As my answer to this question, I'm reprinting an article I wrote on my personal blog at the beginning of the summer of 2008. Since that article was written, we traded in our minivan and old station wagon for a single car that gets better gas mileage and seats 7. We rode our bikes and bused almost everywhere last summer and fall. We fell off the wagon when it got cold and rainy, and haven't quite managed to scramble all the way back on yet.
Okay, oil dudes. It's on.
Monday, June 16, 2008I really like our local gas station franchise. The guys who've been running it for the past six or so years are a couple of all-around nice guys, and it's always a pleasure to spend a minute or two chatting when waiting to pay for gas. When the price goes up, they roll their eyes and commiserate. When it goes down...well, when it used to go down....they were glad for the relief, too. They also have nearly the best price in town and they're very nearby.
The gas guys also sell sunflower seeds, trail mix, pop, and ice cream bars. I think we'll try to buy lots of those things from them this summer, to make up for all the gas we won't be buying.
I like our local mass transit system pretty well, too, but I don't use it much. Unless we're going to be downtown all day, it's more expensive to take the bus or train than it is to pay for the gas and parking. Add to that the extra time it takes, and the hassle if you miss the bus, and it's hard to get motivated to pay $6-$9 for a round trip bus ride.
No, I'm not talking about going car-free, though I applaud those who are. That'd be too drastic for us, and for our extended family who rely on us for the occasional ride. I'm just talking about putting the cars in their proper place for the summer: in the driveway, ready for when we need them.
With oil companies responding to global warming and international conflict by raising their prices to outrageous new heights, it's not just about saving a dollar here and a dollar there. It's teaching my kids that you don't have to be dependent on a car in order to get from point A to point B. Giving them the gift of confidence that mass transit and their bikes can get them where they want to go--that'll save more money in gas during their early adolescence than I'll ever pay in bus fares now.
It's about investing my money in something I can feel good about instead of something that gives me a sick feeling at the pit of my stomach.
I'm not setting myself an ultimatum or a specific goal. I put gas in the wagon on June 12, and in the van a little before that. How long can I go without giving the oil dudes another payment? It's as simple as that.
Giveaway sponsored by Hachette Book Group and open to U.S. and Canada residents who can provide a street mailing address.