Save money on transportation costs

This was originally published on Monday, January 23, 2017, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

When it comes to saving, every little bit counts. But when you are on a tight budget, sometimes finding that little bit can be difficult.

The second-largest purchase for most is your vehicle. Owning and operating your vehicle also accounts for the second-largest expense. The model budget suggests that 15 percent to 20 percent of your budget should be dedicated to transportation. This includes your car loan, insurance, fuel and maintenance.

Here are some tips for saving on transportation costs.

  • Drive sensibly. Hard braking, rapid acceleration and speeding are the quickest way to waste fuel. The Department of Energy’s website states aggressive driving can lower your gas efficiency by 33 percent. Over time, you will save hundreds of dollars on fuel and maintenance costs.
  • Regular servicing. Take your vehicle in for routine checkups. Change your oil at the manufacturer’s suggested times. Rotate tires as needed and keep the engine tuned. Keep tires inflated to the proper pressure. Doing these simple tasks can save hundreds over the year.  Preventive maintenance also gives your mechanic a chance to inform you of any potential issues you may need to address before it becomes a serious problem and costs more to repair.  Purchase a tire pressure gauge and check your pressure once a month. Inspect your tires when you check your pressure. Look for uneven wear, low tread or items stuck in the tire. Improperly inflated or over-worn tires don’t just lower your fuel mileage, it can also lead to flat tires or blowouts.
  • Don’t idle. We all know it is hot on Guam, but letting your vehicle idle while waiting for someone to “just run in and out” can eat up your fuel. It’s much more sensible to shut your vehicle off and start it back up when you are ready to leave.
  • Air your car out. Getting into a hot car and turning the air conditioner on right away doesn’t allow for the heat to escape. Instead, the air conditioner must work harder to remove the heat and cool the car. A hard-working air conditioner uses more fuel. Save some money by driving a little while the car cools off before turning on the air conditioner.
  • Use the correct motor oil. Read your owner’s manual and use the recommended grade motor oil. The incorrect motor oil can increase the friction in the engine causing it to work harder. Look for the motor oil that reads “energy conserving” on the label.
  • Teenage drivers. If you have a teenager who earns good grades, they may be able to qualify for a discount on your car insurance. Insurers see good grades as a measurement of responsibility.
  • Do-it-yourself. If you are good with your hands, consider doing minor car repairs. The internet is full of tutorial videos that can walk you through changing wiper blades, lights, fuses and other small maintenance necessities. Even changing your own oil can save you money. If you aren’t sure how, ask your friends or family if they are knowledgeable on minor car repairs.
  • Car parts. Car parts are quite expensive. If the part isn’t available here, ask your mechanic what part number is needed and look for the item online. You’ll be surprised at the difference in prices. If they don’t ship to Guam, ask a friend or family member in the U.S. mainland, send the part to them. They can then forward it to you.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com

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