Archive for June, 2013

Jun
06

Save Money: Gas Mileage Tips That Work

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Full gas gauge

 

Gas Mileage Tips That Will Save You Money

Summer is here, the kids are out of school, and the beach beckons. Whether you’re piloting the minivan around town or heading out on a road trip vacation, the price of gas is going to be an issue. In my village the price of gas has been swinging 20 cents overnight – and usually up. I never know what it’s going to cost me when the car or truck needs a fill up.

Do you know that only about 14-26% of the energy from the gas you put in the gas tank is actually used to move your car down the road? The rest of the energy is used to run the accessories, and is also lost to engine and drive-train inefficiency.

The potential to improve your car’s gas mileage is huge. Follow our proven gas mileage tips, and make the most of your gas dollar.

Drive More Efficiently

Aggressive driving wastes gas. When you’re in traffic, maintain a constant pace. Rapid accelerating and braking lowers your gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds, and by 5% in town. Be safe when you drive – you may save more than gas money.  (Potential Savings Benefit:  5%-33%  Gas Money Savings: $0.18-$1.19 gallon)

Let the Cruise Take Control

Maintaining a steady speed while driving on the highway will save gas. Set your cruise control to take control.  If your car has Overdrive, use it. While in Overdrive the car engine slows down, saving gas and reducing engine wear.

Get Rid of the Weight

Clean out your trunk, removing anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Carrying around an extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce your gas mileage up to 2%. Smaller cars will lose more gas mileage than a large car.

A loaded roof rack can reduce your gas mileage by 5%. Save money by packing items in your trunk when traveling.

 Don’t Speed

Observe the speed limit. Every 5 miles above 50 mph uses an additional $0.25 per gallon.  (Potential Savings Benefit: 7%-14%  Gas Money Savings:  $0.25-$0.51 gallon)

Avoid Excessive Idling

Sitting at idle with the A/C on will use one-quarter to one-half a gallon of gas every hour. If you’re parked, turn off the engine. It’s cheaper to turn the engine off and back on than let it sit at idle.  (Potential Savings Benefit:   $0.01-$0.03 minute with the AC Off.  $0.02-$0.04 a minute with the AC On)

Trip Planning is a Must

Trip Planning, or combining many errands into one trip, saves time and money. Starting your car cold and making a short trip, and doing this several times a week, can use twice as much gas as one longer trip. Your car engine will run more efficiently when warmed up. Planning your trips around town will also reduce the distance you drive, saving you time.

Do You Commute?

If you must commute, drive your most fuel-efficient car. Does your employer allow telecommuting? Working at home even one day a week will result in substantial gas savings. Stagger your work hours, if permitted, to avoid peak rush hour periods.

Take the bus. Substantial savings can be seen when using public transportation.

Become a member of a carpool or ride share program. When you take turns driving in a carpool, you can often save half of your normal gas costs, and save wear and tear on your car.

Find the Cheapest Gas in Your Area

If you’re headed out locally for a fill-up, or driving across the state for a short trip, you’ll want to check gas prices at Gas Buddy.  Plug in a zip code, or city and state, and get a list of gas stations and current gas prices.  Gas Buddy has a phone app, too!  Check Gas Buddy Now

Take Care of Your Car, and Your Car Will Take Care of You

Tune up the car engine. Have the car emissions tested. If your car fails an emissions test, or if you know your car is out of tune, scheduling a tune-up can improve gas mileage by 4%. Have your car checked regularly by a good mechanic. A bad oxygen sensor, for example, can reduce your gas mileage by 40%. Spending a few dollars to replace the part can almost double your gas mileage.  (Potential Savings Benefit:  4%  Gas Money Savings: $0.14 gallon)

Use the Right Motor Oil

Get out your owner’s manual and check and see what the recommended grade of oil is for your car. Using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower gas mileage 2%. Check the can before you buy – it should say “Energy Conserving” on the APO performance symbol. Energy Conserving motor oil contains friction-reducing additives. It’s a good thing.  (Potential Savings Benefit:  1-2%  Gas Money Savings: $0.04-$0.07 gallon)

Check Your Tire Pressure

Keeping the tires inflated to the proper pressure can increase gas mileage up to 3.3%. Properly inflated tires last longer, and they are safer to drive and ride on.

Note: Do not use the maximum tire pressure printed on the tire sidewall. The proper tire pressure for your car will be found on the sticker in the driver’s side door jamb, or the glove box, and also in the car owner’s manual.  (Potential Savings Benefit: up to 3% Gas Money Savings: up to $0.11 gallon)

Replace the Engine Air Filter

On fuel-injected cars made from the early 1980’s to now, changing the air filter won’t increase gas mileage, but it will give the car more acceleration power. If the car has a carburetor, replacing the air filter will improve both gas mileage and acceleration.

Thinking about buying a new car?

When buying a car, remember this: what kind of car you buy will be the most important gasoline/fuel budget decision you make.

Stop and think about how far you drive to work, and what trips will be mandatory, no matter what the price of gas. The miles per gallon your car gets is a big deal when it comes to your money.

Based on a gas price of 3.61 gallon, and driving 15,000 miles per year, a car that gets 20 MPG will use $903.00 MORE in gas in one year than a car that gets 30 MPG. In 5 years, this amounts to $4,515.00 in extra gas cost! That’s quite a bit of money! How are you funding your retirement accounts? Are you pouring money into your gas tank instead of your IRA?  Do you want to book an expensive family vacation in 3 or 5 years? Your car buying decision can make or break your budget dreams.Gas Gauge showing empty

Think, too, about your carbon foot print (because it matters!) Driving that 20 MPG car instead of the 30 MPG car will also add 20 tons of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere over the vehicle’s lifetime.

Every gallon of gas your car burns puts about 20 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. The average car emits about 5-8 tons of CO2 each year. CO2 emissions cannot be reduced by pollution control technologies. CO2 emissions can only be reduced by burning less gas or by burning fuel that contains less carbon.

 

If you’re in the market for a new car, or just thinking about it, take a look at this handy tool. You’ll be able to find the most fuel efficient car that will also meet your driving needs: Find and Compare Cars

 

Note: gas savings noted throughout the article are based on a price of 3.61 gallon

Data Sources

Estimates for the effect of speed on MPG are based on results of a current ORNL study (forthcoming).

Information on the impact of air filter condition on fuel economy is based on studies at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL):

Thomas, J., West, B., Huff, S. 2013. Effect of Air Filter Condition on Diesel Vehicle Fuel Economy. SAE Technical Paper 2013-01-0311.

Thomas, J., West, B., Huff, S., and Norman, K. 2012. Effect of Intake Air Filter Condition on Light-Duty Gasoline Vehicles. SAE Technical Paper 2012-01-1717.

Norman, K., Huff, S., and West, B. 2009. Effect of Intake Air Filter Condition on Vehicle Fuel Economy. ORNL/TM-2009/021. Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Estimates for fuel savings from vehicle maintenance, keeping tires properly inflated, and using the recommended grade of motor oil based on Energy and Environmental Analysis, Inc., Owner Related Fuel Economy Improvements, Arlington, Virginia, 2001.

Estimates for fuel savings from sensible driving are based on Energy and Environmental Analysis, Inc., Owner Related Fuel Economy Improvements, Arlington, Virginia, 2001.

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Keep Your Kids Busy Learning This Summer with www.Kids.gov

Kids and Dad at the Beach

 

Are your kids out of school for the summer yet? How many days will go by before you hear the inevitable, “Mom, I’m BORED!” or the fingernail-on-chalkboard whine: “There isn’t anything to DO!

Someone asked me tonight what I would have done when I was younger if I had access to the technology of today. I sure wouldn’t have been bored, and your kids don’t have to be, either.  This generation of kids has access to www.Kids.gov, a free, safe, and online world brought to you by your tax dollars at work.

A Free, Safe, Web Portal for Learning

Kids.gov is the federal government’s official web site for kids. The web portal is packed full of activities for K-8th, and is a great way to keep kids learning during their vacation. Kids.gov is a wonderful resource for parents and teachers, too. Take a look!  It’s worth it!

Games & Videos

“Please, Mom, can I play just one more game before I go to bed?!” With the Play Games section at Kids.gov, children can learn math, science, history and more when they spend time playing online games. Your child will become an adventurer as she solves secret codes from the National Security Agency (NSA), or an engineer when he works on word puzzles from NASA, learning all about the Earth.

On rainy days, when the kids are stuck inside, plug them into Kids.gov and let them pick out videos! No way will they have these plots memorized! The Videos section has a wide selection of things for kids to watch. Learn about cool careers in archeology, and how money is made at the US Mint. Meet a keeper at the National Aquarium, and learn how she takes care of an albino alligator. Your kids will love learning about the mysteries of weather and tornadoes as they follow along with a storm chaser. There are videos that educate about current social issues, too, such as how to handle a bully and bullying.

Unleash Your Child’s Inner Van Gogh

Encourage your child’s creative urge with art projects from Kids.gov. Coloring pages, digital photography projects, interactive painting, collage making, animation projects and so much more are available for every artist medium. Meet up with Curious George, or Sesame Street, and let your little artist run wild!

Family Physical Fitness, too

Blue skies and sunshine – kids and adults alike love to be outside during the summer. When you’re ready for a computer break, take it outside. Kids.gov has an Exercise, Fitness, and Nutrition section that is full of ideas to keep the whole family in shape. Learn to work physical fitness into your family’s daily routine. Take your pick of family friendly ideas for exploring America’s beaches, mountains, cities, and everything in between!

 

Kids on summer vacation on the beach

What are your summer vacation plans? 

Are you going on a trip or staying home?

If you’re traveling with kids, what is your #1 travel tip for parents?

 

 

 

 

 

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Easy & Cheap Recipe: Basic Red Tomato Sauce

Mouth with red lips eating spaghetti

Years ago a friend gave me the following recipe. She said it was a family favorite that she had eaten growing up and was now feeding her own kids. After making the sauce a few times and seeing how versatile it can be, it quickly became a family favorite.

This is a basic red tomato sauce that can be used over pasta, fish, meat, chicken, vegetables, egg dishes, spaghetti squash, eggplant, or anything else you like to eat red sauce on. It’s easy to put together and good to eat!

The sauce is quick cooking, and can be ready to serve after a short 30 minute simmer time on the stove top. I’ve gotten into the habit of throwing all of the ingredients into my Crockpot and let that do the cooking for me. On the low setting, the sauce will be ready in 3-4 hours, depending on how your Crockpot cooks. On the high setting, the sauce can be ready in as little as 2 hours. When cooking this sauce in your Crockpot, stir every once in awhile to keep it from sticking to the sides around the top and burning.

A Versatile Sauce That Can Be Used Dozens of Ways

The sauce is very versatile and can be dressed up and changed in any number of ways by any number of additions. If I’m making this for a quick pasta dinner, I’ll add diced fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped sweet onion, and crumbled, cooked hamburger. Try adding any of the following for a complete change of pace:

  • Cooked, crumbled hamburger or sausage
  • Cooked hamburger or sausage meatballs
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Chopped red and green pepper
  • Fresh diced tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes
  • Cooked stew meat
  • Diced sweet onion
  • Sliced Italian sausage or Kielbasa (quickly brown to remove as much grease as possible)
  • Chunked or sliced zucchini or yellow squash
  • Green beans

On to the recipe:

 

Old Family Favorite:  Basic Red Tomato Sauce Recipe

  • 4 cans tomato sauce (15 oz. Each)
  • 4 cans tomato paste (6 oz. Each)
  • 4 cups of water (use the water to get all of the tomato sauce out of those cans!)
  • 2 Tablespoons Oregano (or to taste)
  • 2 Tablespoons Basil (or to taste)
  • (or, 4 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder (I also use fresh or jarred chopped garlic, a couple of cloves worth)Bowl of tomato sauce with wooden spoon
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (or to taste, or use diced onion)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Cover.  (Add your alternate ingredient(s) of choice, if desired. Cooked ground beef, fresh mushrooms, cooked meatballs, chopped pepper, etc)

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20-30 minutes until flavors are well blended. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.

Easy & Cheap!  Feed Everyone or Just The Two of You

This makes a large pot of sauce that will serve 10-12 in one sitting. When I make it and I’m not serving a large crowd, I’ll divide the sauce and freeze half of it for another meal.

You can also divide the recipe in half and make smaller batches if you’re feeding two or three. You can feed 3 at least 2 meals with half of this recipe. If I’m cooking this in a Crockpot, I’ll wait until the last hour of cooking time before adding any fresh alternate ingredients.

If you shop at CostCo or any other membership warehouse, buying canned tomato sauce and canned tomato paste by the case, and pasta in bulk will reduce your cost even more.

When you try this, let me know how you liked it!

Disclaimer:  This recipe was given to me years ago.  If a credit needs to be given, let me know!

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