Coffee heat rising


The latest Consumer Reports just arrived in the mail. Not surprisingly, it devotes lots of print to saving gas, most of which comes under the heading of conventional wisdom. Every now and then, though, CR comes up with something really original.

This time they’ve figured out how much a new car costs per mile-per-gallon. This is great stuff. They did it by dividing each car’s overall mpg into the price they paid for the car, as purchased for recent tests.

Seen in this light (the light of burning gasoline?), the Honda Fit Sport with manual transmission comes out on top. CR paid $15,765 for one of these; at 34 mpg, the thing costs you $464 for each mile per gallon.

Good grief! Makes riding the bus look pretty good, doesn’t it? Hey — it’s only two hours to work and two hours ten minutes back. Could be worth it.

The base model Toyota Prius, at $23,780, rates third in their list, fairly high despite the high price, because of the 44 mpg rating. Running one of those will cost you $540 per mpg. The Hyundai Elantra GLS, at the top of this month’s ratings among gas-saving sedans, costs $17,555 or $650 per mpg. Because the gas mileage is less than the Prius’s, the Hyundai theoretically costs more to drive even though its sale price significantly cheaper. The Toyota Yaris hatchback with manual transmission came up with the lowest price per mpg, a piddling $370, but CR tested this vehicle and found it wanting. As in “not recommended.”

If money is no object, the priciest cars CR tested are the Dodge Viper SRT10 and the Mercedes SL550, which will cost you more than $6,000 for each mile per gallon.

Moving on, among used cars, you can (theoretically) pick up a 2000 Honda Insight with manual transmission for under 10 grand and get 51 mpg. The 2001-02 Prius also supposedly costs less than $10,000; it gets 41 mpg (note that not every consumer review of this vehicle can be called “glowing”).

La Maya just returned from the Imperial Valley with reports of $4.19/gallon gas prices, headed upwards. Her California relatives expect gas to be selling at $5 a gallon before long. The four-hour drive cost her $200 round trip in a Toyota Rav-4. Lordie!

Now that I no longer need the gas-guzzling Dog Chariot (a 2000 Toyota Sienna), I guess I should start looking at more efficient cars. Trouble is, I’d planned to drive it 10 years; I hate to use up my car savings to buy a new vehicle two years prematurely. Also, truth to tell a vehicle with some serious cargo space comes in mighty handy now and again. And for my old age I really, really wanted a sporty car. These gas-savers are frugal, that’s for sure. But they’re also boring, boring, boring.

I think what I should do first is calculate the real cost per gallon for my present car, using the newly learned gas-saving driving strategies (you actually can use your cruise control on a surface street, provided traffic is light and moving steadily, and it’s possible, within limits, to use it on an urban freeway). If it’s getting less than 20 mpg, I probably ought to start looking for another ride.

2 Comments left on iWeb site

Rachel @ Master Your Card

I have a Toyota Prius and it has certainly saved us a lot of oney on fuel compared to our last car. I am not sure how it compares to other hybrids or more up to date models but I am happyw ith the saving we are making.

Tuesday, June 3, 200806:35 AM


Oh, how I covet a Prius! Want one of those things, want want want….

But I think I’d better hang on to the van for a little while longer, since I can telecommute and so don’t actually make that 36-mile (round trip) commute five days a week. Some people think those of us who have gas guzzlers had better dump them now or take out an application to live in the poorhouse. They may be right–in another couple of years the Dog Chariot may be worthless. But given the number of behemoths still lumbering around the street, I’ll bet there will still be some demand for a vehicle that can carry cargo and kids. I hope….

Tuesday, June 3, 200808:53 AM

The miracle of penny-pinching

OMG! In spite of $708 worth of vet bills, I’m still in the black this month!

How did this marvel happen?

Because I was frugal and stayed out of Costco, I ended up $75 in the black for the first week of this month’s billing cycle.

The following week I was $283 in the hole against that week’s $375 budget, leaving $92 to live on in the cycle’s third week. However, when I carried the first week’s $75 forward into the third week, it gave me $167 for that week. By keeping a grip on spending and returning a couple of items to Costco, I came out $33 in the black at the end of the third week. Carrying forward again meant I started the fourth week with $408.

The second giant vet bill struck in the fourth week, which is this week-it ends on the 20th. However, so far this week I’ve only had two expenditures above and beyond the second vet bill. So I have $23.57 to last for four days: until Wednesday morning.

The car still has a third of a tank of gas. One trip to the office takes a quarter of a tank. If I telecommute on Tuesday and leave my car in the garage today, Saturday, Sunday, and next Tuesday, I shouldn’t need to buy more gas.

I’ve got plenty of groceries to last for four days.

So, barring a catastrophe, not only am I not headed for bankruptcy, I actually may make it to the end of this billing cycle in the black! The checking account used to pay these charges has a $500 cushion, so even if I go a few bucks over budget, my credit card payments won’t bounce.

Whew! Thank goodness for penny-pinching habits! No snowflakes this month, but no meltdown, either.

One frugal move = 12 to-do’s done

So this morning I decided to wash the car in the driveway, my $13 having purchased a less-than-perfect job the last time I took the minivan to the car wash. Figured it was time, since I couldn’t see through the windshield.

In particular, I wanted to try to get the old, stale coffee stains out of the carpet, where over the months and years I’ve spilled my favorite potable while driving around town. Toyota’s carpet and upholstery are practically invulnerable. Hence, a rough-sounding strategy: spray plenty of window cleaner on the rug, scrub the stuff around with an old sponge, and then suck it out with the shop vac.

Amazingly, the scheme worked with no ill effect. It not only got out the coffee stains, it also pulled up a number of other spots scattered around the vehicle. Other than the Great Automotive Coffee Extraction Project, the rest of the job was pretty easy: I sprayed the van with a little Windex Outdoor, which doesn’t do much for windows but works great on paving, walls, and your car. This product comes in a container that attaches to the hose and has a spray attachment that turns the water flow off (saves water!) and also switches to “rinse,” making it simple to lather and rinse off the vehicle.

The Coffee Extraction Project got the eight-year-old carpeting almost as clean as new, and a little Murphy’s Oil Soap cleaned and polished up the vinyl interior trim. So, for the price of a quarter-bottle of Windex Outdoor I saved myself $13 on the wash-and-rinse and, if you believe Johnny’s Carousel Car Wash prices, another $80 on the detail job.

Better yet, because I chose to wash the car in the driveway, in the process I did a whole series of small chores I wouldn’t even have thought about had I schlepped to Johnny’s:

  • Filled a spray bottle with a handy solution of diluted Murphy’s Oil Soap
  • Cleaned the fingerprints off the garage cabinets
  • Refilled the window-cleaner spray bottle
  • Cleaned the garage door threshold
  • Cleaned the utility sink
  • Cleaned the clothes washer
  • Took out the garbage
  • Cleaned the garbage basket
  • Washed the grackle guano off the pavement under the ash tree
  • Picked wildflowers and put them in the kitchen
  • Cleaned the fireplace ashes out of the shop vac & washed the filter
    Memo: Don’t use the shop vac to clean out the fireplace!

Voilà! In the time it would have taken to drive across town to Johnny’s and wait around for a half-baked car wash, twelve household projects got done (counting the car wash). The cost was almost nothing, and no gasoline was consumed.
Frugality pays, in more ways than one.

Five good things you can do for your finances this week

1. Make one day this week a no-purchase day. For a whole day, refrain from buying one thing, not even gas for your car.

2. Hold the Starbucks! Brew your own coffee before you leave the house. Want a sweet roll for breakfast? Buy a few at a bakery, bring them home, and enjoy one with your coffee.

3. Pay $10 toward the principal on a debt. If you don’t have a debt, put in in savings. If you already have a Roth IRA, put it there.

4. Divide your monthly budget into four “cycles” of about one week each. Try keeping within a weekly instead of a monthly budget.

5. Take your lunch to work at least two days this week.

Like the results? Repeat!