This morning, I heard a news reporter speaking apocalyptically about gas prices reaching $3.50 a gallon this summer. That sucks, but when I pull up to the gas pump every week and a half or so, I do so without ever taking a look at the giant price board. Why on earth would I do that?
To begin with, I need gas, not stress. I simply need to have a certain amount of fuel to commute to and from the office. (Nope, I still haven’t landed that fabled telecommute contract.) There’s one convenient gas station just a stones throw away from my condo, on my way to the office and I stop there. I know, I might be paying more per gallon than a more savvy petroleum customer. How much more do you think I pay?
Based on a 14-gallon gas tank (which is what my current vehicle has) and the prices at the two nearest gas stations as reported on Gas Buddy’s Gas Temperature Map, choosing the gas station that’s a bit further away and saving 2 cents a gallon would save me… drum roll please… 28 cents. Yawn. Given Atlanta’s hellacious traffic, I’m not driving 2 miles in the wrong direction on the way to work to save 28 cents. Sorry, not gonna do it. (However, there is a station a few miles further that reportedly is selling for 24 cents less a gallon, which is a $3.36 savings on a tank. Could be bogus, but I may take a detour later this evening for that! But I digress, parenthetically.)
Short of finding a gas station selling fuel at crazy price, what are your options to save money on gas? You could buy a hybrid or a Smart Car when it comes to the U.S. in 2008. (Note pictures of cute pint-sized cars in this post.) You could also move someplace either close to work or close to a mass transit system that will get you to work. (Hard to do in the U.S. outside of New York City.) Or you could do what I’ve done, and get yourself and automatic quarterly gas refund.
In addition to buying a condo in a place that has the benefit of both being near the local subway system and having reverse commutes, I’ve been buying Oil company stock. Bit by bit, over about the past 3 or 4 years. Why? Because every 3 months they pay me just because I own the stock. It’s called a divided. The last dividend I got was for $38.40. It doesn’t sound like much, but based on a price $3.00 a gallon for a weekly fill up, that means I’m getting my gas for $2.77 a gallon. Would you drive a bit further for gas that’s 23 cents less a gallon? That’s $3.22 on one tank of gas!
Of course, there is a catch. I won’t lie to you. You do have to buy the stock to begin with. But before you start calling me names like “rich evil fatcat bastard”, “smelly money monkey” and such, you should know that you can buy shares in very small increments. (I’m cool with being called “smelly money monkey.” :) ) Embarrassingly small increments. I know, because that’s how I’ve been buying mine! But the good news is that over time these stocks have a tendency to increase in value, even while they’re paying you a quarterly dividend. There’s no guarantee that they will, but on average, they do.
Lest you think otherwise, I’m not telling you this to brag. I think it’s important for people to know the available options, and this is one option you’re not likely to hear anywhere else. Of course, I am not a financial planner, I only pretend to be one when I’m at home planning for my retirement. I would definitely recommend consulting one (or reading a lot of financial books) before you make any venture into the stock market. To not do so would be little better than putting money on a roulette wheel. (A roulette wheel is probably more exciting.)
Oh yeah, one last thing that might interest people concerned with the practices of oil companies. When you buy a share, you get a vote on their business decisions. You may not have heard of it, but there is such a thing as shareholder activism. And the CEO now answers to you. Just something to think about. Now go get your rebate. :)