Valdosta Daily Times

Business

July 1, 2013

BUDGET DIARY: Life is a highway ...

SAVANNAH — If you've been keeping tabs on me with Facebook and Twitter, you will see that the house did fall through and we are officially no longer very official as we are out of the contract. I cried, ate two bags of Funyuns and a handful of Hershey bars, and now I'm okay with it.

I give some credit to Paula Deen for helping see me through this difficult time. I thought my life was pretty bad until her mess unfolded. Then I realized, hey, I'm not her, so now I'm golden and back to my delusion of complete and utter awesomeness.

Things are in forward motion and we began moving into our new apartment on Wilmington Island on Saturday. I must say, being ten minutes from the beach and 10 minutes from downtown Savannah has helped soften the blow of losing the house. So now that I've got you up to speed on the chaos of my life, let's get down to the real reason why you're here ... My budget genius.

Through keen observation, eavesdropping and playing on Facebook when I'm supposed to be working, I have noticed that a lot of people are going on road trips this summer. A lot of times, road trips are somewhat spontaneous and because you may not have a single destination for a week-long vacation, so some make the assumption that it will be, well, cheaper than a regular vacation. This is not always the case, especially if you decide to road trip it without a plan. So, my dear budgeteers, here are my tips and tricks to help you hit the road this summer without a major budget road rash.

1. Gas Buddy

With this free smart phone app, you will be able to review all the gas prices in your area. Say you’re on the road, you need to fill up, but you don't know the area and thus don't know the cheapest station. Just open Gas Buddy and search by city, zip or postal code. A list will pop up of all the surrounding gas stations and their distance from you, as well as their gas prices. A couple of cents here and there might not sound like a big deal, but on a road trip, every penny and every gallon of gas counts.

I actually used this app when I drove to New Orleans last year and it was incredibly helpful and user friendly. They've even made some great updates since then. To ensure absolute accuracy, they enable you to report gas prices at the stations you visit. When you do this, you get points and rewards. Honestly, this app could easily turn into your trip's biggest money saving tool.

Aside from the gas app, there are things you can actually do to help you conserve gas on your trip:

- Crack a window and turn off the air conditioner if you're cruising through a town or are in stop and go traffic. Cracking a window while you're on the highway is actually causing more drag, and thus is hurting your gas mileage.

- Ease off the pedal before stop signs and stop lights so that you coast to a stop as opposed to stopping abruptly when you hit the break. The less you have to break, the better your fuel economy is.

- Inflate your tires close to max. You can improve your gas mileage rate up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure, according to fueleconomy.gov.

- Try to make as many right turns as possible. I learned this one from Myth Busters, and FedEx does it as well. When city driving, reducing the time you wait idling for traffic to clear saves gas. A lot of left turns means you’re doing a lot of waiting, so even if it means going a few hundred yards out of your way, you are still saving gas if it means you’re making a right turn.

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