Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The price of gasoline and my behavioral changes

I was a bit nervous at my last gas fill up. The price of gasoline has been increasing with leaps and bounds, jumping 14 cents in one day, 5 cents another with little breathing room to get comfortable at a number before it increases yet again. In my area, the only gas over $4 a gallon is premium with diesel ahead of it. Seeing $3.89 per gallon in some cities I was driving through put me in sticker shock as just two days earlier, my city had $3.69 per gallon whereas my last fill up, I paid $3.57 a gallon a week earlier. So there I was driving, watching the numbers increase nearly every place I drove through, knowing I would need to fill my tank at the end of the trip. I hit a new milestone when I did succumb to necessity: over $40 for the partial tank of gas.

This may not seem like much, but the largest number I had seen at that point was $35. Strangely, I handled that number with equanimity, but not the $41 charge--and I was only filling a partial tank, my gauge just under 1/2 a tank. For a while, I had been entertaining the thought to work from home two days a month, but this sudden run up in fuel costs finally got me to talk with my boss. She seemed amenable, but did say "let's see how it works out" so it may not be a permanent arrangement. However, she verbally agreed to allowing me to work at home every other Monday starting next week. That is one fewer trip to work and ~1 gallon of gas saved.

On top of this change, I was approved for the internet connectivity subsidy through my workplace. I have to prove I have internet access at home and if I leave my place of employment within the next year, I will have to pay the money back. However, I plan on saving the extra money and spending only my salary. This gives me a bit of cushion, earns a bit of passive interest income and can be used for anything I need. My current plan is to put it towards a new computer, but plans can change. I feel more comfortable saving it than spending it so to ING Direct it will go.

Although I have not recently pursued it, I will also try finding someone with which to carpool to work. This would also ease some of the pressure on my spending plan as I struggle to keep up with the increasing cost of gas. Right now, I have just over $25 left to get me through the end of the month. As it stands, that is maybe a quarter tank of gas and I usually fill at approximately half. I have a small amount of money stashed in my savings account that is a bit of extra gas money, but $40 will only get me one more tank of gas at these prices.

I have already rethought one trip to the city and I was concerned about the trip to see the family. Driving 150 miles once a month for family dinner is not too much, but usually consumes ~1/4 a tank. I am certainly more sensitive to consumption than I was especially as my last fill up told me I only had 26 mpg. I like to be up at 30 mpg and I did not like seeing the number I received. I did haul lots of mulch and other gardening supplies at city speeds so I hope keeping it to the highway will help increase my miles per gallon.

Unfortunately, my private car is my only mode of transportation. There are no buses or trains to get me the 14 miles to work. I never expected the price of gas to make me so conscious of my consumption. I wish others were sensitive to consumption as well, but I am still passed when I drive the speed limit. By working from home, keeping my car in good shape and seeking someone to carpool with, I should be able to maintain my gas budget even with the increasing cost of gasoline.

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