Monday, May 19, 2008

Gas Prices are Hurting the Economy of My Family

Gas prices are hurting the economy of my family. Plain and simple. The greed of the oil companies is causing a financial burden on our family of five. Over the past several months, we have considered several options, as have many others who are in the same situation.

Just so you know how to compare our circumstances to yours, here is a little reposition about us (using good averages from my record keeping). We have two vehicles: a 2004 Pontiac sedan and a 2005 minivan. The '04 gets 25mpg; the '05 van gets 21mpg. Our daily commute to/from work is 55 miles for one of us and 60 for the other. We have two kids who are involved in extra-curricular activities, so there are always added miles at least three days per week. And we attend church on Sunday -- 45 mile round trip at least once; most Sundays, twice. On average, we fill up both vehicles with fuel every five days. Using today's gas price of $3.65/gal in our area, the avg. fill-up costs $60 for the '04 and $65 for the '05. Our total fuel costs per month avg $750-$800 (inclusive of extra driving, etc).

Here are a few of those considerations, what I've done about them and the results of that action or research:

  1. Drive less
  2. Tune-up vehicles
  3. Buy a motorcycle & park my car
  4. Trade in both vehicles for more fuel efficient models
Drive less:
We started doubling up on trips to the grocery store, Wal-Mart and the like two years ago. We never run to any store for anything that costs less than $10.00. It's not a scientific fact, but the closest area with various stores and services is 20 miles round trip from our home in the country. I figured that needing anything less than twice what it costs to drive to the store is not worth going to get.

2. Tune-up vehicles: Both vehicles have new spark plugs, fresh oil, K&N filters and properly inflated tires. The fuel filters are regularly checked, as are the air filters, etc. We figure we're getting 2-3mpg savings by keeping the vehicles tuned -- and using the K&N filters.

3. Buy a motorcycle & park my car: I thought about it. Have you? Just for kicks, I went over to RoadTripAmerica's Fuel Cost Calculator and figured the difference between driving my car and riding a 50mpg motorcycle.
The results were not as satisfying as I had hoped for. On avg, I would save around $4.00 per day in fuel costs. Since I work 5 days each week, that avg's out to $80.00 per month in savings. Does anyone know where you can buy a reliable motorcycle AND insurance for $80/mth? Nope, me neither. That would be the break even point. To actually save money, the cost per month would have to be even less.

4. Trade in both vehicles for more fuel efficient models: We're both a little "upside-down" in car value vs. loan payback -- so we can't effectively trade and purchase more fuel efficient vehicles. BTW, part of the drop in value is likely due to the mpg of both vehicles. People are buying smaller cars now -- so large sedans and minivans are taking a hit in value. In order to recoup the difference, we would have to extend our loans, pay a large down payment or much higher monthly payments. All of those options would effectively negate any savings at the pump.

So what are we doing to stave off the crunch in finances?
We pay the gas prices and cut out other things. XM radio and my subscription to are now gone. I guess the next thing to go will be DirectTV -- then the kids' cell phones. I don't know what else to do. We have to work and therefore, are forced to buy gas -- no matter what it costs.

What are YOU doing? Are gas prices significantly hurting your finances?