By Terry Frisk
After carefully planning my 2022 spending budget, I was completely caught off guard with the sudden surge in gasoline prices. Gas prices have increased from an average of $3.40 per gallon in December to $5.00 per gallon as of when I wrote this article. The tank of gas that cost me $70 in December is now over $100! This not only affects my own transportation costs but also adds to the cost of other goods and services, resulting in higher prices for about everything we purchase. In times of hardship like this, I take comfort in the words of the Apostle Paul who faced many hardships but insisted that we have the power to overcome adversity.
“In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4 12:13
I am taking steps to reduce my fuel consumption by 1/3 in order to reduce my fuel cost back to a level before the price increases. Here are some ideas for reducing your fuel consumption which have helped me achieve my goal:
- Maintain your vehicle – Keep your engine tuned, fluid levels full and tires inflated to the recommended pressure for maximum performance. Remove any excess weight from the vehicle. I used to carry a 100 lb. toolbox in the back of my truck in case I needed tools. I found that I rarely needed more than a handful of tools on the road, so I replaced the toolbox with a small tackle box with only a few tools.
Also, wash and wax your vehicle’s exterior regularly. In an episode of the television show “Mythbusters,” the crew measured the gas mileage of on extremely dirty car and compared it with the mileage of the same car after it was cleaned. The car was benchmarked at 24 miles per gallon when it was covered with dirt and mud and achieved 26.4 miles per gallon after it was cleaned, a 10% improvement! They attributed this to less wind resistance, improving the aerodynamics.
- Consider alternative energy sources – While the price of electric vehicles has declined in recent years, most of us still cannot afford the relatively high price. They will hopefully continue to become more affordable over time. However, there are other traditionally gas powered devices for which electric alternatives exist. With improvements in battery technology, battery powered lawn mowers rival gas models for performance and are now similar in price.
- Improve driving habits – Avoid accelerating too fast from stops. I remember my driver training instructor saying to accelerate as if there is an egg between your foot and the gas pedal. Also, anticipate stopping and remove your foot from the gas pedal in advance to avoid hard braking.
Speed also significantly impacts your fuel economy. The U.S. Department of Energy disclosed that vehicle fuel economy declines at speeds above 50 mph. While the amount of decline varies by vehicle, each 5 mph above 50 mph increases the average fuel cost by $.35 per gallon based on a fuel price of $5.00 per gallon. So, if your average highway speed is 70 mph, you could reduce your cost by $.35 per gallon by slowing down to 65 mph. For a vehicle with a 20 gallon fuel tank, this is a savings of $7.00 per tank. The DOE provides a calculator to determine the cost for your specific vehicle at www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.jsp.
- Plan your trips – Organize your errands to reduce the distance you drive. You may not be able to reduce your commute to work, but you might be able to complete errands on your way home from work to reduce special trips. Also, plan your trips to avoid peak traffic times. Waiting on traffic consumes more fuel.
- Avoid excessive idling – Many newer cars shut off the engine automatically when the car stops and restarts it when the brake is released. If you are waiting at a drive-up window for longer than 30 seconds, shut off your engine to avoid wasting fuel.
- Measure your fuel consumption – Most vehicles have a trip odometer that you can reset each time you fuel up. Each time you fuel up, calculate the miles per gallon by dividing the number of miles driven since the last time you refueled by the number of gallons it took to fill your tank using the calculator on your cellphone. Challenge yourself to increase that number each tankful.
It doesn’t appear that we will see relief from high fuel prices anytime soon. However, your efforts to reduce your fuel consumption will help maintain your budget, reduce emissions released in the environment, and conserve resources for the next generation. Take care and may God bless!
Terry Frisk is a partner in the firm B2B CFO, providing financial advisory services to small businesses. He also counsels individuals on personal financial matters through the Cathedral of the Rockies Budget Counseling ministry. He may be contacted through e-mail at [email protected].