21st Century Dad
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27 Days on One Tank of Gas

May 13th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad
Sport Utility Vehicle
Photo: SocialTechnologies.com

Crunchy on the Inside With a Soft Suburban Outer Coating” started its life as a lengthy and thoughtfully written article. I decided to split it up into smaller chunks over several weeks. The first installment came out on Earth Day. The mid-section of this article series has expanded due to the timing of events.

Maybe you employ every gas-saving tip out there, but there is more money to squeeze from other areas in our lives without suffering for it. Some tactics even improve the quality of life.

Finally Filling Up Again

The insidious “E” light came on today as I was driving home from work. I know this doesn’t mean “Get gas now or be stranded on the roadside!” but it always imparts a sense of urgency. Besides, I spotted a screaming bargain at $3.73/gallon (15 years ago in Europe or Japan, dozens of cars would be lined up at that gas station).

I made it 27 days between fill-ups. I paid $6 more at the pump this time.

The Real Cost of Gas

Gas prices are an easy target. The per-unit cost has gone up significantly, but what impact does it really have on our budgets? Let’s examine a hypothetical (and realistic) scenario here:

The Almost-Good Old Days

  • $3.00/gallon
  • 25 mile round-trip commute.
  • 25 MPG

Today

  • $3.73/gallon
  • 25 mile round-trip commute.
  • 25 MPG

To keep this simple, we’re isolating the cost of commuting to work. I’m Asian and I got bad grades in math all through school. Let’s keep this simple, OK? Based on the assumptions outlined above, we have a fuel cost of $15/week in the past. At the higher price, we have a weekly fuel cost of $18.65. We’re talking about $3.65. Can you find $3.65 worth of fat in your weekly expenditures? Yes, the percentage of increase is gruesome, but what is our total expenditure increase over the medium and long term? Oh, and BTW, you can trust these figures. I’m not that bad at math.

Think Outside the Pump

I’m not making light of the budget stretching that’s going on. I also recognize that many people have longer commutes or less fuel-efficient vehicles than the scenario outlined above.

I get my share of “woe-is-me.” There’s a teenager living here. If a solution to your problem is within reach, the last thing I want to hear is whining. Enlist your creativity (or mine) and find the money you’re throwing away.

  • Chances are, in a 2-car household, one car gets used more. Drive the one that gets better mileage more.
  • One can of soda per day represents $10/month. Drink water instead.
  • Attention smokers. Cut out 3 cigarettes a day and there’s your $15/month.
  • Do I really have to talk about the oft-vilified Starbucks Latte again? Dunkin’ Donuts coffee costs less and tastes better.
  • Visit my buddies Frugal Dad and Mike.
  • Ride your bike instead of driving.
  • Take the bus.
  • Buy stuff on Amazon instead of driving to the mall.
  • Stay home and read my blog.

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8 Responses to “27 Days on One Tank of Gas”

  1. comment number 1 by: Frugal Dad

    Thanks for the mention – and great advice. I particularly like the last one – “stay home and read my blog.” I’ll follow orders and keep reading 21st Century Dad!

  2. comment number 2 by: 1stopmom

    This was a really good post. Very interesting thanks!

  3. comment number 3 by: Ron@TheWisdomJournal

    The problems isn’t just limited to what one person pays for fuel, but it translates into the increased costs of transportation for trucking every single thing you buy in every single store. It translates into higher freight costs on container ships, higher natural gas prices in restaurants, higher prices for everything that has oil in it (plastics, nylons, lubricants, etc). It may only be a small net dollar increase for your fuel, but that huge percentage increase affects everything you do, use, and buy.

  4. comment number 4 by: Katy

    You’re Asian and got bad grades in math??? Unheard of!!

  5. comment number 5 by: 21st Century Dad

    @Ron: You’re absolutely right. The entire economy runs on petroleum.

    @Katy: I can do math OK, but I chose not to. As a teenager, I wanted to show the world that stereotypes suck.

  6. comment number 6 by: Jared

    27 Days on one tank? WOW! I’m lucky to make it 3 or 4 days. 😀 (I drive A LOT for work and they pay for the gas so I can’t complain)

    I like your list of wasys to conserve money. I smoke and really need to quit. With cigs at $5 a pack, and smoking 1 pack a day that’s $150 per month. My wife smokes too, so if we both quit we could save $300 plus per month. What the hell are we thinkin’? 🙂

  7. comment number 7 by: JustDaddys

    I think your comparison should be to further back in time. Only a little over three years ago gas was only 2.25 or four years ago 1.80’s. This is a 50% increase in fuel costs. This translate into A LOT. When I graduate high school I took a trip across the US. It cost me $700 dollars, but that got me 10,588.5 miles in 21 days. That same trip would cost me $1400 thats HUGE. I agree that in the short term its not a big deal but at $10 more per tank of gas X 2.5 fill ups a week X 52 weeks. Thats a large number to “find” in the budget that is already tight. (Im not good at math either). I have no choice but to have 72mile round trip to work, and I live out in the boonies with no other modes of transportation. SOMETHING needs to be done. Nice blog article though. Got me thinking.

  8. comment number 8 by: 21st Century Dad

    @Jason: You make some excellent points there.

    Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We are Green. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

    I fondly remember long road trips too. They’re great in every variation – solo or with friends and family. I didn’t dread the solo trips. I loved them too. It’s an expensive way to travel solo.

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