With the recent drop in gas prices, my husband and I have been talking about how that impacts our fuel costs and driving habits. I drive a highly fuel efficient Prius, he drives a less fuel efficient sedan, and we have a gas-guzzling mid-sized SUV for those rare occasions when all six people in our family travel somewhere together, or we have guests. The default has been to take the Prius for all errands and random trips, simply because it is so much cheaper to run. It only makes sense. But how much is that saving, and more importantly, how much are we still spending?
Transportation is the second or third largest item in most family budgets (competing with housing and food.) A lot of us make a lot of short trips every day without considering their actual individual costs. For example, I drive one child back and forth to school every day because bus service is not available where we live. I also drive back and forth to base at least one other time on most days, for doctors appointments, or Scouts, or chapel events, or play practice, or whatever else comes up.
Gas here is more expensive than it is within the US, we’re hovering just under $3 a gallon. Our monthly fuel bill used to be between $500 and $600 per month, and it has slowly been falling. But how much are all those trips costing individually? Thankfully, the math is simple.
In our case, it is 10 miles each way to get from our house to the school. My car averages about 50 miles per gallon, a little less in the winter. So, we’re using about 2/5 of a gallon to make a round-trip voyage back and forth to school. At $3.00 a gallon, that’s about $1.20, every morning and every afternoon. My husband’s car gets about half the miles per gallon, so that same trip costs approximately $2.40 in his car. In the SUV, we’re looking at about $3.60 just to drive my daughter to school in the morning. It’s sort of shocking! No wonder our monthly bill is so high…each trip is expensive, and I am making a LOT of them.
How can this information help us to cut costs? Looking at car voyages on a per-trip basis can provide incentive to cut down on the number of trips that are happening. For our family, that might mean saying on base between two errands instead of coming home for 1/2 hour. It might mean being proactive about carpooling with nearby families. It might mean doing a better of job of anticipating and clustering errands, so that we’re not running out three times in one day for things that could have been accomplished in a single trip.
Very few of us will be able to eliminate our car fuel bills entirely, but a new perspective on each unit might be the key to decreasing expenses. You can apply this logic to other things as well, such as individual meals (or snacks, a big expense in my house), or days worth of services such as cable television (are you really getting $5 of value each day?)
Every person is different, and finances are very personal. If this strategy works to help you cut some costs, great. If not, we’ll find another method that works for you.
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