We’re nearing the home-stretch! I’ve almost gone through our entire budget, from top to bottom, with full disclosure of what we do (or do not do) to save money, and hopefully get ourselves on our way to being DEBT-FREE by September 2o12!
So far this month I’ve let you in on my budgeting practices regarding:
- Child Care
- Health Insurance
- Home/Auto/Life Insurance, etc.
- In-Home Entertainment (including the cell phone)
Today’s hot topic? Gasoline and car maintenance.
Beating the Pump
Does anybody else get seriously depressed every time they pass a gas station? It’s a serious bummer these days. Every time we get together with Mike’s grandparents (who are 93!!), Mike’s grandpa always asks how gas prices are and then says, “Hard to believe I used to sell that stuff ten gallons for a dollar!” He used to own a filler station back when cars were a brand new commodity, and apparently gas was pretty darn cheap! No longer, Paw, no longer.
So what’s a family to do when the budget is tight and gas prices are soaring? The answer itself is simple- drive less. Making that reality, however, can be a little complicated!
Mike and I have a few long-term goals for cutting down our gasoline usage in the future, and a bunch of other little things we do in the meantime.
Our Short-Term Plan
Mike and I have one car. Crazy, I know. And we even live out in the country with no sidewalks and a fifteen minute plus drive to two different jobs. We are able to do this mostly because Mike is able to car-pool to work, but even on days when his ride doesn’t work out, I am able to take him and pick him up- it just means leaving the house a little early in the morning and making an extra trip into town later to get him. It takes some planning, but literally we have never run into an impossible situation where we really needed two cars.
Mike and I set a budget and pay cash. Every month we pull $150 out of the bank for our gas fund, and that’s it. Once that cash is gone, it’s gone. No more driving. Thankfully we’ve never come to that point, but I’m just saying, paying cash-only is definitely a motivation for keeping the gas budget in check! And yes, we are the wierdos that goes into the gas station to pay… there are actually more of us than you might think!
Mike and I plan our driving out. We try as best we can to get errands done when we are already going in a particular direction. We pass the library on the way to church, so that is when we usually drop items off. I pass a few of my favorite grocery stores on the way to and from work, so I try to plan my grocery shopping for time when I am either going to or coming home from work. We save money by making every trip in the car an intentional one.
Mike and I don’t travel as much as we used to. Since both of our families live across three cities all less than three hours away, we found ourselves driving to visit family as much as two or three times in a month. No longer. We visit one city a month, and encourage our family to come visit us if they miss us in the meantime!
Our Long-Term Plan
Mike and I hope to someday live within walking distance of either work or a grocery store, park, and library. I know that last one sounds like a tall-order, but there are several apartment complexes near us that meet those criteria. When we move, we are hoping it will be to a more walk-able community so we can save more money on gas, maintain our one-car-family lifestyle, and also get more exercise in!
Mike and I are interested in hybrid and electric car technology. I’m pretty sure the days of gasoline powered cars are numbered. If we had to buy a car tomorrow, I think we would try to look for a hybrid that gets really good gas-mileage. Since we don’t need a new car tomorrow, and hopefully we won’t need to for a while, we desire to save up money and be able to get an electric car in a few years after the technology has become more established and the cars are able to get a little more mileage per charge. Currently they are up to about 120 miles per charge.
Beyond the Pump- Keeping the Car Healthy for Longer
Mike and I drive a 1999 Saturn that we got used from his mom. It is totally paid for- we have resolved to never own a car we have a payment on- and it is in really great shape considering it is rounding in on it’s thirteenth year of existance! The secret? His mom took really great care of it, and we are continuing that trend.
We keep a $20/month budget for car maintenance. Every month, $20 gets transferred to a specific short-term savings account, to be used only when we need to get some work done on the car. Usually that is just an oil change, which we do vigilently every 3,000 miles. I’ld rather pay some guy $25 every few months to change the oil than a car salesman $15,000 to replace my car!
Other than the regular oil changes, Mike keeps an eye on all of the other fluids, and is really good about checking in any time the car starts to act funny. We are also blessed to have several car savvy friends who have been willing to help us replace broken parts for nothing more than the cost of the replacement and a hot meal.
For instance- a previous car started driving funny, and we took it to a car garage to have a free inspection. They came back with a $500 estimate for work the car needed, including replacing the brake pads. We didn’t have $500.
Mike started praying, and we asked God to some how work out the situation so it would only cost us $50 out of pocket. I have no idea why Mike picked that number, but that is what we began to agree for in prayer.
Then, in passing, Mike also told our friends and neighbors about our car issue, and they told us we were getting ripped off, that they had changed their own brake pads many times, and could do ours if we wanted to. So Mike hopped in the car with our neighbor to go pick up the parts- and came back with a receipt for $49.98. Amazing. The car was fixed twenty minutes later, and our neighbor graciously accepted a hot dinner at our place to celebrate!
How about you? What do you do to beat the pump? Do you have any cool stories to share about how your car needs have been taken care of in the past? Leave a comment!
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