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Archive for August, 2011

Save at the Pump

August 22nd, 2011 at 05:20 pm

Here I am to tell you about more ways to save money at the pump. I focus on cars - more specifically, fuel consumption - so much due to two reasons: 1) auto-related expenses are the second highest expense for most households, 2) fuel economy is one of the easiest things to improve. 

Are you ready to be put in your place? Here we go...

Gas Brands
Most people would think - and do - that gas brands are the leading influence in fuel economy, second only to the vehicle itself. WRONG. In fact, so long as you are purchasing widely-known fuel brands, you are doing what it takes. The top fuel brands are:

Some people place BP far above the rest, because of their supposed 'superior refining processes'. Whatever. If you have BP in your area, great. If not - those of us on the west - don't sweat it. 

The two main things to keep in mind for gas brands is: 1) popular brand, 2) fueling up with the same brand each time. Do not mix brands. Also, do not mix fuel grades...

Fuel Grades
Some people believe that higher grade gasoline gets better mileage. Not so. Go by your manufacturer's specifications, found in the owner's manual. Put in the lowest grade possible. For us, it is 87. If your manual says premium, put premium. And NEVER put diesel in a gas engine, or gas in a diesel engine! 

Just remember to choose the lowest grade suggested, and stick with it.

Maintaining your vehicle is the most important thing you can do to extend your vehicle's life, and to save money. Regular oil changes are the bare minimum of maintaining your vehicle. The typical suggested interval is 3 months/3,000 miles. However, I have never had a vehicle that needed oil that often. In fact, full synthetic oil lasted my MINI Cooper S 15,000 miles. And the oil still showed no sign of breaking down. Remember to check your oil.

Your owner's manual will suggest a specific oil viscosity. Most vehicles these days run 5w30. However, most passenger cars can get away with running 0w20 during the warmer months. Running a lower viscosity oil means less resistance in your engine. Which, in turn, means your engine does not have to work as hard, which increases fuel economy. Running a synthetic 0w20 will get you around 6,000 miles between changes as well. 

The level at which to fill your engine's oil is also something to consider. With the lower viscosity 0w20, it is suggested to fill it to halfway between full and low. 

Oil is not even close to the end of maintenance for your vehicle. You should also keep an eye on coolant (also should be halfway between high and low), your filters (suggested replacement every oil change), tire pressure (more on that below), steering fluid, etc. The general rule is to keep all your fluids and filters clean and full, changed regularly, and watch and listen for wear in all areas. You should know when your vehicle starts to perform differently. Do not ignore your vehicle! If it feels wrong/different, do not put it off!

Another way to maintain your vehicle is to regularly give it a bath. Dirt and grime build-up never did anyone any good. 

Tires can account for a large percentage of fuel economy. Also, replacing them is a large expense, though it is one that is easy to plan for, as you can simply track your tires' wear.

Tire wear is an important indicator to the overall condition of both your vehicle and your driving habits. 

Tires should wear evenly throughout the tire. If they wear more on one side, it could indicate under-inflation, over-inflation, aggressive cornering, aggressive braking, or even possibly poor alignment or worn suspension components. 

When your tires reach the wear bars, it is time to replace them. 

Tire inflation should be checked every month, at least.

Low Roll Resistance tires are great new products. You will find them on all the hybrids, and on new fuel efficient gas/diesel models, such as the Ford Focus SFE and Chevrolet Cruze Eco. These tires are designed to, well, provide less resistance to the tire, thus making it easier for your vehicle to propel itself down the road with ease. 

Text is and Link is has great deals on LRR tires, even after shipping. 

LRR tires also offer extended life periods. The highest mileage tire currently offers 100,000/6 yr warranty. 

Driving Habits
I made a previous post about
Text is how to save $500 a year on gas and Link is
how to save $500 a year on gas, simply by changing the way you drive. I suggest you give that article a read. 

Driving safely is absolutely the best way to improve your fuel economy. When I started changing my driving style, I was getting 35 mpg. Now, every tank, I am up to 39 and 40 mpg. This is 90% city driving. Our car is rated at 24 mpg city. What does that tell you? 

Too often I see people in huge trucks speeding around me because they wanted to the first ones to the red light, first ones to the lane merge, or what-have-you. Just yesterday, I caught up to someone who did not like my driving, sped around me, continued on out of sight, only for me to catch up to them at the red light at the end of the off-ramp. Ridiculous! 

Not only is this behaviour irresponsible for our environment and our economy, but also for the lives of those around them. 

If you think driving safer is not in your best interest... That you do not have enough time, or are too impatient, or what-have-you... Honestly, shut up, look at your life, and change. Haha. There is no reason that everyone cannot drive this way. 

As you can see in my aforementioned post, I am saving $500/yr. That equates to about 70 gallons of fuel. What if every driver were to save 70 gallons of fuel per year? There are over 255 million non-commercial vehicles on the road today. Let me type that out for you. 255,000,000. Times 70? 17,850,000,000. See that? That is 17.85 billion gallons of gas that can be saved, simply by changing the way we drive. 

On average, one barrel of crude oil (42 gallons) makes about 19.5 gallons of gasoline for vehicles. The rest goes to other things, such as heating oil, lubricating oil, etc. So, 19.5x2.15 = one barrel. So how many barrels of crude oil could we save each year? 

17,850,000,000 / 42 = 425,000,000.

That is 425 million BARRELS of crude oil that we could save... Simply by driving safer. Accelerating slower. Braking more gradually. Obeying the speed limits. Not running the A/C below 50 mph. It's too easy, people.

So if you think you cannot do this, think twice about the kinds of values you hold...

Pedal Power - the new old ride

August 17th, 2011 at 04:31 pm

Over the weekend, I purchased a 1972 Schwinn Varsity 10-speed road bicycle. This bicycle will serve as my secondary means of travel, for when I start school in the Spring. Unfortunately, I cannot commute to work unless I were to leave my vehicle at work, as I am required to transport DDA individuals. This is not an option, as we lack a second vehicle to leave at home in case of emergencies. Quite unfortunate.

The bicycle itself is in pretty good condition. Great condition, considering its age! There are a few things that need done on it - adjust front brake pads, adjust or replace rear brake line, figure out the gearing. Gearing on these older bicycles is a completely different story. 

Text is 1972 Schwinn Varsity 10-speed and Link is
1972 Schwinn Varsity 10-speed by
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uRabbit_foto, on Flickr

As you can see in the image above, the gear levers are much different than today's more compact, robust gear shifters. The left lever controls the front gears. There are two front gears and I refer to them as HI and LO. In the rear, are five more gears, making a total of 10 possible gear positions. Currently, the rear derailleur (shifter) is skipping gears 2 and 3. This could be an issue, considering I have hills to climb on this bicycle.

Other than that, there really is not much needing done to this 39 year old two-wheeled vehicle. I do need to get a helmet, multi-tool, open-end wrench set, pump, etc. Also, I will most likely take this in to get a complete tune-up.

Locally, we have the
Text is Boise Bicycle Project and Link is
Boise Bicycle Project, which is a non-profit shop that does much more than your average bike shop. Their going rate is $10/hr. However, if you pay the $50 yearly membership fee, you get unlimited shop hours, classes, and a 10% discount on parts/in-store purchases. Great deal! I will be doing this when we get the extra dough. It will not be very soon, as I need to pay-back savings for the speeding ticket...

Also, I will be working toward getting the wife a bicycle and a trailer for our little one. It seems women's bicycles are going fairly cheaper than men's, and trailers are super cheap as well. Cannot wait for a family ride! Hopefully by next Spring.

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich

August 17th, 2011 at 02:30 am

Text is Stop Coddling the Super-Rich and Link is
Stop Coddling the Super-Rich

A great article that really got me steaming over this country's so-called "representatives."

Please post comments in my forum post,
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Financial Fitness Update & Oregon Trip Summary

August 7th, 2011 at 09:04 pm

Well, we had a wonderful trip to the Oregon coast this past week. It was absolutely beautiful! We took over 700 pictures with our

Text is Fujifilm S1800 and Link is
Fujifilm S1800, and enjoyed the company of family, as well as our little one's firsts! First time at the beach, first road trip, and first tooth! Uh oh! She did so well on the road trip. Our last night, however, her first tooth cut and she was not a happy camper. Still did exceptionally well!

Our last day there, we spent in Portland. Oh my! Portland is most definitely our destination of future dwelling! It was already on our minds before we went - but now, there is absolutely no comparison!

In fact, we are so bored by our hometown now, that we are finding it hard to leave the house, even though we dread the house so much. We have to go get diapers today, but cannot figure out what else to do. It's tragic! This place is horrid. Ick!

On the way home from the trip, I got a speeding ticket. Ah! The one time I wished we had cruise control in our car. I should not have been speeding, but alas, I was. $287 ticket! Worst part is that my teenage speeding tickets are dropping off this year. And now this! Grr! Guess insurance will be going up... Might call to find out how much.

As for finances... Before we left for our trip, my Chase Freedom card came in the mail. We used it all throughout the trip and did quite well. Should earn quite a bit of reward points. However, somehow between tracking the transactions and some transactions pending, I am off on my math by about $300. We budgeted $381 for the trip. Came over by $11. That makes $392. That should leave $108 on my tiny credit limit. But it shows $148 and I cannot find the transactions that are missing. So, I am waiting for the bill to come in before I spend anything out-of-budget.

Also, I am looking at going back to college. I want to become a Registered Nurse. However, there are not many options here. I want to get my Associates first, so that I may start working sooner, and then get my BS via a RN-BSN bridge program. The only schools in Boise that offers an Associates are Carrington College (a for-profit school) and College of Western Idaho. The difference in tuition is about $10,000! Carrington is probably quicker, as it pumps out students like no tomorrow and has no wait list, but CWI is probably better, as the local university (BSU) accepts graduates of CWI for their RN-BSN program. Also, Carrington would be very difficult to attend while working as well.

So many things to consider! It is getting quite stressful!