Typically, most of the monthly budget goes into housing, food and utility costs, often with little to no thought to the automobiles. But this budget category can be like a slow, steady drip from the pocketbook if not kept in check. Included in this part of the Budget Cutting Tips series are some suggestions to help get a handle on the monthly auto expenses and prevent costly financial leakage.
The first tip is a practical one: group errands together to save both time and gas. Anyone can learn the valuable lesson from those who live in the country and who only get to town once or twice a week. Country folk understand that it isn’t practical to go back and forth to town every other day. And this same principle can be followed by everyone. Just because it may be convenient to live close to town, it may not be necessary or wise to go there all the time.
For example, when meeting a friend for lunch, do the grocery shopping on the way home. When it’s time to take little Johnny for his pediatric check up, drop off the dry cleaners on the way to the doctor’s office. When there are a whole bunch of errands to do, list them in order of a logical loop to avoid driving back and forth across town. Whatever the situation, the point is to think things through ahead of time so that there are no needless trips to town and no wasted gas.
The following are other simple ways to cut back on auto expenses:
• Carpool when and where available. • Walk or ride a bike when and where available. • If possible, learn to change the oil or have a friend or family member help. • Buy basic auto parts such as windshield wipers, air filters, etc. at discount stores rather than from oil changing facilities that mark up the price.
One important thing to keep in mind is that the best way to avoid auto expenses draining the budget is to perform regular vehicle maintenance faithfully. This is called preventative maintenance. It can help prevent damage to the vehicle that results in hundreds of dollars lost to repairs. Change the oil regularly. Have the belts, hoses, and filters checked for wear and replaced as soon as possible if needed. Have the tires rotated to help lengthen the life of the tires. Have repairs done as quickly as possible to prevent further damage. The goal is to be aware of the law of cause and effect: pay attention to the little things so that they don’t turn into big things later.
Other ways to save money include shopping around for good auto insurance rates, buying sensible cars that do not require extensive and expensive financing, minimize or eliminate auto accessory purchases, even obeying traffic laws to avoid costly tickets and higher insurance rates. All of these things combined can create a pleasant and budget-friendly auto experience.