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:
Which was even more spectacular because recent snows had left the north facing slopes in the painted desert covered with snow:
I absolutely loved the views from Blue Mesa in the center part of the park:
And then, of course, was the incredible colored petrified wood at the southern end:
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.
Next article: Day Three: First Difficult Choice