Finding the Cheapest Gas in Town
Recently, I bought a Honda Civic to commute to school. I sold my last car two years ago and in the meantime, I rode my bike on all but the coldest days of the year. Needless to say, I didn’t pay much attention to gas prices. I didn’t know what a normal price should be, I didn’t know when prices would go up or down, and I didn’t know which stations had the best prices. However, after buying my Civic, I did begin to notice that the prices in my home town of Longmont were much lower than in Boulder. Longmont stations seemed to offer a gallon of gas for $0.10 less than Boulder stations did. I couldn’t tell if it was just my imagination, so I needed some help in educating myself about gas prices.
After a quick Google search, I found a website called gasbuddy.com . The website provides gas-price maps for any location in the US with a red price tag above the stations. Here’s Boulder:
Using this website, my suspicions about Longmont’s prices being cheaper were correct:
Gas.buddy.com also offers a free app for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. From the app, you can search any location and see the local stations ranked by price or view them on a map. Most importantly, you can also report prices to the site as you drive by them. The prices are all user-submitted and GasBuddy holds drawings for pre-paid gas cards (usually $250) for users who report gas prices. The more prices you submit, the better your chances are of winning the drawing.
With this app and website, I’m not in the dark anymore about gas prices. I can quickly find the best price in my area, and save some $$ each time I fill up my beautiful and sporty Honda Civic. James Bond should be so lucky to have my car and the GasBuddy app in his pocket.
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How I Finally Started to Save
I get intimidated by all the rhetoric about saving money, like how I should start putting cash away as early as possible, and how I should do it regularly. I’m a recent college graduate so I don’t make that much money right now. It’s hard to find anything to save when I have to stretch a small paycheck to cover bills, rent and groceries. For a long time, I didn’t have the willpower to put money into a savings account. The choice was too hard for me to make because I got much more enjoyment from eating out and going to concerts. The only way I was going to be able to save money was if I forced myself to do it every paycheck.
Luckily, I discovered a way to automatically save money each month so that I can avoid the agonizing battle with myself (which the saver side of me usually lost). Since I’m a university employee, I have them take money from each paycheck and deposit it into a savings account. For CU employees, the concept is simple – you just add a second account for direct deposit. Once you’ve done that, you can have 10%, 20%, or any percentage of your paycheck put into savings. It’s pretty simple to set up: go to the MyCUInfo portal (www.mycuinfo.colorado.edu) and log in with your identikey.
- Click on the CU Resources tab. (You’ll have this if you’re an employee.)
– Click on the Employee Information drop-down arrow.
– Click on “Direct Deposit”.
- On the new screen, click the “Add Account” button and add the information for your savings account.
– Then click the “Edit” button next to the savings account and change the “Amount/Percent” field to whatever percentage you want to save every month.
– Change your first account’s “Amount/Percent” field so that both accounts add up to 100% of your paycheck.
If you’re not a CU employee, but still have direct deposit, your payroll department or manager should be able to set this up for you. You only have to make the decision once and you’ll start saving money automatically on your next paycheck. I now have money set aside for emergencies or big expenditures like down payments and insurance premiums and I feel a lot less guilty when someone tells me I should be saving money.
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A new chapter in the CU Money Sense blog
Welcome to the CU Money Sense blog – I’ll be posting here weekly about everything at the intersection of money and student-life. I have a short bio on the side of the page but I’ll use this first post to describe a little bit more about myself, and how this blog might help you navigate the world of money. I’m a recent graduate of CU Boulder (’12, Math), but I’m still haunting the campus by getting a high-school teacher’s license. I was lucky enough to get a job three years ago during the middle of my sophomore year, which allowed me to move out of my parents’ house in Longmont. Those three years have been a crash course in personal finance; suddenly I had rent and bills to pay, tuition to worry about, but I also needed leftover money for fun.
If this story sounds familiar to you, then please tune in every week. Even if it doesn’t and you’re able to get some financial support from your parents, you still have a lot of responsibilities that you probably didn’t have before college. You have to manage your short-term schoolwork and long-term degree plan and if you’re close to graduation, you have to worry about finding a job! I hope to give some advice that’s useful for everybody, no matter your current financial situation. I’ll write about managing your checking account, putting some money into savings, and dealing with tuition and student loans. I will also describe resources for finding a job during and after college along with fun things around town that help you get the biggest bang out of your bucks while you’re in school.
In one sentence, this blog will de-mystify all things money (and we’ll have some fun along the way). I’ll show that living within your means isn’t as hard as it might seem to be. Spending less money than you receive will give you greater control over your finances and will remove a great deal of stress from your life. Because really, isn’t college stressful enough?
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