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Gasoline & Mean

Quit driving up the gas prices!

No, I'm not talking to the oil companies. I'm talking to you, Mr. and Ms. Average Consumer. "What do you mean?" you say. "I see the guy at the gas station with the suction-cupped stick out there putting bigger numbers on the sign." Not his fault.

It's simple economics. Supply and demand. Something's value is limited to what someone is willing to pay for it. I could have a painting appraised at $350,000, but if I can't find a buyer willing to give me more than 100 bucks for it, that's its true value.

How does this apply to the price of gasoline? If you buy expensive gas, the gas will stay expensive.

"Oh come on," you murmur. "Now you're just talking crazy. We have to drive. We have no choice but to buy gas." I agree. But where you buy that gas is the point I'm trying to make.

On the way home the other day, I passed a local station where the price for 87 octane fuel was $1.79 a gallon. On the same street not three miles away (oh yes, I counted), you could get it for $1.47.

That's a 32-cent difference on every gallon. You're paying almost a buck less for every three gallons you buy. Put fifteen gallons in your car and you've saved $5. According to my calculations, over a lifetime of driving, you would save enough to own a Caribbean island and two-thirds of New Hampshire.

The problem isn't that certain gas stations have such high prices. The problem is there are people buying it every time I drive by. Are they too lazy to drive an extra three miles? Are they taunting me with their excess wealth? Are they lusting after the guy behind the register?

We all got those emails a while back calling for a national day of protest where no one buys gas. Everyone quickly realized this would be pointless as people would just buy gas the next day. But what would work is if everyone only fueled at the stations with the lowest prices. It's a simple concept. You reward the people who are selling at a low price and you punish the people who are trying to rip you off. Over a long period of time the rip-off artists would have no choice but to lower their prices. Supply and demand. And victory for the little guy.

Will it ever happen? No. But if you see a bunch of hooligans and ne'r-do-wells stomping on the flowers you can still feel good about yourself for staying on the sidewalk.

You can also feel good because you're putting money in your pocket. To further assist with this, I present to you STerrell's Ultimate Fuel Formula (STUFF).

It's a one-rule formula: Only fill your tank when gas prices are going up. Yes, at first glance this seems backwards. Wouldn't you want to buy as little as possible when the price is high, but as much as possible when the price is low? But that's exactly what you're doing when you've got the STUFF.

The question you want to ask is: Will the price most likely be higher or lower the next time I need gas? If the answer is higher, fill your tank the brim and lock in the current cheaper price. But if the answer is lower, only fill your tank halfway. That way when you come back to get your second half-tank, it'll be at a lower price. Make sense? If it does you're either money-saving savvy, or people look at you funny when you try to explain your ideas. Join the club.

If you're going to make STUFF work you have to pay attention. As you're driving around, notice which stations have the cheapest gas. Then note the price changes throughout the week and if they're heading in the direction of financial happiness or toward monetary anguish. Armed with this knowledge, you will be ready to slay the petroleum beast.

Thank you for doing your part to keep gas prices down. Happy savings to you, and if you want to point and laugh at the people pumping the expensive fuel, I'm not going to stop you.

Disclaimer: Scott Terrell is just a penny-pincher with bizarre theories. Proceed with caution.

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