Fueling Up the Smart Way

just-living-is-not-enough

My grandma and I were making a trip out to Ohio yesterday when I stopped at Get Go to fill up one of our Audis with her Fuel Perks.  Get Go and Sheetz have always had my admiration for how they create savings for customers as a way to keep business in their favor.  With fuel prices always rising and falling, saving at the pump regardless of the prices is an attractive choice.  I’ve long given up watching the fuel prices and accepted that driving a car with Premium petrol requirements and fueling up at competitive stores with competitive prices is always going to leave me paying a hefty bill.  I’ve also driven enough in Europe to realize our fuel prices are – relatively speaking – outrageously low, even in California.  Still, how to maximize your dollar at the pump?

First, let me just say: I am actually a fan of rising gas prices.  Before you grumble too much, consider what these prices are implying: Sure, you can argue it’s the oil industry being the king that it is and taking what it can from the common people.  But doesn’t it also come down to demand?  Not only do prices rise when we keep burning up gas at higher rates than we usually consume and/or extract it, but the prices are able to rise with our increased dependency on fuel.  I think it should cost an arm and a leg to fill up your car.  That’s a tiny sacrifice we make for a life of luxury that we don’t deserve and which is in turn destroying the planet.  So let the oil giants live like kings for the time being.  Their luxuries are short-lived, but also their investment in the business is incredibly genius.  They benefit from our dependency, stupidity, and greed as a society.  That makes them no less of a criminal than all of the other enterprises that thrive off of society’s demands.

But let’s talk about saving money.  Part of that comes from making good choices for the environment, too.  Sure, sometimes the green solution is the more expensive solution – but it’s the right solution.  And it doesn’t always have to be more expensive.  Sometimes it’s a matter of living with less, or just knowing how to spend less.

First, I am notorious for my miraculously low to non-existant electric and gas bills at my apartments in Cleveland.  How do I do it?  By living the same why I live in the country in Pennsylvania.  For the life of me, I don’t understand why city people drive as much as they do.  They have public transportation AND you can find five of the same stores within a five mile walk!  You’d be lucky to find a house that close to where I live, let alone a sole store… but we still make do!  Furthermore, city folk are all about working out.  They pay for gym memberships, drive the the gym, then do the same work that they could do if they made better lifestyle choices on a daily basis.  Talk about hypocrisy!

So how do I keep up my country, fuel-efficient, healthy ways in the city?  First of all, I always pick do-it-yourself before anything else.  Without a question, you can guarantee I walk up every flight of steps, walk to any store within a predefined radius, carry my own groceries in reusable bags, buy only what I need as I need it, buy things that are not only made or grown locally but that belong in the local climate, and I let the outdoors dictate my indoor climate as much as I can.  That means I open and close windows during the summer to utilize the cool night air and the breeze without the need of fans or air conditioning, and in the winter I seal my place up and keep it as cold as I like.  If you’re going to spend money on sweaters and socks, you might as well use them!  I hate artificial lighting, and if you’re going to have a place with windows that let heat escape, well you might as well use those too!  I do everything by natural light, save for some moments when I light candles or do turn on the electricity.

I cook my own meals from scratch and I grow most of my ingredients or harvest them from the patches of woods I find around Cleveland.  I am appalled that there are people in Cleveland who have asked me, “Wait, what’s compost?  You do that?”  I know down to the cents per kilowatt how much energy I’m using and I maximize this energy as much as possible.  If I’m making tea, I’ll use the steam off of the hot water to heat something else.  If I’m baking, I’ll use the cooling oven to reheat other things or just let it dissipate to heat my room or even my socks before bed.  I’d use a wood fire to cook in Cleveland if I could.  Also, I prefer to take baths rather than showers.  This allows me to run less water (although water is fairly recyclable in urban settings).  After my bath, I use the water to hand-scrub my clothes which then hang to dry on my drying rack.  I dream of the day that I can run all of my products off of a self-installed solar panel array.  I also think bikes are one of the best inventions of all time.

But this doesn’t answer the question of how to save money when I’ve gotta roll out my Audi and drive somewhere, like when neither a bike nor public transportation are suitable to haul my large hockey bag across seven states for my indulging in sports.  This is when I invest in Sheetz and Get Go.  Back to the pump at Get Go: I’m filling up only half of a tank on my grandma’s 50-cents-off-per-gallon discount and thinking, What a waste.  But my grandma is very particular about not letting the gauge go down too far and I know I’ve got to use it or she will complain.  Still, 50 cents off on only eight or so gallons?  I turned around to see a family with a huge truck tanking up, then unloading small gas cans and filling those too.  You’re not supposed to do that because that’s how you’ll make the system bankrupt, but they do it anyway.  Alas, my everlasting internal battle: social honesty or environmental responsibility?  I’d have to choose the honesty here.  I couldn’t milk a bargain that way without feeling guilt for how I was jeopardizing a widely-welcomed system.

However, filling up your truck – that is fair game and it’s a smart move.  I’m used to using Fuel Perks on my GMC pick-up truck, all 20-some gallons of it.  That’s why my tiny eight-gallon fill-up felt particularly illogical next to the F150 two pumps over.  But then I started recalling warnings from my parents about not using the Fuel Perks until a lot has been saved up and I realized that’s only true in a certain regard.  Honestly, you’re going to save the same amount of money regardless of the discount, right?  That’s just it, though: it’s a rate.  The rate may be the same, but your purchase size is what affects your savings.  So no matter if you’re saving 20 cents on a eight gallon fill-up or 40 cents on a 16 gallon fill-up, you’re saving the same amount despite the different rates.  What my parents were really trying to tell me is save up a lot of savings… then make a big purchase.  In other words, we rack up savings here and there, then buy a large quantity of fuel to expire our savings.  My little fill-up used up those savings on an unjustifiably small (if you’re not my grandma) quantity of fuel.

So do some math, weigh your values, and take the effort to do what’s right for your wallet – and the environment.  The point of this entry is really just to get you thinking about your daily choices and how it’s affecting your health, your planet, and your wallet in different proportions.

2013: What Will Really Matter

I don’t pay for television, so I have to read (*gasp*) to learn current news.  By current news, I mean at least what the media thinks is important…lawlz.  So today I opened up a website and started scanning headlines.  Obama, shootings, Obama… Okay, how about the Cleveland tab?  What are people reading about here?  “Twinkies Won’t Be Back in Time for 4/20”… (pauses)… Let’s think this over.  1) This is in the top headlines, and it’s about Twinkies.  2) I thought Twinkies were dead… which was a pathetic scene as people paid exuberant amounts of money for what few heart attacks remained.  Curse you, modern America…  3) 4/20?  Really?  How can that even be published?  It seems so unnecessary…

Bored and disappointed, I decided to continue my search on 2013 fashion trends.  I skipped over articles about shootings, political movements, or anything that might affect National Security, and immediately honed in on the important stuff: Spring 2013 Trend Reports by style.com.  I might be wearing Emerald, but what if I’m doing it wrong??  I’ve got to consult the fashion gods on this, to save my soul from La Mode Faux Pas Hell.  Fortunately, style.com is on top of its game.  As long as I write the following notes on the inside cover of a copy of the Bible or the Torah or whatever, I’ll be good until at least Summer 2013…

1. “THE ART OF CONTRAST”
I don’t know about you, but when I see a woman walk in with a dark shade and a light shade in one outfit, I go, “Dammnnn does she know how to contrast!  She clearly follows fashion trends by the season!”  Which is why, when I googled “fashion trends contrast 2013”, I got results.  Just like when I googled “fashion trends contrast 2012”.  And “fashion trends contrast 2011”.  And… well, how else is a person to dress?  Wear all of the same colors?  Or do you mean I’m really expected to show up dressed like this:

1contrast
NO, THANKS.

2. “VEILED LOOKS”
When I think of “veiled”, I think of a bride, of virginity, of beauty in modesty like veiled Middle Eastern women… HELL, NO.  This look has been created for the mere purpose of testing a male designer’s ability to “peek-a-boo” every damn part of a woman’s body!  The pieces of fabric that aren’t sheer are teasing the audience’s eyes and daring you to watch long enough for that top to slip sideways just a little.  If I wanted a shirt that showed off my underwear, I would save the money, not buy the shirt, and just walk around in my underwear.  At least it would be more honest.

2veiled from shefindsdotcom
Again: NO, THANKS.

3. “COLLAGE DEGREE”
I don’t mean to sound like a horrible person…but sometimes I wonder if the people who get into this industry – or at least who dote on it – would really spell “college” like that.  I’m an artist as hobby, but I am always skeptical about those who make a career out of fashion snobbery.  Seeing this “collage” trend makes me chuckle a little inside.  I just got back from Africa where I had some beautiful fabrics thrown into tailored dresses in a matter of hours, for little money and at a much higher quality than anything you’ll find in Target.  The couturiers of West Africa are incredibly skillful at cutting fabrics to make patterns wrap a person’s body in a conservative dress.  They recycle scraps to line the dresses, adding to the quality.  Turn the dresses inside-out, and you’ll find a clash of colors and patterns similar to this new “trend”:

3collage from trendwiredotcom
I would call that “material vomit”.  Do people really pay exuberant amounts of money to have people paste these scraps together with an Elmer’s glue stick??

4. “EVERY FLOUNCE COUNTS”
Flamenco-style ruffles…I thought designers were supposed to think of new ideas?  And while I do like Isabel Marant’s Look 36, I can’t help but wonder if the Victorian era is making a comeback…just, instead of showing some scandalous ankle, now women find it perfectly acceptable to wear skin-tight skirts that show their thongs.

4ruffles from ladyluxdotcom
I feel like this look violates some sort of spatial dimension…like time.  1900 meets 1985 meets 2100 much??

5. “ALPHA FEMALES”
*inserts yet another chuckle* I laugh because, when I first started looking at these trends, I legitimately though half of the models were men.  Between the lack of womanly curves, outlandishly tall statures, cropped hair, harsh makeup, flat chests, and unflattering cuts… I had no idea what I was looking at.  If you are a woman and you have a job, this look is absolute baloney.  It’s basically looking professional without having to wear a dress.  Except the runway makes it particularly creepy, and, oh, yeah, shirts are apparently not required.  I guess this look accompanies the equally creepy “alpha male” look that is trending in the male side of fashion…which I guess exists.

5alphafemale from creeatedotblogspotdotcom
Call me old-fashioned, but I’ll keep my collars, thank you very much.

6. “ASIA SOCIETY”
The final look (and they’ve been such show-stoppers!) is a “Far East” trend.  I’m pretty sure this just means “adulterated kimonos” because, if destroying Victorian culture and business casual wear isn’t enough, we can start making low-cut saris and transparent burkas as well.

6asianlook accessoriesmagazinedotcom
And you thought I was kidding.

Well, you’re welcome for me keeping you informed.  Bypass all those headlines and go straight to some over-priced, designer store and stock up immediately!  Perhaps down-size your wardrobe by combining these looks, then wear it every day and you’ll never be out of style (until Summer 2013)!  Try making a collage of contrasting veils, combining it into a kimono with a cropped bottom and collar with ruffles… and you’re good to go!  Ay, carumba… Sometimes taking the time to write these sorts of entries shames me!

Photos from styleblazer.com, shefinds.com, trendwire.com, lyst.com, creeate.blogspot.com, and accessoriesmagazine.com, respectively as they appear embedded in this post.