Mar 302011

Shootin’ n snaggin’ with the Frugal Fisherman

Have you ever been walking to your mailbox and seen your neighbor making a beeline out their front door and straight towards what appears to be you? Probably not. And if you have you probably wouldn’t think twice about a passing conversation with someone of such close proximity. I mean they’re your neighbor, right?

I wish my neighborly relationships were as solid as most. But alas I’m the evil stepchild of the southwest end of Monticello. El Diablo himself. The dude who plays his music too loud, walks around in cut off jean shorts with no shirt and a High Life can in his hand and appears to be in a constant state of inebriation. And in all truthfulness that’s me to a T.

So I don’t feel like I’m going out on a limb when I say my neighbors hate me. I know they do. I can see it in the whites of their eyes. I’m an affront to everything they’re trying to instill in their children. An assault on the very fiber of their ideologies. A bad, bad, bad man.

Just this past week I once again stood in fear as I rifled through the week’s bills curbside. My neighbor pulled up just as I closed the mailbox. Before I could casually wave and make hast for my garage, she opened the door of her van and with god speed made an undeviated path right at me.

I thought to myself, what did I do this time? Was it my music again, my late night howling at the moon to AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock” in celebration of the coming of spring? Or maybe it was all the beer cans that came rolling out of my car in front of the kids the other day as they played wiffle ball in the neighborhood court and I unloaded yet another 30 pack of High Life, dragging everything in my car with it.

Much to my surprise it was none of the usual complaints. She wanted to know how such a tall man (I’m 6’3”) could fit into such a small car. To say the least I was aghast. And after gaining my composure for a second or two I responded by saying that my car is actually quite roomy. I drive a 2005 Scion xB. The old body style before Japan rounded all the edges. A toaster on wheels, the Milk Wagon as my friends call her.

Smiling, my neighbor began telling me how she never feels safe in small cars, how she likes to drive a larger vehicle because if she were ever in an accident she would be the one to live. You know, with all that hulking metal between her and her helpless, small car victim.

She and her husband both drive behemoths, one an extended body Ford E-series van with an extra bench seat in the rear. This thing could easily haul an entire youth baseball team with room to spare. The other vehicle is another van, smaller than the Ford, but in comparison it hovers over my ride like the tower of Babel loomed over the plains of Shinar.

The Milk Wagon

"The Milk Wagon is not only roomy, it gets great gas mileage."

I told her, “The Milk Wagon is not only roomy, it gets great gas mileage. I mean, who doesn’t like 30 plus miles to the gallon?” I asked, offering to show her the inside of my Scion. She deferred saying she needed to get food started for the family, and walked back inside. I knew she’d seen all the beer cans. I knew she wanted no part of it.

Amazed at the events that just unfolded, I returned to my garage. I couldn’t help but think about what that already cash strapped family spent monthly on gas alone. It had to be well in excess of $200, with all those kids and their sports, leagues and organizations, not to mention church activities and the occasional joy ride.

That’s when it hit me. With current petrol pricesvin excess of $3.60 a gallon, how does one get the most out of every drop of gas?

Walk more, bike more and eliminate unnecessary trips

The above may seem like common sense, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve jumped into my Scion just to run down to the local market for some groceries or a Redbox movie. On paper it sounds asinine. And in all truthfulness it is. We all need to walk more and drive less. Not only will it do our hearts some good it’s absolutely the best method for saving at the pump. And if you own a bike than such trips are all the easier. Plus, biking in many cases is just as quick as driving.

If you must drive, try combining several trips into one outing. With a little planning you’d be surprised how an entire week’s errands can be condensed down to one carefully organized shopping spree. And anytime you can eliminate a trip here or a trip there you’re saving gas.

Steady driving

To start, try moderating starts and stops at traffic lights. The faster you accelerate, the more gas you use. Flooring the gas pedal the instant the traffic light turns green does get you going faster but also wastes a lot of gas.

Another helpful tip is to not always come to a complete stop as you approach red lights. Try slowing down at a greater distance from the light in an attempt to catch it as it turns green. I usually look over at the opposite crossing light as I slow down to see when it’s changing. If it’s moving from green to yellow to red, you know your light is about to change as well. And if you haven’t come to a complete stop it’s much easier and economical for your car to accelerate starting at 20 mph than 0 mph. Not to mention this coasting technique saves an enormous amount of wear and tear on your tires and brake pads.

When in traffic, instead of pressing the gas pedal to move closer to the car in front of you, try taking your foot off the brake, allowing your car to ease forward on its own. Anytime you can move forward without pressing the gas pedal you’re saving money.

If your car has cruise control, use it, especially on road trips and for highway driving. No matter how good you are at regulating speed, your car’s computer is in almost all situations better. Even on short 10 mile highway trips, the cruise control can save pennies on the dollar.

Driving the speed limit is also a great way to save gas. Not only does it help avoid unnecessary speeding tickets, but most speed limits are between 45 to 60 mph. This is often referred to as the “sweet spot,” or the speed at which your car gets the best mileage.

Drive in this speed range and you’ll save a ton over the next year.

Idling unnecessarily does nothing but waste gas, so find CDs, read maps and adjust mirrors before turning on your car. And don’t start your car on a cold day and let it idle in the driveway for 10 minutes just so you don’t have to experience the bitter cold. That 10 minutes could easily be 10 miles or more of driving.

Car maintenance

Keeping your car in good working condition is as important to its longevity as it is to getting a gallon to go further. Most cars recommend changing spark plugs and wires every 50,000 or so miles. That and a general tune up can do wonders for your vehicles performance and ability to operate properly, which in turn saves gas.

Keeping your tires properly inflated and at the correct psi, which is usually posted on the tire or the inside of your driver’s side door panel, is yet another tool to making every drop count. Under-inflated tires, even 5 psi, can rob you of as much as 1 to 3 mpg.

Using the correct oil and regularly changing your air filter will help reduce friction within your vehicle’s engine, as well as extend your car’s life. Most cars recommend an oil change every 3000 to 5000 miles. Refer to your owner’s manual to see at what intervals such maintenance should occur. And follow the guidelines outlined within most manuals which highlights the when’s and where’s on maintenance. A well maintained car is an efficient car, and an efficient car gets better gas mileage.

By no means are the above suggestions exhaustive. There are several other theories ranging from washing and waxing your car to removing bike racks that can improve gas mileage. The most important thing is to be aware. Not only will you have more money in your pocket at the end of the year, you’ll be doing more than you know to reduce your overall carbon footprint.

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