My sister always told me when we were kids that I "think too much." This time, she's right.
On Monday as I was doing my weekly bread baking, one side of my brain was thinking, "1/2 c. oil, 1/2 c. honey, 6 cups flour..." while the other side of my brain was doing mental math. In fact, for the past few weeks, every time it can get a spare minute, my brain starts calculating ways to solve a problem that's been really bugging me.
Here is my problem:
Yes, folks, we are a minivan family.
We are also a one-car family, and in the past, I might have argued that the fact that we only drive one vehicle balances out the fact that it is a minivan. But that argument was based on the assumption that our minivan was achieving its optimum gas mileage. It's not.
A 2004 Honda Odyssey should be getting 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway, 18 or 19 mpg on average. Last month, our lovely vehicle got 14 mpg.
If I'm so concerned about my car's gas mileage, shouldn't I trade it in for a hybrid or at least a more fuel efficient car? Shouldn't I be using more public transportation? Shouldn't I get a bike or walk more? My brain has been feverishly working out answers to those questions, and here's what I've come up with:
:: Should we trade it in? If I had realized my car was getting such poor gas mileage, I might have taken a closer look at Cash for Clunkers. As it is, considering gas prices and the amount we owe on our loan, it just doesn't make financial sense to trade it in.
:: Should we use public transportation? Raleigh's transit consists of a very meager bus system. The fare is only $1 per person per trip, which sounds reasonable. But even with as poor gas mileage as my car is getting, I can't think of any destinations where it would make more financial sense to load my family onto the bus rather than into the car. Even if I only had to pay for myself, it would only be cost effective to ride the bus if I had to pay for parking, was traveling a very long distance, or didn't have a car at all. That really stinks!
:: Should I get a bike? Should I walk more? I've looked at every option, and I keep coming up with the same conclusions. If it's less than a mile, we're already walking there. If it's more than a mile but less than five miles, my four-year-old's legs can't handle it. I could get a double stroller or a bike with a trailer, but the number of miles and amount of money we'd save is so negligible, that it doesn't balance out the loss of time. Where we're really racking up the miles and losing money is on the longer trips, and I have to have a car for those.
Maybe you have a better solution (I'd love to have one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" moments), but for now, here's the conclusion I've come to...
Because of the size of my family and our financial situation, we're stuck with the minivan, but that doesn't mean we're stuck with the gas mileage. I don't know why our mpg is so far below what it should be, but for now here's what I can try:
- Keep the tires inflated.
- Periodically clean the air filter.
- Never, ever idle.
- Use cruise control whenever possible.
- Plan trips better so we make fewer out-of-the-way trips to stores.