Several years ago, when gas prices were at their highest in Los Angeles, I paid $4.26 a gallon — $102 to fill my Chevy Silverado.
Regardless of where you live, it’s likely that you’re experiencing and enjoying the same thing — cheap gas. You’re saving a ton off the peak prices of past summers.
It’s so easy to ignore it, though, and let that “saved” money stay in your bank account, where it will inevitably be spent on something useless — or just evaporate unnoticed, the way money in a checking account has a way of doing.
However, the truth remains: Because fuel prices have dropped dramatically, all of us are spending a lot less on gasoline compared with what we were spending a year or so ago.
Now is the time, before you get too comfortable with the cheap prices, to create an automatic transfer of the money you’re not spending on gas into a special account to protect you when the prices go higher. You cannot predict what prices will do, but you can get prepared.
Call it your hedge fund — a term that describes an investment position intended to offset potential losses/ gains in the future. That’s what big-shot investors do; they hedge against future losses. So can you. Here’s a painless way to do it.
NO. 1: OPEN AN ACCOUNT
Set up an online savings account at SmartyPig (my favorite) or Capital One 360 Performance Savings. You want an online account that has no fees, no minimums, is Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured and allows you to set up automatic transfers.
NO. 2: DETERMINE THE AMOUNT
Figure out how much you are saving each week on gasoline compared with the highest price you experienced in your area. If you’re lazy, just go with $2 a gallon. Or a flat $5. Just start somewhere!
NO. 3: AUTOMATE THE TRANSFER
Create an automatic transfer from your regular checking account into your new “hedge fund” for the amount you determined in Step No. 2 that you are not spending each week on gas. Do this by locating the “transfer money” option in your online account. You will see a place to fill in the exact amount you want to be transferred, how frequently you want this to happen (weekly) and when to start (how about today?).
NO. 4: CREATE A REMINDER
Set a reminder on your smartphone or another calendar to reevaluate in three months. If gasoline prices have changed — up or down — adjust your hedge fund automatic transfer amount accordingly.
I wouldn’t tell just anyone what I’m about to tell you — and I’m only telling you because we’re like family. At least several times a week, I want to quit. Seriously. The thought crosses my mind, and it’s not when things are going great. It’s when I face a challenge: a tough writing assignment, a book deadline, an early morning interview or a snarky message in my inbox.
This is nothing new. I’ve been dealing with the urge to quit for a long time. I can anticipate its arrival. And because of that, I’ve learned ways to deal with it before it drives me to the brink of resignation.
I talk back. Forcefully — with confidence and conviction. I ask myself: Why are you doing this? There are so many other jobs you could be doing that would require less work and less time!
I usually conclude that I’m doing this because, even though I do work 50 to 60 hours a week, every week, I still enjoy tremendous freedom to choose how and where I?put in those hours.
And it’s also because of you. And me. Without you and all of the people who make up this audience, there would be nothing to quit. You’re the reason. And I am the reason, too. I need this as much as anyone, if not more! It’s my maintenance, my financial sobriety. The work I do every day keeps me on the wagon, out of debt and moving forward.
THREE PROACTIVE STEPS
All of us have those days when we feel like we’re almost to the end of our rope and can’t hang on another minute. Here are three steps you can take to give you the courage to keep going:
NO. 1: VERBALIZE HOW YOU FEEL
I would caution against making this a public dissertation. Write it journalstyle where you can keep it private. Tell God how you feel. Say that you are angry and bitter or that you’re afraid to face the day. However you choose, find a way to pour out your heart. It is cleansing to get it all out because that helps to release swirling negative thoughts. While your situation may not change, the way you feel about it will.
NO. 2: ACCEPT HELP FROM OTHERS
You really do not have to go through this by yourself. Once you determine where you are stuck, seek out help. If you are struggling with credit card debt, for example, go to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website to find a certified credit counseling organization in your area. Make the call. Ask for help. If it’s a medical situation where you cannot afford the cost of meds, reach out for help. Simply asking for help is going to guide you to resources you may not know exist.
NO. 3: CHOOSE JOY
Even when you are at the end of your rope, you still possess something very valuable: your attitude. You can choose your thoughts. You can default to pain, fear and anguish, or you can proactively choose joy. You can focus on all that you do not have and all the stuff that’s coming at you, of you can choose to rise above that and focus on what you do have — even if that is just the air that you breathe. Embrace it. Choose to think only about things that are lovely, true and pure.
I do not personally know anyone who has a perfect life. On the contrary, we’re all on this journey, and the road can get rocky from time to time. I’ve come to realize that what I’ve been through can beat me down and make me bitter, or I can choose for my experiences to make a difference in someone else’s life.
So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for your loyalty, commitment and diligence in living below your means and affirming the power of discovering new ways to save time and money every day!
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”