Archive for the ‘gasoline’ Category

More On Slow Driving

June 26, 2007

Surprising Results.
I’ve been applying myself to the slow driving project, as inspired by a post at zenhabits. You can check it out here. Today the small revelation was that using the slow-driving method took me exactly the same time as my usual surface-streets commute.

This surprised me a little since a) I drive about 12 miles, and b) In the past I’ve done my fair share of weaving, engine gunning, strategic passing, and all kinds of less-than-genteel, impatient and unsafe driving habits, and I honestly thought that might reduce commute time. On one day, today, all that behavior just comes out in the wash. Same commute time. While I’m not sure about today’s result, my usual commute time is a very consistent 45 minutes.

Getting into numbers.
The math bug got to me again. I idly compute that regardless of how I drive my average speed is 16 m.p.h. That’s Los Angeles for you, given an 8 a.m. start. So you could average 35-40 miles per hour (while on a roll, so to speak) or average 25 miles per hour, but average commute speed is 16 miles per hour. That’s got to translate to some savings, right? What I’m curious about is whether the gas mileage will vary. I’m sheepish to admit just how curious! I suppose it’s a harmless diversion.

The psychology of the thing.
I have to admit it was satisfying pulling up next to the Prius at the stop signal, the one that zipped by me a few minutes earlier. We all end up at the same stop lights. If this result is consistent, it strikes me as another example of our desire to maintain an illusion of control over our lives. Road rage would be the result, then, of a false belief — namely that how fast we drive (on surface streets) makes much of an impact on arrival time. More sane measures, like allowing a reasonable amount of time for transit, leaving on time, are in order.

Dream within a dream.
I was in for a check-up yesterday. Just before my doctor said, “I’m going to check out your prostate now,” we were chatting about how Americans really don’t understand mortality. He noted that a tremendous amount of health care dollars are spent on the last 30 days of life, and high-tech treatments.

“You know, in Europe if you get lung cancer they just send you home.” I was a little shocked by that statement. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be sent home with lung cancer. But I think his point, that there are limits to what we can do, especially at an advanced age, is simply not something we want to hear. And this very strong desire to feel that we have control is at the root of it. We spend a lot of money to feel in control.

Less stress.
Of course, if you have to use the freeway your results may vary. I avoid it. On the freeway, going West towards Santa Monica, commute times would fluctuate wildly. Since I’m in a business (therapist) where showing up late would be highly frowned upon, I can’t afford to be late. The nice part about this slow driving is that I really am more relaxed during my drive.

The long drive.
Stepping back a bit, I think this whole debt reduction/frugality thing is a slow drive. What we are trying to do is put some steady, consistent habits into motion. Those sudden lurches, like paying off more debt than we can actually afford, can come back to haunt us.

Today I have a huge chunk of free time in the afternoon before my evening clients. I’m going to take a little R and R. Set out to the Century City AMC, with free movie pass in hand. I won’t be buying popcorn, but of course I will be driving slowly.


Scanning the Horizon For Black Ink

June 25, 2007

Dear Diary,

I think we might be doing too much laundry. It seems it’s all I do. Of course, this is one of the first times in my life that I’ve done multiple loads of laundry in a row, so that may have something to do with it. Maybe we’re wearing too many clothes. And then there’s the dishwasher. Its hunger knows no bounds. Forever gorging and disgorging flatware and china.

Everything is mixed up. I went to a new gas station. Who knew that gasbuddy could point out a station right under my nose, even closer than the habitual haunt, with cheaper gas. In fact, looking at some old receipts I was appalled, simply appalled at the price I’ve been paying for gas.

But this Saturday, intoxicated by the sheer madness of a mid-day gas purchase, I forgot the receipt, so my number crunching will have to wait another day. My number-cruncher alter-ego is seething with anticipation. We bought the gas at high noon. It was about 83 degrees Farenheit. Twenty full degrees warmer than the usual Saturday run. So it was, perhaps, high volume gas. How will I ever sort it out the cost-benefit analysis?

What strange ways I’ve taken up. Pulling plugs out of sockets without a thought. Driving 55 m.p.h. (but trying not to piss people off, if possible). Being very aware of when I can coast down a hill. Noticing with no small amount of smugness the other drivers ludicrously weaving in and out, spilling their precious fuel — and then arriving at the light at the same time as I do. Thinking very seriously about whether we are laundering too much.

Have I studied a whit for the EPPP, the national licensing exam for psychologists? No. Not of late. I have drifted into a fringe subculture of frugality, blogging, and plug pulling. Does this mean that I am figuratively “pulling the plug”? One wonders.

I wonder if there is a parody of personal finance sites out there. There must be, no. Maybe an Onion piece? This drifting into the trees, losing sight of the forest. I have lost sight of the budget. Just for a few days, but it nags at me. The budget. There’s where the goodies are. Not this niggling penny pinching. The big plans, the straight and narrow, the total control — the end of debt. How far off is it? When shall we strike it? Like a sailor up the rigging, looking for land, I scan the horizon for black ink. Thirsty.

Autistic Frugality

June 22, 2007

I’ve been working on my slow stuff.

Slow driving. It is hard, but I’m trying to drive a steady 60 m.p.h. on the freeway for efficient fuel consumption. Furthermore, a post at wise bread noted that the cheapest day to buy gas is often during the week, Tuesday or Thursday. Now I am questioning my whole Saturday morning gas run. I’ll have to look into this.

Driving at this speed also appeals to my autistic, geeky side which likes the idea that I’m traveling a mile a minute. It’s easy to calculate how many minutes it will take you to get places when you’re traveling a mile a minute. Good times.

Slow shopping. Browsing in a used bookstore with a solid conviction that it is very unlikely that I’m going to buy anything. Each time I got the impulse to buy I talked through it in my mind.

I have a book like this at home. Actually, I have several books like this at home, and I haven’t read them… This book looked great at the new bookstore. Now it doesn’t look quite so attractive. Hmm, I like almanacs, but this one is from 2000. Almanacs aside reference books are a pretty tempting buy used, but right now I don’t need a reference book. Wow, this book is so cool! Let me see if I can find it at the library.

In the end, it was quite a fun afternoon cruising around at 30 miles per hour, not buying stuff.

Slow selling. Sold a compact disk on Amazon for $7. Woohoo!

Slow web design. I am very tempted to delete a directory in WordPress in a random fashion in order to upload a new layout I like. But I’m afraid this could be disastrous and I haven’t taken the precaution of backing up the blog. Easy now.

Frugal Bugle: Gas and Food

June 9, 2007

Implementing the Budget
Saturday and it’s time to activate the budget for week two! I am already deriving considerable satisfaction from this simple implementation. As I said before, the blogging and reading of p.f. blogs really helps to support the practice of living within one’s means.

Groceries: Trader Joe’s, $93.26

Gasoline: who cares, $40.00 (11.69 gallons)
Gas factoids: Volvo 240
Miles per gallon: 20.53
Miles per dollar: 6 miles
Cost per mile: 16.67 cents

I’ve wondered about these facts for years. It is good to have them recorded. I’m going to fill up the other car early tomorrow morning, and try to see if I can document any actual difference in mileage per buck for the denser gas. I think $20 should cover the other car. The wife has much less commuting.

Total cost for Gas and Groceries: $153.26. This leaves $46.74 for random comfort lunches or even a meal out. This is not the most frugal budget imaginable, but it is a budget that we seem to be able to stick to.

Jasmine and the Low-Density Gas Errand

June 3, 2007

Very still this morning in a foggy Los Angeles. I noticed two palms covered in jasmine creeper. The jacaranda are in full majesty. I’m back from the gas station to test out the theory that cooler, early morning/late evening, fuel gets better mileage. How will I verify this curious assertion?? It’s been offered at a number of credible sites.

I am rather intensely engaged in YNAB Pro (You Need A Budget). So I’ve hidden the debit and credit cards, budgeted some cash for gas and food, and set out into the cash only wilderness. I’ve traversed this land before, and it can be treacherous. Once, in Nantucket, standing at the checkout of a groovy granola grocery with my brother-in-law and lots of healthful products, and, oops, no cash. At that time I was carrying my bankcard. Turned out it expired that very day.

My lovely wife may soon be contributing herein. I got the $20 of gas for her car. Paying cash for gas can really take some getting used to.

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