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This Week in Your Wallet: And I Thought Gas Was Expensive in My Neighborhood…

I’ve got driving on the brain. That’s what happens when you have a 16-year-old about to take a road test — as is about to occur for the second time in my life.  And with thoughts of driving, come thoughts of gas prices. Throughout the summer, as I spent a considerable amount of time on the Jersey Shore, I tried to fill up in the Garden State, where per-gallon prices were a good 70 or 80 cents less expensive than the $4.59 per gallon (for regular!) I’ve been paying close to home.  Now that fall’s upon us, I’m back to grimacing at my neighborhood pumps.  But how would you like to pay twice that?

That’s what’s going to happen if you return a rental car without a tank that’s truly full.  And by truly full, I don’t mean a car that looks like it’s full because the needle is on or close to the top of the gauge — I mean full as in there is no room to put a drop more in.  Otherwise, as the Washington Post reports, you’re going to get penalized.

A new technology called electric fuel metering is being installed in Hertz and Avis cars to be sure that missing fuel is measured down to the tenth of the gallon.  At Avis, a customer who spoke to the Post was charged $7.43 for the not-quite-gallon she had used.  A full gallon would have cost her $9.29.  (She called to complain and the charge was waived.)  What’s a consumer to do? The option you’re given to pre-pay for the tank of gas only makes sense if you know — in advance — that you’re going to drive enough to return the vehicle practically empty.  For now, make sure you leave time to fill up on the way back to the rental car lot.

 And now, for the other news of the week…

Add $1 million to your nest egg

MarketWatch reported on some math today — courtesy of Salary.com — to illustrate the power of negotiation, taking two workers who started their careers at a $45,000 salary. One negotiated a 4% raise each year, while the other merely accepted the 1% bump that was offered to him. The difference: $1,037,773 over the course of a 45-year career.

Four percent, you may be thinking? I’m lucking if I get one or two. But while experts quoted in the article concede that you may have to push harder to land that kind of raise, they also say it’s possible. Currently, pay raises average around 3%, but before the recession, they were hitting that 4% level. As the economy improves, there’s no reason that average can’t bump back up again. To help your case, come to the table with concrete examples of how you are making — or saving — the company money, and use online resources like Salary Wizard to know what your job is worth.

Are you among the 50%?

The 50% of Americans who don’t have emergency funds?  DailyFinance wrote an article offering five tips on emergency fund savings for 40-somethings, but I think these tips can and should be used by anyone who hasn’t got their cash stashed. Among the suggestions:

  • Avoid long-term certificates of deposit: It’s not just that interest rates stink. If an emergency happens, the last thing you want to worry about is the penalty fee on your long-term CD for drawing out money too soon. Opt for a regular savings account, money market account, or even just a short-term CD. And if you simply can’t stand earning so little, compromise. Put a few months worth of emergency money in a savings account, and extra, if available, in a place where it can grow.
  • You might forget to save, but a computer won’t. You can set up any basic checking account to make automatic transfers into a savings account.

Finally, a positive development from across the pond…

Last Thursday I did a TODAY show segment on the importance of starting early when it comes to teaching your kids about money.  The UK is putting its money where its mouth is — by making financial education mandatory in grades K-12.

As TIME reports, the curriculum will be incorporated into pre-existing classes starting next fall.  I’m sure you know I believe we need just this kind of thing on our shores.  Do you agree?

Have a great week!


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