agree to full time at home, ask for one or two days per week. Each day of work at home will reduce gas consumption from commuting by 20%. That’s worth negotiating for.
- If your employer says no to work-at-home, and you’re sufficiently concerned with high gas prices, it may be time to start looking for new job that will.
One light at the end of the tunnel here is that even if you aren’t successful in getting a work at home concession during a period of low or stable gas prices, the arrangement may become more popular if gas prices take off. Still, I’d rather have that lined up before it gets to that point.
Start your own home business. One of the underappreciated aspects of gasoline spikes is the economic impact, and that has a way of translating to the job front. Everything in the economy is tied to the price of a gallon of gas, and when fuel prices rise, the economy usually weakens and layoffs follow. One of the best preparations for that possibility is having your own business, one you can operate from home. Even if you only do it part time for now, it may be something to expand in the event you lose your job—which if history is any indication, is far more likely the higher gas prices go. If nothing else, the extra income will help you handle higher fuel bills. Call it your Plan B.
What do you think? Can you come up with ways we can deal with higher gas prices? Simple ideas, radical ones—we’re looking for ideas here…