Cars 
14
comments

Money Leaks: Driving Like A Maniac

When I first started driving, I was like any other early driver – I wanted to get where I was going as quickly as I could. If that meant sacrificing a few MPG to do it, I didn’t think twice. Back then, gasoline was much cheaper, I had far more disposable income, and my fuel efficiency wasn’t something I spent too much time thinking about it. Now that I use the car more often, see the pain at the pump each time, I’m more cognizant of how my driving habits affect my fuel use.

Nowadays, I drive more casually. I tend to drive at slower speeds, I’m almost never in a rush, and it’s done wonders for both my fuel mileage and my general disposition. At first, it was tough. It didn’t bother me that trips took a few minutes longer (I hardly noticed), but driving felt a little longer because I wasn’t going as fast. Then I learned to enjoy what was on the radio, enjoy the sights (even if it’s just some trees whizzing by on the highway), and I felt zero anxiety about seeing police cars stopped at the side of the highway (when you’re going at the speed limit or just a few miles over it, instead of ten, you will never get pulled over for speeding). I think it has translated to better fuel efficiency but more importantly, I think I’m calmer. :)
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 Personal Finance 
26
comments

5 Popular Myths That Cost You Money

One of the fun parts about reading and writing about personal finance and money all day is that you run into a lot of good advice and a lot of bad advice. Over the years, I’m amazed at how much of both is repeated with great regularity.

Whereas some bad advice hurts no one, a lot of money myths are costing some people money (and helping others make a lot more than they should!). So today I’ll be hitting five popular myths that span your entire life, from spices to gasoline, with the hope that it spurs a discussion that helps us all understand why these myths are wrong and why they’re costing us money.

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 Personal Finance 
30
comments

Four Reasons Running Out of Gas Hurts

GasolineEvery time that a gallon of gasoline starts to approach or break the $4 a gallon mark, you see a deluge of news stories about people running out of gas. They’re stories about people trying to “stretch their dollar” at the gas pump by fueling up less frequently, which is an absurd idea in the first place (running closer to empty doesn’t stretch anything except the time between fuel ups). I can understand why people do it, they don’t like paying the bill when they fuel up, but the reality is that running out of gas hurts more than paying at the pump.

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 Cars 
8
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Be a Good Carpool Passenger

Kiss & RideAs gasoline prices continue their upward trend, more and more people are carpooling. That’s a good thing.

The bad thing is that fewer people are fairly breaking up the costs!

Personally, I’ve always felt that as a passenger in the car, I owe more than my “fair” share for gasoline. I inherently understood there were other costs involved in driving, outside of gasoline, but the main reason was because I wasn’t driving. It’s really convenient to be a passenger and so I feel like I owe more than my fair share. On some occasions, when someone else beats me to the punch in pulling out a credit card for gasoline, I’ll give them the money instead (the driver doesn’t know, which I suppose is a negative, but in the end I feel happy having paid at least my fair share). In those cases I try to split whatever they’re paying with them (if they pay more, I have zero problem paying my share of “more”).

What if you want a really fair look at costs? Well, you can go as far as to calculate the total cost of a drive, including insurance, tires, license, registration, and the works.

Back when I was driving a Acura Integra and gas was slightly cheaper, I calculated my “cost per mile” at around 7 cents. It included gasoline, insurance, tires, and a catch-all “everything” category that included windshield wipers and other routine maintenance types of things. (as an aside, knowing this information can help you make more informed decisions – like whether to drive across town to save a few cents on gas)

I personally think it all works out at the end, but if you’re a passenger, you should take the effort to make sure you aren’t taking advantage.

How do you make sure you’re a good carpool passenger?

(Photo: gennie_stafford)


 Taxes 
28
comments

Fuel Taxes: Why Gas Prices Vary So Much

Gas PricesYou’ve probably heard about the dirt-cheap gas prices in places like Venezuela, where citizens can fill up for mere cents a gallon. While it might frustrate Americans to know that gasoline is so cheap in some countries, they can take comfort in the fact that there are places where gas is much more expensive. I remember how expensive gas was 13 years ago when I was an exchange student in Europe. What some consumers pay at the pump in other countries far exceeds what we pay here.

But why the discrepancy? It is generally acknowledged that the biggest reason that gas prices vary so widely at the pump is to do with taxes. Many countries impose an excise tax on fuel sales, and, in countries that contain provinces and states, there might be additional taxes imposed at a more local level. Kiplinger recently compiled a list of gas prices around the world, and the top price on their list is Turkey, where consumers pay $9.96 per gallon. The lowest price on the list is Venezuela, where gas is $0.08 per gallon.

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 Frugal Living 
47
comments

Five Gas Saving Myths

Gas StationWith global turmoil continuing to threaten higher gas prices — especially with the summer driving season just around the corner — it is little surprise that many people are looking for ways to save money on gas.

Indeed, as gas moves toward the $4.00 per gallon level that many think is inevitable, increasing fuel economy becomes even more important. We want to be able get the most for our gas station dollar. It is tempting to believe that you can do a few simple things and then find yourself raking in the savings. The truth, though, is that some “conventional” wisdom about saving money on gas is outdated. Or even downright false. Here are five gas saving tips that probably won’t do much in terms of saving you money at the pump:

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 Credit 
28
comments

Are Loyalty Affinity Credit Cards Worth It?

Penn State Credit CardOne of my friends absolutely loves his Penn State-branded American Express card (I think it’s a “skinned” AMEX Blue card) because he gets to earn “points” towards various Penn State-related products and services. An example is the annual Alumni Association Annual Membership which is available for 7,100 points. Sometimes I think he gets amped up seeing Joepa on the face of the card. :)

It made me wonder whether these types of loyalty credit cards are worth it. The ones that most immediately come to mind are the gas station credit cards where you get higher cash back or reward points when you use it at their gas station.

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 Cars 
33
comments

Buying A Prius Is An Emotional Decision

Toyota PriusHave you seen all the Toyota Prius commercials lately? The ones with the people dressed up as foliage and climbing on top of one another? It was to highlight how “green” the vehicles are and announce that Prius was launching another generation of the hugely popular hybrid-electric. At first, my wife didn’t even realize they were people and I, to this day, think it’s just a little bit creepy. :)

However, despite the creepiness of the ads and the whole slew of new hybrid-electric cars, I still would love to have a Prius (or a Tesla!). The only problem I have is that it’s not a financially sound decision. It’s an emotional one (which is fine too!).

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