For Those On A Budget

I think I’ve been pretty clear about this over the years:  High gas prices are here to stay.  If you don’t know how this affects you and your family by now, I think I could make a pretty good argument for “thinning the herd.”

Some of my friends and acquaintances are complaining to me right now because they are having a tough time making ends meet.  I always feel so powerless upon hearing them, I know its hard out there, but I’m compelled to point out the fact that they don’t seem to be doing much to help themselves.

Most of these people have not curtailed their leisure driving one bit.  I know it isn’t easy relocating to be closer to work, but there are certain  logistical considerations at play when planning the rest of your life.  If you live 15 miles from work, you drive a minimum of 30 miles a day.  If your car gets 15 miles a gallon, it costs you roughly 7 dollars a day, times twenty, to just get to work.  Thats 140 bucks, minimum. ANY LEISURE DRIVING BEYOND THAT MUST BE FACTORED INTO YOUR MONTHLY BUDGET.

In addition, plan to increase your monthly budget for utilities and food by at least 20%.  Then re-figure your budget again.  Eat less, or drive less, but the increased fuel prices will force you to make that choice, among others.  We have so many tools at our disposal for keeping in touch with friends, email, video-phones, cell phones, etc, why not use these instead of the car once in awhile?

Most of use grew up during a time when Americans didn’t have to think about the cost of travel.  The rest of the world did, and they built they built passenger railroads, bus-lines, and subways.  We built suburbs, and highways.  Until we make the inevitable transition to more accessible public transportation, we must protect ourselves by planning ahead in our own lives, and adjusting our habits.

I keep hoping that these higher fuel prices will bring about some positive changes in how we live.  Perhaps neighborhoods will be rejuvenated by doing business closer to home…perhaps small mom/pop operations will flourish since traveling to big-box stores will be cost-prohibitive…perhaps theres a couple of guys tinkering in their garage, who will figure out a way tweak a car so it gets 100 mpg.

Believe me, I know that those of us with children are forced to do more driving than we like.  I’m not making judgments about the driving choices people make, I’m saying that if you don’t factor in the almost 2oo percent increase we’ve had in less than 5 years, you are sticking your head in the sand, and something will surely bite your ass.

If you own a large truck or SUV and it is your primary vehicle….unload it now.  UNLOAD IT NOW.  I’ve never seen a weirder car market than what I am seeing now.  Large vehicle’s values are plummeting.  Older, fuel efficient cars are fetching ridiculous prices, but they are still worth the money, if you can trade.  There are things you can do, even if you are carrying negative equity on your current vehicle.

Good luck.

* Someone on another blog called me Chicken Little today.  I’m cool with that.  If I’m wrong, whats the downside for me?  If I’m right…whats the downside for you?

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “For Those On A Budget

  1. Here’s what I don’t see a solution to, though. Yes, moving in closer would save on gas, but where in town are they going to move? Until housing prices in medium and high density places in town come down, it doesn’t seem to me that it’s possible for most people to move closer to work.

    If we had reasonable medium and high density housing, yes, people could move in. But someone who lives in, say, Smyrna and works downtown is not going to be any better off commute-wise living in Bellevue and working downtown or even living in east Nashville and working downtown.

    I don’t know. It’s going to be rough for a while, that’s for sure.

  2. democommie

    Mack:

    I tried all that stuff you mention:

    “We have so many tools at our disposal for keeping in touch with friends, email, video-phones, cell phones, etc, why not use these instead of the car once in awhile?”

    but they ignore everything except me showing up on their doorstep–btw, what’s your address?

    I was driving 400-500 miles a week last year (for a number of reasons). Now? I’m trying to keep it around 100-150. I do have to go Syracuse from time to time so that throws a wrench in the works, but I try to combine things like shopping and medical appointments so I’m not making redundant trips.

    I would not mind, nearly so much, the price of gas if, like European countries, the high price reflected a whomping tax bite instead of a whomping excessively high profit for the oilgarchs.

  3. heartbreaktown

    Kudos to Aunt B for her comment and if nothing more was said on the subject, that would fine. Rents & real estate close to jobs is ridiculous. Profiteering on the necessities of life like housing, and everyone loses eventually.

    And kudos to Demmocommie for the last paragraph.

    I think it’s safe to say that most people would benefit from a full cost-savings analysis of our budget. And truly I’ve gone NO where the past two weekends because I didn’t want to spend the gas. However, I do live next door to my parents, so it’s a little easier for me. I can go to the ACTUAL mom & pop shop (their refridgerator) and what a savings!

    I suppose it’s off-topic, but I think people spend Too much time at home and do not get out and mingle with their neighbors, community and family precisely for the reasons you mentioned. It’s easier to communicate electronically. People are already too self-centered, if you have to drive to see family and friends, then you should. We need MORE human contact, not less.

  4. Right! If we were paying high gas prices to subsidize other forms of public transportation, I would grouch a whole lot less, but the fact that I cannot get on a train in Nashville and end up in Memphis or Knoxville just burns my britches.

    I mean, I see Europeans saying how much they have to pay for gas, but I’m like “You can get on a train in Spain and end up in Germany. I can get on a train here in Nashville and end up in Mt. Juliet. Ooo, ten miles.”

    And, believe me, if gas gets much higher, I’m going to have to limit my visits to you to once a month or so.

    I think someone could make a killing inventing some kind of… I don’t know… almost modular middle and high density housing, where there would be a set price per room, like a basic bathroom would be $10,000 and a basic bedroom with a walk-in closet would be $15,000 and you could purchase your living space in that building based on what kind of living space you needed. Maybe you spend a lot of time out, so you just need a basic living/dining room and a bedroom and a small kitchen and a bathroom. Okay, that’s this price. Or maybe you do a lot of entertaining, but you don’t need a huge bedroom, you could pay more for a big living room and less for a tiny bedroom.

    I don’t know. It just seems like there’s got to be some creative, profitable ways to sell living space to people for less than $150,000 and put them near work and grocery and entertainment.

  5. nm

    The thing is, people could make a killing doing X, Y, or Z community-friendly thing, but if they can make an even bigger killing doing P & Q they won’t do X, Y, or Z. Office space is already being warehoused in certain locations around Nashville to keep prices high, since the building owners figure that rather than do X (lower rental/lease prices), Y (upgrade the spaces they have to be worth higher prices), or Z (reorganize the space in the sort of modular ways B is talking about) they will just do P (keep space off the market to raise prices for what’s out there) or Q (sell to developers who will knock the existing buildings down for high rises). I’m not aware that it’s happening with housing stock yet, but I expect that condos and rentals will be going that way soon, given the current housing slump.

    Never underestimate the power of 20 years of “greed is good.” A good profit isn’t enough any longer.

  6. Well, until that time comes…I still think sharing housing is an alternative.

    I agree that seeing loved ones in person is way better…but if you cannot afford the trip, we can at least “interact.”

    I think we are now being (thankfully) forced to re-evaluate the types and sizes of homes we build. Heating and cooling costs will be a primary consideration, rather than an afterthought.

  7. Considering that my mortgage payment is far less than what the average apartment rent is, I won’t be moving closer to town anytime in the near future. Not to mention school considerations for my daughter.

    Your wife travels a very long distance to work everyday, but you are so lucky that you can even that out by the fact that you don’t have a job outside of your home. You guys are extremely blessed.

    As for shared housing, when do you want us to move up? lol

    Seriously, though, I am in the process of re-evaluating everything in my life from how I spend my money, to figuring out what things I could sell, to my food consumption. It isn’t easy, but it’s a necessity that I think many of us facing right now.

  8. I’m not sure what happened to my comment, so I’m gonna try this again… (WordPress is acting all squirrelly today…)

    Considering that my mortgage payment is far less than what the average apartment rent is, I won’t be moving closer to town anytime in the near future. Not to mention school considerations for my daughter.

    Your wife travels a very long distance to work everyday, but you are so lucky that you can even that out by the fact that you don’t have a job outside of your home. You guys are extremely blessed.

    As for shared housing, when do you want us to move up? lol

    Seriously, though, I am in the process of re-evaluating everything in my life from how I spend my money, to figuring out what things I could sell, to my food consumption. It isn’t easy, but it’s a necessity that I think many of us facing right now.

  9. And, what, exactly, do you see as the line between sharing housing and enabling, while you’re at it?

  10. nm

    And what if you’d rather hit yourself in the head with a hammer than move in with your surviving relatives?

  11. That’s an excellent question, B. My brother still lives with my parents. They’re enabling him, if you ask me.

  12. And speaking of driving and mileage, a friend went to look at a last year’s Toyota Yaris this weekend. Since the price differential is so small between the 2008 and 2007 models (a grand) she ended up with an ’08 but they were almost willing to throw in an SUV as a door prize. The Yaris models they had in stock on Saturday are now all sold.

    I would have been willing to have, and currently do have, in-laws living with us but it would have been a cold day in hell before my parents would have moved in.

    I would expect that homes that can meet LEED certification for energy efficiency will escalate in value faster than houses built in the 70s and 80s like mine.

  13. Pingback: Weekly Tags « Finance is Fun

  14. Good ideas. I can’t get rid of my truck though. I need it for work projects, and like you said, it won’t be easy to sell anyway. I do park it a lot more, in favor of my 1999 Toyota Corolla, that has about 220,000 miles on it. It gets about a third better gas mileage.

  15. Pingback: Music City Bloggers » Blog Archive » Gas Prices Too High? Seems Like a Perfect Time to Cut Bus Routes!

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