Nov 032010

None of us like wasting money, and in today’s economy, a lot of people are finding ways to save every penny they can. But when does thrift become less advantageous than the effort or inconvenience required to achieve it?

One example is an RVer I know who never purchases fuel at stations near an interstate exit, because he says that more often than not, he can save two to three cents per gallon by driving an extra mile or two into town. Okay, so let’s say he has a 100 gallon fuel tank, and he waits until the gauge is at the 1/4 tank level. He puts in 75 gallons of fuel, and saves $2.25 (based on 3 cents per gallon savings). But how much fuel did he burn driving the mile or two into town and back to the highway? Not to mention the hassles of dealing with surface street traffic in a big rig. And again, he tells me that more often than not he saves money. That means there are times when he doesn’t pay any less. Then those extra miles actually cost him more than if he filled up at the exit!

When it’s convenient, we usually fill up at Flying J truck stops, because they traditionally give RVers a penny a gallon discount on fuel, most have dedicated RV fuel islands, an RV dump station, and allow RVers to park overnight. I don‘t go to Flying J because of the discount, although I am happy to get it. I go because I appreciate their RV friendly-attitude.

However, there are some Flying J locations, such as Kingman, Arizona, that I will bypass to pay a little more somewhere else, because the layout of that particular Flying J makes it extremely difficult to get in and out with a big rig. Since we have a 100 gallon tank, and I seldom let our fuel level get below half, saving 50 cents is just not worth the hassle.

We all know that we can save fuel driving at 55 miles per hour, as opposed to 65 or faster. But just how much fuel can we save, and is it really worth it? A few days ago, while driving along Interstate 95 in southern Georgia, I did a test. I set our cruise control at 65 miles per hour and carefully monitored our Silverleaf VMSpc engine monitor. Over a 20 mile distance, we averaged 7.3 miles per gallon.

Silverleaf best

Then I dropped our speed down to 55 miles per hour, and reset the cruise control. Over the same flat terrain, we averaged 7.7 miles per gallon. So yes, at 55 miles per hour, we can save fuel. (By the way, ignore the 101 MPG rolling MPG on the readout, that was because I coasted into the rest area where Terry took this picture. Also ignore the 0% coolant level, my rig doesn’t have a sending unit for that, and I need to reconfigure the Silverleaf display to remove it.)

I’m terrible at math, but if I punched the right buttons on my calculator, that means that on a 1000 mile trip, on all flat terrain, we could save just over 7 gallons of fuel. Let’s assume that fuel is $3 per gallon. That’s a saving of about $21.

However, at 65 miles per hour, we were keeping up with traffic on the busy freeway. At 55 miles per hour, we had traffic piling up behind us waiting for an opportunity to get into the left lane and pass, and several times eighteen wheelers rushed up on our rear end and tailgated until they could get past. We did not feel safe driving at 55 in that kind of traffic.

Dry camping is another example.  We often pull into a WalMart, truck stop, or highway rest area to spend the night when we’re on the road. But we do it for the convenience more so than the economy. I don’t want to have to get off the highway and drive two or three miles to an RV park, unhook our tow vehicle, and back into an RV site, then hook up the campground utilities. And then in the morning I have to reverse the entire process.

When we dry camp like that, we usually run our generator for an hour or two while we watch TV and I use my desktop computer to check e-mail. That’s a couple of bucks worth of fuel, and worth it to me. However, if there is a convenient Passport America campground with pull-thru sites for $10 to $12 a night just off the highway, I’d as soon go there and have hookups.

If there is no handy WalMart or truck stop, I know RVers who will drive past that $10 or $12 campground and drive as much as five for six miles into town to dry camp at an Elks or Moose lodge. Again, is the effort worth the savings?

So what about you? What will you do to save a buck?

Thought For The Day – Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.

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Nick Russell

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  17 Responses to “What Would You Do To Save A Buck?”

  1. I’m not sure what I would do to save a buck, but I can say that I’m ashamed to tell you what I did for a Klondike Bar!

  2. Right on again! Perception is reality though, and if it makes them feel better, more power to them.

    For example, I know the mileage computer on my truck is about 5% optimistic, but instead of calculating my actual mileage I take the computer’s word for it. I’m not fooling anyone but myself, but it makes me feel better, so what’s the harm.

    I expect that we all go through life with these little fantasies, convincing ourselves that we are better off than we really are, but life would be less pleasurable if we were always pragmatic and honest with ourselves.

    Bottom line, if it makes you feel better then you are a happier person and I like happy people better than the other kind!

  3. We too prefer the PPA Campground @ $10 over the truck stop because we can plug-in and PUT OUT OUR SLIDES. What a difference in comfort!

  4. To save our sanity we bypass all Flying J’s! It just isn’t worth the hassle–they are all way too crowded and have poor layouts for big rigs.

  5. I’ll add one more reason not to buy diesel fuel at a smaller station — age of the fuel.

  6. We are on the fugal side. We are from central Pa. where they have a lot of Amish/Mennonite store and we buy a lot of bulk items. For example as we came down to Florida for the winter we bought about 18 lbs. of oatmeal @$.45 a lb. also 12 lbs. Cream of Wheat @ $.75 a lb. We had about 30 rolls of toilet paper at $.50 a roll and we also prefer a local pretzel from that area and we had bought 2 cases @ $1.85 per bag. We also brought other items as well to save $$$.
    As for fuel we do not go to truck stops as we had several bad experiences where we got hosed, and we will stop at a mom & pop station to fill up, usually can use the card at the pump and pay the advertised price, not to have extra fees added on. We do not drive out of our way to find these stations.
    When going from point A to point B we use the local Wal-Marts and have found them to get a great nights sleep, if we are in an area for a time we stay at a CG.
    Happy journeys to all.

  7. Being frugal is good for us and for the environment. Notice I did not say miserly, I said frugal. Peter and I retired early because we were frugal (age 55 and 49). And those pennies do mount up to dollars then hundreds of dollars then thousands of dollars then hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    However, penny wise pound foolish is also true. The guy who drives extra miles is actually spending money to try to save money. That’s not necessarily frugal. Also dry camping over night costs us 2 gallons of diesel fuel. If a PA, Corps, federal or discount park is nearby the cost is about the same as dry camping. So we take the comfort of a camp site over the asphalt jungle of a Wal Mart or a Flying J.

    I am really big on frugality. If you go to Escapees Discussion Forum, RVing on a Budget, I have a thread called Frugal, Thrifty, Parsimonious, Tightwad, Penny Pinching. There are a lot of good ideas on the RVing on a Budget general board. You might want to go check them out.

    My biggest savings are on clothes. I buy my clothes at thrift shops and garage sales. Shop alcoholics even give clothes to the thrift shops that have the tags still on them. Yes, I buy undies (new) at Wal Marts or flea markets. But outer clothing I get for less than $5 an item all the time. Prices mostly $1-$3. And I buy brand names I like, Caribbean Joe, Bon Worth, Sag Harbor, Alfred Dunner, Lemon Grass. I bought a Fossil leather handbag in perfect shape for $3. Yes, it takes my time but I love to browse the flea markets, thrift shops and garage sales. It’s a hobby I enjoy.

    And it’s good for America. People work in thrift shops, at flea markets and even garage sales. And all this stuff gets used by someone rather than going to the land fill. I also do my share by giving to charity thrift shops. So its win-win for everyone.

  8. My husband used to drive me crazy he always went off the highway. We had plenty of disagreements. One time he got lost trying to find his way back to the highway, I just sat there and smiled on the inside.

    I always hoped he would run out of gas before we got to the gas station but he never did. I too love Flying J’s just for the RV islands easy in and out with a big rig and I get there early enough to get a parking spot for over night.

  9. Yeah, that Kingman Flying J RV island is tough to get out of if you are towing, however, I have gotten through there pulling a 28′ trailer behind our 36′ coach….it was tight, but we made it. Our genset runs on propane, and they have the best propane price at the Kingman Flying J I have found ($2.29/gallon), so if we are passing through the area and need propane we stop there.

  10. We are frugal when we travel. We love the flying J both for convenience and most have an area for you to park for the night. Wal-Marts are also great to stay a night. We have only stayed at two rest stops and they were alright. We do drive at 60mph on the freeway since we know trucks can get around us, go any slower and some one will try to bite your fanny, this is cars not the trucks. You may pay a penny or two higher using the stations near the freeway but it is easier as you said than fighting traffic to save a penny or two

  11. I will also cast my vote for Flying J, which is less of a waste than the votes I cast yesterday for democratic candidates. I am fortunate to be driving a smaller gas powered coach, so I can use the automobile pumps most of the time. The downside of my mu gas power is the same mileage as you (7-1/2 mpg) with half the GVWR.

    I like the savings on camping fees at J’s and Wal-mart, but mostly it’s the convenience of pulling off and pulling in right at the interstate exits. Driving 10, 20 or more miles at the end of the day to find a campground is a bummer.

    I hope they launch the shuttle before you leave Titusville. It’s looking more and more iffy. While it is a long way away, we are fortunate to be able to see the shuttle launches from our second story bedroom window in Jupiter, as long as the weather is clear. Best of luck.

  12. Just did a calculation on our diesel fuel. We get between 10 and 10.5 mpg at 58 mph. If we kick it up to 65 mph we get 9-9.5 mpg. That means if we travel around 58 mph as opposed to 65 mph, we get 1 more mile per gallon of diesel. Every 10 miles we save a gallon of diesel fuel or we use a gallon less of diesel fuel whichever way you prefer to think of it.

    We have about 190,000 miles we have personally put on our coach (we bought it used and there were some miles on the coach already). For ease of calculation lets used 10 and 9 mpg. If you divide 190,000 by 10 (mpg), we have used 19,000 gallons of fuel. If we divide by 9 (mpg) we would have used 21,111 gallons of diesel. So we didn’t use 2,111 gallons of fuel. If we average $2 a gallon (we bought some of those gallons at 99 cents a gallon, Ahhh the good old days) that means we have saved $4,222 over our RVing years. That’s money we could and have spent on something else!!!!!

    Each item in your budget you save money on adds up over the years. It frees that money up to spend on something else. We live on a budget. We don’t have endless streams of money. We watch our pennies and they do matter. We just like to have the money for those special” I want” items. We have been able to do that because we are frugal.

    So when you see use tooling down the highway at 58 mph in the right hand lane, think money saved, money saved, money saved!!!

  13. My husband and I aren’t retired, but we save as much as we can for retirement. He puts away 17% and I put away 20% in our 401Ks. We don’t eat out too much, but if I know where we are going.. always.. always look online for coupons! I take care of the server, tipping usually 20 percent before coupon is taken off. We are meeting friends for Thanksgiving at Maggiano’s, signed up online for their Birthday club, and i will now save $10.00 on our meal that will probably cost over $65.00. I look at this way, would i bend over to pick up a ten dollar bill off the ground? You bet I would! Ten dollar coupon is ten dollars! Their is only one coupon allowed per table, so you think I am going to tell my friend to sign up for the coupon too? umm NO WAY!! Looking online to buy a gift card discounted as well. Maybe i can save another 5 bucks! Stay cheap!

  14. We park host 8 -10 months a year. I buy a Sunday paper and cut out any coupons that I can use. We check the local grocery store ads online and buy meat on sale. We have only had to overnight at Wal Mart 1 time in 4 1/2 years. We use Passport America, Free Campgrounds, Casinos or Cabela’s. We shop Costco when we can for certain items. Glad to see another poster say they avoid Flying J’s. Their rv pump design with propane in the same area sucks. Trying to get past the front of the store without someone backing into you is nerve wracking.

  15. We save money by avoiding restaurants. We eat out once or twice a week, tops. And that is usually for breakfast! If we go out for the day, we pack a cooler with snacks for lunch, which is usually a light meal anyway. It also helps with our diets! We can pack fresh fruit and sliced turkey, instead of fries and McBurgers. So far this summer, we have jointly lost over 80 pounds!

  16. We always try to use FJ when it is close by. But we have never used the “RV Island”; we always use the truck lanes. In and out in a flash and the pumps are much faster. In all but one time, they have still given me our “RV Discount”. But you can’t dally; you get in and out of the truckers way. If necessary, you pull up to let another fuel up if I am still paying inside. It works for us.

    And I love second hand stores which we buy clothes from and donate to. I love getting shorts with the tags still on for $2.

  17. This is our first year full timing. We are the youngest work campers wherever we are. 48 and 55!
    We have lived in our RV out at a land lease for a summer (6mo) and switched from state park to sp the summer before. We left $80,000 a yr jobs with a former retirement ck for 1600 a mo. Everything comes out of that check, except we work for our site.

    We did work this past summer for $7.5 an hour + our site and that was nice. We were able to save one check plus most of the retirement check.
    So, now it’s been 2 mo. w/o a payck and just $500 a mo for groc,gas, and misc. We have all our work clothes (pastorson the road) and our daily clothes. Found an outlet shop that if you look real well, you will find something cheap but with a good name brand.

    We are learning how to be frugal. We use coupons, find free things to do, shop at wal-mart – they take comp. ads and meet them except bogo items. We do shop for groc. once a week, due to space issues.

    As for our traveling gas stops, whatever is easier to get off the road and back on. If we have to cross lots of traffic, forget about it! We are 60 ft long.

    So, if you have frugal tips, where do I find them? Any other tips are helpful I am sure.

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