On Friday, January 16th 2015, the price for one barrel of Brent Crude Oil-the starting point for the unleaded fuel in your gas tank-closed at 50.17, lower than it has been since 2009.
Since crude oil is the most important ingredient in unleaded gasoline, a drop in its price naturally translates to a lower cost per gallon at the pump.
This trend is evident at fuel stations all over America, with the National average for one gallon of regular unleaded gasoline sitting just over two dollars at 2.068 according to AAA’s daily fuel gauge report.
In my remote section of Northern New York, the prices are a fair amount higher than the national average, but that’s common and gas has dropped around 25% since October of 2014.
With commuting expenses accounting for a large percent of my monthly budget, it’s fair to say that I’m a little ecstatic to fill up my car at 2.60 per gallon, which is the average price in my area.
In October, the price of gas in my location sat between 3.40 and 3.60 a gallon. Some will say, “It’s only a dollar”, but here at Building Financial Freedom we know that a dollar is anything but “Just a Dollar”.
Call it the almighty dollar or the US Dollar or a fat Benjamin. Call it what you want, but know that dollar is not just a dollar. It’s a dollar off every single gallon of gas we put into our vehicles. For some of us, the savings will be bigger than others, but every single one of us can benefit from lower fuel prices in some way.
(It’s not on this list, but if you are planning to spend some money watching American Sniper, I will absolutely approve- just because.)
3 Ways to Use Lower Gas Prices to Your Advantage
Having more money in our pockets doesn’t automatically mean we will be better off financially. Sure, our discretionary cash will inflate a bit with less money being spent on commuting, but if the excess cash isn’t allocated well, it won’t do us any good at all.
Instead of going on a shopping spree or deciding to indulge in some celebratory spending, take five minutes to consider these three ways to make the most of the money you’re saving on gas right now.
1). Divert Your Savings to a Retirement Account.
Gas prices going down is similar to getting a raise at work. In both situations, you have more money in your pocket each week. It might feel like that money is burning a hole straight through your jeans, but consider one important aspect- It’s money you didn’t have before and you did just fine without it.
Instead of enjoying the perks of those dollar-a-gallon savings now, we can divert the cash to an IRA or increase the contribution rate on our 401K and let those dollars turn into hundreds or more over the long term.
Think of it this way if it helps- You will be missing out on that dollar of savings now, but in the future when you need the money more, it will be there waiting and growing with every passing day.
It’s a well established fact that investing is the best way to achieve financial goals. If you’re not taking part in the returns of the equity market, financial freedom will likely fall out of reach at some point.
2). Save Toward Higher Education.
Investing money in the stock market might be one of the key aspects of wealth, but right there beside it is investing money in yourself!
Consider this table that shows the direct correlation between income levels and level of education. It might not be as widely believed today that a college education bolsters success, but higher learning clearly has a defining impact on an individual’s earning power.
If you need help finding a course or degree that fits with your goals, try checking out sites like Degree Finder that aim to help people find the right programs for the right price. You can also find online courses and certification programs in many different specialties without paying anything to sign up and check it out.
3). Donate to Charity
Donating to charity is one of the first things people tend to cut when money is tight-and for good reason. Our own financial obligations should be fulfilled before we are in a position to give to others.
With current gas prices though, American consumers are saving around 2.4 billion dollars each week compared to in recent months. Essentially, we’ve all been given a raise- and a pretty good one- even if it is only temporary.
If even a small fraction of that excess cash could be donated, it would make a huge impact on the lives of people that need it. There aren’t many things in life that feel better than helping a fellow human being.
Take It While It Lasts
Nobody knows with one hundred percent certainty how long gas prices will remain low, but it’s not likely to last forever. Our best bet is to take advantage of this opportunity while it lasts and give our savings some extra padding.
Remember, it’s a slow, steady climb to financial freedom but seizing small opportunities to save money along the way can really speed things up.