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Is the Cheapest Place for Gas Costing You Money?

empty We’ve been talking about ways to save money. Today we want to look at something that is top of mind for many of us – how to save money on gas.

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Follow the price of oil like a speculator

Oil prices go up and down. If you knew the price of oil went up, you might want to hurry to fill up. If you knew it went down, maybe it would pay to wait a day or two. Now you can track the price of oil at Oil-Price.net. Large companies do it; why shouldn’t we?

Time your purchase

While we haven’t seen any research that proves this theory, it seems that gas prices often go up right before the weekend, especially long weekends. So test for yourself and, if you agree, try to buy your gas by the middle of the week.

Serial rewards

Some credit cards offer extra rebates (e.g. 5% instead of a normal 1% to 2%) on fuel purchases during an introductory period (e.g. six months). Consider this – if you have good credit, employ a strategy where you get a new card and use it through the ramped up reward period. Then move on to another one.

Loyalty programs

Our grocery store chain has opened convenience stores next to their main stores. To drive (pun intended) business to these new stores, they’re offering an incentive to their grocery store customers.

For every $25 you spend on groceries, you get a 5 cent per gallon discount on gas at their convenience store. We saved 60 cents a gallon on a recent purchase.

Shop before you shop

Sites like Gas Buddy, Gas Price Watch, and Fuel Me Up help you find the gas stations with the cheapest fuel in your area. Gas Buddy seems best for our area; check them all out to see which is best for you.

But before you do …

Is it worth the drive to save money on gas?

We know people who drive out of their way to go to the gas station with the cheapest fuel. It seems almost oxymoronic, doesn’t it? And aren’t you glad we got the “oxy” in there?

It struck us as an interesting question to prove out – is it worth burning fuel to save money on fuel?

gas-buddy_small

Here’s our calculation …

(click the image to enlarge)

We found the prices for our area gas stations at Gas Buddy, as shown in the picture above. Using MapQuest, we determined that it would be a 3-mile round-trip from the Bigg Studio to the closest gas station, which charged $3.85 per gallon. This was the second highest priced gas in our area on that day. That figures!

It’s an 8-mile round trip to the station with the cheapest gas – $3.66 gallon. Using our handy calculator (okay, we were able to calculate this in our head), we saw that we could save 19 cents per gallon by making the drive. That seems pretty significant.

But here’s the rub … our car only has a 17.4 gallon gas tank. So if our tank was bone dry when we arrived at the gas station (a feat we probably come close to more often than we would like to think), the most we could save is $3.31.

Suddenly it wasn’t as interesting for us. We often work from our house so we don’t really drive that much. But we have friends who drive a lot for work; they fill up their car as often as three times a week, so that would add up to over $500 for the year. Alright, it’s worth continuing.

In order to get the cheapest fuel, we would have to drive 5 more miles. How much does that cost? The best source we could think of for that is the Internal Revenue Service. They allow a deduction of 50.5 cents for every mile driven for business. Since we figured the IRS wasn’t in the business of being generous with deductions, we figured if anything this might be a little on the low side.

So we multiplied the 5 miles by the 50.5 cent cost per mile. It would cost us $2.53 to drive to the station to get the cheapest gas, where we would save $3.31 if our tank was completely empty.

The most we could save by driving was 78 cents per fill-up.

Even for our friends who fill up three times a week, this only translates into about $120 per year. It hardly seems worth it when you consider …

We’ve assumed that our time isn’t worth anything. Because it’s going to take more time to drive out of our way for the cheaper gas.

(Side note: Unless our tank was less than ¼ full, it would actually cost us money to get the cheaper fuel.)

So here’s what we concluded:

Driving to find the cheapest gas doesn’t really work for us. It might work for you, especially if you have a bigger gas tank. You can use the process we’ve mapped out to run your own numbers. But don’t forget to place some value on your time!

However, in general, it’s probably a waste of time and money to drive out of your way for gas, unless you can …

Combine that trip with other deals

It just so happens that the gas station with the cheapest price in our area is in a retail zone. It may be the same for you. So if that area offers the best deals on the staples you need, and you combine that with coupons like the woman who feeds her family of five for as little as $10 a week, and fill up with the cheapest gas in your area while you’re there, paid for by your ramped up rewards credit card that you’ll pay off every month, now you have something going for you!

Here’s one more thought on buying fuel. It’s a very simple one, but we recently got burned by NOT doing this. What does that say about us?

Pay attention

We pulled off the highway not long ago to fuel up. We turned right as we exited the off-ramp and turned right into the first gas station just off the highway. As we were filling up, we noticed the sign that showed the prices of gas.

Then we noticed the sign at the gas station across the road. We could have bought gas for 20 cents a gallon less … had we just made a left turn! 

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(Image by hugoslv)

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Hot Careers for 2009

By Bigg Success Staff
12-15-08

2009_hot

There is no question that it is a tough market to be looking for work. However, there will be opportunities in 2009. To find one that’s right for you, think news lines and trend tracks.

News lines

If you want to know what will be the hottest careers next year, look at the headlines this year. Related jobs may not be in the highest demand in the long run, but there certainly will be plenty of opportunities in 2009.

Many of these jobs are specialties within a larger job category. Therein lies a lesson for all of us – think about what you do and how it relates to the news. Then look for opportunities within that niche area.

Foreclosures and bankruptcy
Professionals who can help companies work through the financial and legal morass left by the housing bubble will do well in 2009. Banks, law firms, accounting firms, and large corporations are already ramping up workout departments, creating a need for both the professionals themselves and people who assist them.

Collection agents will also be in demand as businesses turn to outside firms to collect money they haven’t been able to collect themselves.

On the consumer side, credit counseling is an old industry with a new reputation. It is now considered mainstream and occupations in this industry were growing rapidly even before the last quarter of 2008. For more information:

National Association of Certified Credit Counselors 

International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators 

Center for Financial Certifications

Energy costs
Oil hit new highs in 2008 only to recede to prices not seen for years. However, it is fully expected that oil prices will rebound. Alternative energy companies are expected to do well, especially if expected development incentives from the U.S. government come through.

Since this is a relatively new industry, not many people have direct experience. So the industry will recruit from outside for all areas of the business. If you have transferable skills, consider companies in the emerging industry. This field should have traction for some time as the developed world moves from its dependence on oil.

Layoffs
The last couple of jobs reports have been dismal. Companies are cutting back on their workforce with a vengeance. Career coaches should be in demand as more people become disillusioned with their current career and seek more fulfilling alternative. You can learn more about coaching from the dominant certifying body, The International Coach Federation.

In tough times, many people think about starting their own business so they can have more control over their lives. One of the best ways to do that is to buy into a franchise system. Expect franchisors – those companies who offer franchises for sale – to do well. For more information about the franchise industry, check out the International Franchise Association. You might even decide to be your own boss and buy into a system yourself.

Trend tracks

There are careers that play off major trends that should still do well in 2009 and beyond. We took a two-step approach to developing this list. First, we turned to the Occupational Outlook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These are careers expected to be in demand through 2016 because they play off of major trends – the aging population, the growth in education, technology, and more.

Then we refined the list by looking at industry predictions for 2009. If an industry was still projecting growth, we kept it on the list. If not, we culled it. Here’s our final group, organized by level of education required:

Professional degree
Dentists
Lawyers
Optometrists
Pharmacists
Physicians and surgeons
Veterinarians 

Doctoral degree
Biochemists and biophysicists 
Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists 
Computer and information scientists, research
Medical scientists, except epidemiologists
Teachers (postsecondary)

Master’s degree
Counselors (educational, marriage and family, mental health, rehabilitation, school, vocational)
Mental health and substance abuse social workers
Physical therapists
Physician assistants

Bachelor’s degree plus work experience
Actuaries 
Computer and information systems managers
Education administrators, preschool and child care center/program
Medical and health services managers

Bachelor’s degree
Accountants and auditors
Computer software engineers, applications
Computer system analysts
Financial analysts and personal financial advisors 
Network systems and data communications analysts
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors
Teachers (elementary school, except special education)

Associate degree
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians
Computer support specialists
Dental hygienists
Environmental science and protection technicians, including health
Paralegals and legal assistants
Physical therapist assistant
Registered nurses
Secretaries (legal)
Veterinary technologists and technicians

Vocational degree
Automotive service technicians and mechanics
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
Teachers (pre-school, except special education)

Experience in related field
Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products
Self-enrichment education teachers 

On-the-job training (long-term)
Automotive glass installers and repairers
Electricians
Interpreters and translators
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
Police and sheriff’s patrol officers

On-the-job training (moderate-term)
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks
Dental assistants
Maintenance and repair workers, genera
Medical assistants
Pharmacy technicians
Social and human service assistants

On-the-job training (short-term)

Home health aides
Personal and home care aides
Physical therapist aides

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Great guide

We found a great resource that may be unfamiliar to you. It’s called Career Voyagers. While it seems designed for career choosers, rather than career changers, we still think there is a great deal of value in spending some time with it.

You can look at industries in which you have a particular interest. For a more general view, check out their Top 50 In-Demand Occupations and Other In-Demand Occupations.

Hear today’s lesson and laugh on The Bigg Success Show. 

Related posts

Hot Businesses in 2009

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Top Threats to Your Career and Finances in 2009

(Image in this article by -MISHA)