Hurricane 2006! An early alarm, a timely tax break
Keep pinching those pennies!

Making your gas money go farther

Gas_gauge_2_1 Since I work from home, I'm spared commuting hassles. No stop-and-go traffic or early morning and late afternoon screaming at other drivers.

Such confrontations, of course, are always done totally within the confines of my Cavalier, with my windows tightly closed. Sometimes they're compartmentalized even more, and take place only within the safety of my own head. No need to tempt potential road ragers.

I'm also spared the cost of filling up my little Chevy's gas tank every week.

I didn't think about it much when it routinely ran under $20. Now, when I do have to top off the tank, the pump's numbers spin faster than a casino slot machine, but I'm the one paying out the $30-plus jackpot to the oil companies.

But for those of you still hitting the road twice a day, five days a week, to get to and from the office, here are some gas -- and money -- saving suggestions.

The Frugal Life offers 35 ways to save on gasoline here. Tips range from deciding not to drive in the first place to mapping out your errands beforehand to shopping around for gasoline.

You can do some of your pump price perusing online. These sites should help you find the best local gas deals:, and

If you want to register with, you can download this guide with 62 ways to save at the pump.

Then there's this oldie-but-goodie from the popular car site that looks at how personal driving styles affect auto mileage. The story's bottom line:

"By changing your driving habits you can improve fuel economy up to 37 percent right away (depending on how you drive). Combine several tips and perform routine maintenance and you will save real dollars, not just pennies."

The piece examines several different motoring scenarios, how they affect your car's fuel consumption and what you should or shouldn't do. They include things like driving methods, highway speeds and idling times. Most of it is common sense, but as we all know, when it comes to our cars and driving them, common sense often goes right out the window.

Speaking of windows, my favorite situation in the Edmund's article concerns whether you should turn off your car's air conditioner to save fuel. When I was a kid, that wasn't a consideration. We didn't have an A/C in our car.

That meant our road trips during hot Texas summers, usually from our West Texas home to my cousins' house -- and Six Flags! -- in the Dallas area, were not the most comfortable of excursions. Many times we set out on our vacation after dark.

Traveling at night didn't allow us to enjoy the scenery, but it definitely was a bit cooler. Believe me, stuck in the back seat with your pestering little brother is a tad more tolerable when it's 75 vs. 115 degrees. And if the kids aren't fighting as much, Mom and Dad are having a better time, too!

Big_red_soda Of course, we did eventually have to hit the road during daylight. And we also stopped regularly for gas and refreshments. At home, our refrigerator always held Cokes or Dr Peppers. But on vacation, I got a Big Red from the gas station vending machine. I loved its intense sweetness and the coolness of that heavy glass bottle.

Occasionally, our folks would treat us to ice cream bars from the gas station freezers. These were definitely welcome, but posed more traveling trouble. The minute we got them in the car, they started melting like mad.

I can remember Dad urging us to lean out the open windows so that the sticky melting mess wouldn't stain the car seat. Not too far out, mind you, but enough so that we resembled family pets with our ice cream-lapping tongues in the wind.

One particular summer trip, our car itself succumbed to the heat. Dad stopped at a station to fill the radiator with water while we filled up on soft drinks. It didn't work. A few miles down the road, the car died.

A man in a pickup stopped and somehow (I don't remember if he pushed us or towed us) got our car to his rural home a few miles down the road. While he and Dad worked on the auto, my mother, brother and I sat under a tree, Mom visiting with the Good Samaritan's wife and Ben Allen and I playing with the considerate strangers' kids.

I can't remember where we were going, where our breakdown and rescue occurred or how long we were there. But I do know that if it hadn't been for that random act of kindness, our vacation that summer surely would have been ruined.

Thanks, but no thanks: Most Americans apparently don't believe that members of Congress are proposing $100 gas-tax rebate checks out of the goodness their hearts.

Rather, most people share the same interpretation of the check proposal that I expressed here; i.e., that the rebates are very thinly veiled election-year bribes.

According to the New York Times (you can read the full story here, but you have to register first), several Senatorial aides say their offices are getting swamped with messages from constituents ridiculing the rebate as a paltry and transparent effort to pander to voters before November's elections.

The disdain is bipartisan: "The conservatives think it is socialist bunk, and the liberals think it is conservative trickery," said a spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Another senatorial spokesperson who wished to remain nameless says his state's residents have asked, "Do you think we are prostitutes? Do you think you can buy us?"

Apparently the answer was "yes." I guess those on Capitol Hill now are going to have to rethink their M.O. and do things like, say, their jobs and come up with constructive legislative solutions to the country's problems.


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