Risking Death To Save Money? Day 2

speed limit 75

I learned today that if you want to save money by driving your car at a fuel efficient speed on the highway to get the most miles per gallon, you do so at your own risk. You will also have an untold number of angry driver’s violently making obscene gestures in your direction including a number of old ladies…

On the first day of this minimum wage challenge I mentioned that I was able to escape the day without spending any money. Several readers pointed out that although no money went out of my pocket, I used gas when I went to visit Montezuma Castle national monument which I would eventually need to pay. While that isn’t the case in this situation (I will explain below), I did think that trying to conserve gas when driving would be a good thing to begin doing since it’s likely to be one of my bigger expenses this year. To this end, I decided to try and drive the car today at 55 mph on the highway.

According to the Department of Energy, driving at 55 mph instead of the speed limit of 75 mph would give me approximately 23% more bang for my buck for each gallon of gas I purchased. With gas at $4 a gallon, by simply driving 20 mph slower, I could save approximately $0.92 for every gallon I put into the tank compared to if I drove at the speed limit. This seemed like a great way to get to where I wanted to go and save money over what others driving the same distance would spend in gas. At least it did until I actually tried it.

Apparently, other people hate slow driver’s with much more force than I anticipated. This seems to be especially true of truck drivers. While I figured that driving at a slow pace would upset a few from past experience, I thought that if I remained in the far right lane I could get away with my money saving strategy with only a minimum of problems. Oh, how wrong I was.

I was expecting that I might get a few obscene gestures, but I never thought I would get them from a pair of ladies each of who could have been my grandmother. And while there were plenty of other gestures from other drivers, it was the truckers that scared the hell out of me. There were a few that came up on my rear bumper so quickly that I thought they were going to hit me. There was absolutely nothing subtle about it — in their mind I was going too slow for even the far right lane and tailgating me was their way of letting me know.

I decided after a couple of close calls like this that it was only a matter of time before one actually hit me from behind, and that was something that would be far less beneficial than me spending a bit more money by driving at a less fuel efficient speed. I wasn’t willing to risk death or serious injury to save a bit of money as both of these would ensure I would lose the challenge (not to mention that it doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend 2013).

Instead, I increased my speed to flow with traffic (on the slow end) and that’s what I plan to do for the rest of the year. While I’m sure that this still frustrates some drivers, doing so seemed to reduce the pure anger I was feeling from drivers when going slower. This should save me some money over my usual driving habits (I usually drive slightly above the speed limit), while not endangering my life in the process. Sometimes it’s just not worth the risk to save some money.

One of the places I wanted to make sure to visit while house sitting out here was Petrified Forest national park since I had only been there once and enjoyed it tremendously. The issue was that it was a pretty good drive out there, so I had to make an early departure if I wanted to spend a decent amount of time hiking. I got up early, walked the dog and was out on the road by 7:00 am with a packed lunch and snacks from the fridge and cupboards so that there was no need to buy anything on the road. Again, my national parks pass allowed me to enter the park without paying any fees.

It was a great trip and I would love to visit there again. The north part of the park has amazing views of the painted desert:

painted desert Arizona

Which was even more spectacular because recent snows had left the north facing slopes in the painted desert covered with snow:

painted desert snow

I absolutely loved the views from Blue Mesa in the center part of the park:

Blue Mesa view from Petrified Forest national park

And then, of course, was the incredible colored petrified wood at the southern end:

petrified wood forest national park

Due to the distance, and the trip on the first day, I did have to stop and fill the tank with $30 worth of gas. While this may seem like it would be a personal expense, it actually isn’t in this case. Let me explain:

A couple of years ago I went on a rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. One of the women on my raft trip was a journalist from Australia who had been sent to write a piece for her newspaper. Since the article she would be writing was part of her job, the newspaper paid for the trip. This got me thinking. Why couldn’t I do something similar? So I did.

I created a national parks blog so that part of my work is writing about national parks. That means that expenses which are directly related to me writing articles about national parks are business expenses, not personal expenses — just like a journalist doesn’t pay for the cost of writing an article or a pizza delivery person doesn’t pay for the gas (or gets reimbursed) when delivering pizzas. Since the only driving I’ve done thus far has been to visit national parks (which I will write about for the blog), the $30 in gas it took to fill up the tank is 100% a business expense.

While today could have very well be another no spend day, I did up spending $1.20 for three postcards. One of the things that I have been doing for a couple of years now is sending postcards to my two nieces and the daughter of my best friend from the places that I travel to. This is something that I have decided I’m not willing to stop doing to save money even though it’s not essential. I know the girls love to get mail and it’s something that I’m willing to do and sacrifice in other areas if needed to continue doing it. It’s a priority to me.

Since I already have a supply of postcard stamps which I purchased well before this challenge ever came into being, there is no cost for sending them (at least for the moment). That leaves my spending for the first two days of the year at $1.20 while visiting and hiking two national parks — a start that I’m extremely happy with and will enjoy until the inevitable obstacles begin to appear.

jeffrey enjoying the painted desert

Today’s Spending

Food: $0.00
Car: $0.00
Housing: $0.00
Travel: $0.00
Misc: $1.20

Total Spending

Food: $0.00
Car: $0.00
Housing: $0.00
Travel: $0.00
Misc: $1.20

Next article: Day Three: First Difficult Choice

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14 Responses to Risking Death To Save Money? Day 2

  1. mbhunter says:

    I’m obviously out of touch. You’re back in the states for a while now?

  2. jeffrey says:

    Yes. I have been back in the states for almost 2 years now.

  3. Chris says:

    The price of postage is going to go up in a few weeks.

  4. Fe2o3ez says:

    If I were in your sister’s shoes, I might balk at the non-inclusion of the $30 for gas. Strictly speaking, if you will be counting the gas as a business expense, then you should have revenue associated with it (otherwise it is just a hobby expense, from a tax perspective). So, are you counting the revenue from your blog against the amount of minimum wage money you are pulling in? Do you get reimbursed for the expenses? How do you get paid with this National Parks blog deal? I’m curious.

  5. no matter which lane you are in, there is always going to be someone upset that you are slowing them down. I would be upset if you were in any of the other lanes, but I let people go as slow as they want in the slow lane, that is why it is called a slow lane!

  6. jeffrey says:

    You’re absolutely correct. If I did not have any revenue coming in from the blog, then I wouldn’t be able to deduct the $30 as a business expense and it would be considered a hobby (and thus that money would have been considered a personal expense). Yes, the blog makes money. Since it does, I get reimbursed for expenses it takes to run the blog up to the point it generates revenue.

  7. jeffrey says:

    It looks like I will have to spend some money to make sure the postcards get there when that happens.

  8. creditcardfree says:

    Just reminds me why I don’t like fast traffic!!

  9. J.R. says:

    You might also have had legal issues with going 55 on the highways depending on your state’s minimum speed of highways. In my state 55 is the slowest that you can legaly drive on the highway and as most car’s speedometers are set to read a couple of mph’s higher then you are going, if you think you are going 55 then you are going 52-53 and could be pulled over and ticketed.

  10. Wow, the petrified forest looks amazing. If I drove 55 on our local highway I would no doubt be rear-ended within minutes or have a line of huge trucks lined up behind me. LOL

  11. Darrell says:

    Sure, driving 55MPH saves over driving 75MPH, but for most cars, the ideal speed for max fuel economy is 40-50MPH (see http://auto.howstuffworks.com/fuel-efficiency/fuel-economy/question477.htm).

  12. jeffrey says:

    I’m sure my car would be on the side of the road in pieces if I had tried driving that slow…

  13. Gailete says:

    I think it is sweet that you are sending the post cards to those girls. They will always remembering the joy of snail mail that many kids will never have.

  14. Jennifer Hayes says:

    Driving below the speed limit can be done without danger but a few techniques have to be used to do it and it does take more concentration. I have experience of this because of my passion for underpowered vehicles.
    First, make sure you are driving slightly over the centre of the lane towards the next lane, not the hard shoulder.
    Second, when you see someone approaching from behind, pull over a little bit, this particularly works with lorry drivers as they see it as a courtesy and know they have permission to overtake you.
    Third, if someone is too close for comfort… slow down… you have to be brave to do this, but they soon get the message you’re not going to be pressured…
    Fourth, always remain calm
    As a result of doing this my fuel consumption goes from 55 mpg (remember, underpowered vehicle, small engine, low fuel consumption) to 70mpg.
    Well done for your attempt, I don’t blame you for ‘cancelling’ this part of your ideas for economy, but if you have a free hour or so, it might be nice to try out my technique which has served me very well over the years, and see if it works outside Europe.
    Just an idea.
    Have fun.

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