My Personal $100 per Month Gas Challenge

At the end of May, gas prices were rising quickly, and they were expected to hit the $4 a gallon threshold imminently. I wasn’t in a situation where I could give up driving altogether, but I decided to give myself a small challenge: could I use less than $100 of gas during the month of May? It didn’t seem all that impossible: my car gets 28 miles per gallon (really) and I calculated that $100 worth of gas would buy me about 751 miles driven.

But it wasn’t that easy either. I had to think about every trip I make. There were a few trips I couldn’t exclude easily, like dropping Neil off at school every morning, and getting Peter to and from the airport. I felt like I was cheating (and getting another gift) when Peter drove us to the Legion of Honor for my Mother’s Day present, instead of letting me drive. And I didn’t regret a trip to the beach, an excursion (with dropping in at Peter’s office along the way) to the Santa Clara County Office of Education, or running to get books for my home-bound Ukrainian client, Tamara. But it seems like I sweated every other bit of driving.

A few times a week, instead of driving to pick up Neil, I put Kelly in a wagon and walk the 6 miles to and from Neil’s school. It’s 2 hours of walking, but I think of it as my exercise, and listen to music on my iPod. I compare the cost of driving to my destination to the cost and convenience of taking public transportation: so far, driving’s still been cheaper (and a lot faster). But Kelly and I took the bus to Neil’s school once, and as gas prices rise, the $1-a-ride “community” bus is becoming a more attractive option. I chained errands like I’ve never chained them before. One day I actually made a map so I could run all the errands in an efficient 6-mile circle, and another day, I parked my car at one store and walked to the stores nearby instead of driving around. I was also quite a homebody and (unusually for me) my car stayed put in the driveway most weekends. On the upside, this gave us a chance to play in our own pool, work on the garden, focus on events close to home, and get to know the neighbors better.

It’s the 31st of May now and I’m happy to say I met my challenge. I still have 1/4 tank of gas left, and I drove “only” 698 miles since my first fill-up in the challenge.

I’m going to try it again for June, but it’ll be tougher, I think. My first fill-up in May was $3.93 a gallon; now the cheapest gas in my neighborhood is $4.17. Neil’s school ends in the middle of the month, but I want to take him to homeschoolers’ park days which aren’t often at parks within an easy bus ride, and it would be nice to treat the kids to an outing or two. But being a homebody and having fun at home and in my own community has turned out to be not so bad either.

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