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How do I save on gas. My money saving tips

gas-money.jpgI have speculated if I should write this post for a very long time. There is just so much already written on the subject and it is very hard to add anything new. Nevertheless I decided to do so. Partially because I wanted to have a list of tips that I myself would follow, so to say a TODO list. I intend to update it as I discover more tips over time.

There are several variables you can play with when trying to save on gas. These are your car, the gas you put in, the money you spend, and the trips you make. In addition to listing tips that affect each of these variables, I will also try to measure how effective each technique is based on A to D scale (with A being most effective) and how much effort it requires (with A meaning little effort). Some will say “this very subjective”. Hey, this is my blog! You are free to copy this list and put your own scores. ;-)

Your car

  • Buy an efficient car or a scooter - it is hard to justify selling a car that served you well for many years. Here are some numbers from ConsumerReports that will help you make that decision. Here are my own calculations related to plug-in hybrid. (Effectiveness: B, Effort: C)
  • Carpool or use public transportation - do a research if carpooling or public transportation is an option for you. (Effectiveness: B, Effort: D)
  • Take care of your car - periodically check tire pressure, regularly change oil and the air filter. (Effectiveness: C, Effort: B)
  • Clean your trunk - any extra stuff you carry in your car equals to burned fuel. Remove anything that you don’t need on a daily basis. (Effectiveness: D, Effort: A)
  • Bicycle to work - explore the option of bicycling to work, consider an electric bike if the distance seems unmanageable. (Effectiveness: A, Effort: D)

Your trip

  • Change your driving habits - there are a few simple things that you could follow to drastically reduce your gas consumption. Slow down on highway, keep the distance, don’t accelerate fast, don’t use AC whenever it is cool outside, avoid idling. (Effectiveness: C, Effort: B)
  • Park in the first spot you find - don’t spend precious time and money circling around the parking lot looking for that closest spot to the door. (Effectiveness: D, Effort: A)
  • Move closer to work - this might be barely an options for many, especially considering the slump our housing is in. (Effectiveness: B, Effort: D)
  • Work from home - negotiate with your boss a day when you can work from home. I did exactly this last month and now enjoy the savings. Not only you save on gas, you also save the time on commute. (Effectiveness: B, Effort: B to C)
  • Drive less, walk more - Combine trips or eliminate them entirely (e.g. eat in instead of out). Use this tool to check where to you can get on foot in your neighborhood. (Effectiveness: C, Effort: C)

Your gas

  • Buy the lowest octane gasoline your car will take - check your owner’s manual to see what is good for your car. Using a higher octane may add performance but will wear your engine faster and will cost your in more expensive gas. (Effectiveness: C, Effort: A)
  • Fill up in the morning - gas has slightly lower temperature and higher density in morning hours. This means you get more gas for your buck. (Effectiveness: D, Effort: B)
  • Fill up ahead of holidays - gas prices tend to go up just before holidays. Fill up 2-3 days before to save some cash. (Effectiveness: C, Effort: B)

Your money

  • Shop around for cheaper gas - use websites that compare gas prices in your area. MSN has one which is pretty accurate. (Effectiveness: C, Effort: B)
  • Use cash back credit cards - you can get up to 10% savings when using credit cards for buying gas. Here are some I recommend. (Effectiveness: C, Effort: A)
  • Buy gas on gift cards at grocery stores - some grocery stores that have gas stations will let you buy gift cards at discount. Buy the gift cards on a cash back credit card and then use them to pay for your gas. (Effectiveness: C, Effort: B)

Have you found these tips useful? Which ones did and didn’t work for you? Please share your own money saving tips in the comments.

How do they make money?

Looking at the number of bargain hunting sites that mushroomed in the past several years one can wonder what attracts them in the numbers they come. They don’t manufacture anything; they usually are not official resellers of any particular brand… So how do they make money?

I will try to summarize what I know about different business models and will also try to compare them one to another. In addition I will try to list how a user of such web site can make money (yes, many sites offer incentives to lure visitors). I don’t claim to know all the inner workings of how the system works but let this be the starting point. You are welcome to comment with additions/corrections.

How can web sites make money?

Affiliation Programs - so far the most popular/effective way to bring cash flow to the site. How does it work? The web site opens a special affiliation/partnership account with the merchant. The site content is then designed so that all links pointing outside to that merchant include a special id which allows the merchant to distinguish the affiliate account associated with the transaction. If the visitor ends up buying something from that merchant then the web site gets a commission.

Pros: non-intrusive, seamless for the web site visitor.
Cons: requires a) establishing and maintaining affiliations with multiple merchants, b) designing the web site so that visitors use the links with affiliation id in them. If you are not careful you can anger your competitors. ;-) If your affiliation is terminated and you don’t notice it then the links pointing to that merchant may result in an error thus disrupting normal web site operation.

Direct Advertisement - can be used when affiliation programs are not available or not possible to implement (or to supplement the affiliation revenue). Context sensitive ads are desired as they perform better than static/random ones. If no specific context can be determined the ad should still target your potential audience - the people who try to save while shopping.

Pros: web site owner often can deal with just a single ad provider/reseller thus minimizing maintenance time/effort.
Cons: web site should be designed to accommodate context sensitive ads (if possible). If used excessively the ads can clutter the web site thus sending the visitors away.

How can users make money?

Affiliation Programs - just like the web sites do it for themselves the users can also participate. The idea is still too new and not popular yet I know of at least one example: dealplumber.com. How does it work? The web site basically gives up their chance to profit from affiliation programs for the deals posted by users. They still can profit from the deals they post themselves (or insert an id when the user doesn’t provide one).

Pros: the most promising option for a web site user. Since you get a commission from every sale made using that link a truly good deal may bring you a significant profit.
Cons: most time/effort demanding option. Establishing affiliations and adding your id to the links can be a hassle. May not work for certain demographic groups (e.g. young people with no credit history to establish an affiliation account).

Cash Back - some sites (e.g. fatwallet.com, ebates.com) offer cash back if you buy using the links from that web site. How does it work? The web site provides user a special link that a) allows the web site to identify who originates the transaction b) contains the web site affiliation id. When sale is complete the web site will share with the user the commission they get from the merchant.

Pros: the most accessible option - no special accounts needed for the user. As a minimum you just need a subscription with the web site and a mailing address to receive the check.
Cons: have to follow the web site instructions on how to make the purchase using the links and/or special coupons. The cash back may take up to several months to show up.

Sharing Ad Revenue - some bargain forums (e.g. spoofee.com) will share with you their advertising revenue when you post a deal. Only the revenue from the ads placed on the page containing your deal posting will be shared. How does it work? You need to establish an account with whatever ad provider the web site uses (Google Adsense in the case of spoofee) and give the web site your account id. Every time someone clicks on the ad you have a chance (e.g. 50/50) of earning from that transaction.

Pros: this can be the middle ground for the users in terms of value vs. time/effort needed.
Cons: the web site has to be popular enough for you to really see those clicks coming.

Conclusion

While it looks like a lot of options I still see additional opportunities as to how a web site can be designed so it accommodates the user and the web site owner’s interests the best. What are they? Let’s make Designing a Perfect Web Site the topic of one of our next discussions.

Ops, it is 4am. This is what usually happens when you try to combine your hobby with your full time job. :-(




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