Make smart driving choices to save on gas money

This article was originally published on Monday, 11 March 2013 as the Money Matters article in the Guam Pacific Daily News (PDN).  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

The rise in our cost of living has forced us to be creative with how we save and spend our money. We once again have seen the price of fuel go up and down. Let’s face it. The price of fuel may never be back to $3 a gallon or less. We cannot control the price of gasoline or how it affects our cost of living but we can control our consumption and ultimately our spending.

Maintaining your vehicle and your driving performance can increase or decrease your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and gas costs. Consider some of these tips which can increase your savings:

•Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking increases your car’s fuel consumption. Guam’s stop-and-go traffic can make this difficult. But leaving earlier, giving room between you and the car ahead of you, and curbing road rage will put money back in your pocket. It can lower your gas mileage by as much as 5 percent. That’s equivalent to saving about 17 cents per gallon. In addition to that, following the speed limit is safer for you and others and decreases your chances of an accident, which in turn could keep your car insurance rates down.

•Plan ahead and think of the route you’ll be taking. Combine errands into one trip. Your car uses more fuel when it takes small trips and starts off cold versus when the engine is warmed up and efficient after one longer trip. Cut back on unnecessary travel.

•If you can, try carpooling with family, friends, or co-workers.

•Avoid having your car idle for long periods of time when parked. Guam is hot and we often leave the car running to keep it cool. Unfortunately that wastes gas.

•Speaking of keeping cool, turning your air conditioning to max also increase fuel consumption. Keep the air temperature at a comfortable level. Using your air conditioner’s re-circulate function also uses less fuel by re-circulating cool air from the cabin rather than having to constantly cool warmer air taken from outside of the car.

•Keep your tires properly inflated. This is a simple and inexpensive way to improve your car’s gas mileage. You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent for an equivalent savings of 13 cents per gallon. Most vehicles today have the recommended tire pressure on a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door

•Take your vehicle in for regular maintenance. Clogged air filters, faulty oxygen sensor, or a car out of tune can greatly decrease your car’s performance and increase your car’s fuel consumption.

If you’re in the market for a vehicle, take into consideration how fuel efficient the vehicle is. If it’s a new car the mpg usually is displayed as a sticker on the windshield. Do note that highway mpg and city mpg are different. Because Guam doesn’t have highways, it’s best to look at the city mpg, which is most appropriate for Guam’s stop-and-go traffic.

If you are considering a used vehicle you still can find the mpg at www.fueleconomy.gov. This website also has tips from the U.S. Department of Energy on saving money and fuel.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years experience in retail banking and with 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 atwww.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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Challenge yourself to save more, spend less

This article was originally published on Monday, 04 March 2013 as the Money Matters article in the Guam Pacific Daily News (PDN).  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: I am a mother of three young kids. My husband and I work full-time jobs, but we are finding it very hard to make ends meet. We would like to save more of our paycheck but there seems to be very little left after we pay our bills. Do you have some advice to help?

Answer: That is a situation that plagues most households today. Many of us find ourselves living paycheck to paycheck. That is very difficult to do especially if there are little ones who depend on you. Without getting too in-depth into your debt-to-income ratio, I can offer some money saving ideas.

Let’s start with two money saving challenges I found while doing some research.

The first challenge is called the 52 Week Money Challenge.

Each week deposit a dollar amount that corresponds to that week of the challenge. If it’s the first week of the challenge deposit $1 into your savings accounts. The next week deposit $2. By week 52 your last deposit will be $52 and the total in your savings account will be $1,378. And that’s not including the interest it accrues.

If you start this week, the end of the challenge lands just after the holidays during which you may be spending more money. If that’s the case, you can flip the challenge around. Start by depositing $52 in week one, $51 in week two, and so on. On the last week you will be depositing $1 into your account.

The second challenge I found is the 30 Day No Shopping Spree.

This challenges you to purchase only what you need, not what you want. This challenge excludes grocery shopping, gasoline and other essentials. In other words, you get down to the basics. This could mean something as small as not buying chewing gum or coffee on the way to work, not buying lunch, or even skipping a hair appointment for a month.

People who took the challenge reported saving anywhere from $200 to $400 in a month.

This challenge also benefits you by taking a real look into where your money goes daily and where you can cut back.

The money you save from doing one or both of these challenges can be used to pay off debt, save for a vacation, build your emergency fund, or left in your savings account to grow.

Saving does not have to be boring and tedious. Try having fun with it.

Challenge a friend or your spouse to a money saving competition. Get a group of people at work to come up with the most creative ways they save money.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years experience in retail banking and with 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.