Late last night I was up number crunching. It was a depressing affair. I have spent the last six years working on money management skills, and made great strides. For the first time in my adult life I not only had a savings account with more than a minimum balance, I had one that was not laughable.
But the game has changed. Everyone is struggling with the price of gas. I am no exception. Less than two years ago, I could fill the tank of my PT Cruiser with seventeen dollars. No joke. I mean fill it where the tank gauge hovered oh so gently above the “F”.
Yesterday, it cost forty-seven dollars and change. I gas up around every five to six days.
I live in a small city that abuts a larger city where I work. The travel distance is just shy of thirteen miles. So at a minimum, I drive 26 miles daily. That means that I park when I arrive at work and do not move the car except to drive home. That happens most of the time. However, sometimes I must attend to business at lunch break. Or worse, I must travel further away from home to a meeting at the northern campus of my employer. That additional travel is another fifteen miles in the wrong direction. So, on those days I travel nearly 56 miles.
I cannot afford a different vehicle.
In a desperate attempt to stem the money hemorrhage inflated gas prices have caused, I have become even more diligent with trip planning. But it just isn’t working.
I have trimmed the fat in other areas of finances.
1. Leftovers have become haute cuisine in my home.
2. Gone are coffee outings
3. Gone: entertainment outings with rare exceptions allowed a few times a quarter.
4. I only buy food grown locally, as the prices are cheaper
5. The dinner table hosts many more humble meals
6. Clothing purchases are put on hold, save those absolutely necessary.
7. Car tires pressure measured at least weekly.
8. The air conditioner has been adjusted up two degrees (This IS Florida)
9. I have become the light switch monitor
10. I bake more than ever to put bread stuffs and desserts on our Sunday table. Sunday is sacrosanct.
I realize that these are common, thrifty moves. And in fact a great deal have been in practice for years. But now, I am on patrol within my household with a vengeance. And yet, gasoline prices are still winning the budgetary battle.
Carpooling is difficult, as I live in another city than most of my co-workers. The one co-worker that lives near enough by to do so often works a vastly different schedule.
The one saving grace this summer is the fact that my employer has instituted a four day work week for the summer semester. That has been a small help.
Looking at the long term effect: Vacation times will be much more mundane in the coming year. I know many folks look at vacations as an extravagance. For me, they are mental health days. The 25 dollars monthly that used to go into the vacation fund has stopped. Vacations not currently planned and paid for will not happen.
But I am left to wonder, what else can go? Where else can I trim the dollars? Oh yeah, about the finances…. That saving account is becoming laughable again.
I just don’t know.