Budgeting for Fuel When Prices Fluctuate (All the Time)
Gasoline, gas or fuel. Whatever you want to call it, budgeting for gas is the most annoying category. Gas prices float up and down constantly, making it hard to budget before the month begins. This past few weeks, prices in Des Moines were below $3.30. And when I looked the other day they were up to $3.49. Ugh!
The short answer to make budgeting for gas easier for everyone would be to stop the powers that be from moving them up and down all the time. I wish I had that kind of influence. The next best thing we can do is try to make a plan to accommodate our reality. That or stop driving motorized vehicles... or buy a Tesla... but paying for a Tesla has it's own set of issues. Back on point...
This kind of fluctuation can cause enough stress to make you want to give up on budgeting all together. Fear not, I have some tools to help!
How to make budgeting for gas easy
- Track spending: We use an iPhone app called Gas Cubby (available in the App store) to track our fuel consumption. We also input our mileage and the app has tracked our MPG and cost of operation on our vehicles since November 2009. Over time we've been able to see how much we spend on average every month in our fuel category.
- Calendar: We look at our calendar before the month begins and see if we have any "out of the ordinary" road trips planned. These are beyond just the driving back and forth to work trips. Usually it's trips to northern Iowa to see family that cause us to add in an extra tank of gas to the monthly budget.
- Calculations: Our budget spreadsheet has a built-in fuel calculator to help you plan out your monthly fuel budget. I created it out the frustration of going over our gas budget month-after-month. You simply need to know how many gallons of fuel your vehicle holds, the current price of gas (estimate high if you want), and how many times you will need to fill up. From there, you can round up to be safe, and if you don't use all of your gas budget this month, you can add it to the budget savings sheet, or apply the extra scratch toward your current financial goal or next month's fuel.
The longer you budget, the easier it becomes to keep tabs on the gas budget. It does take a little extra thought every month, but follow the steps above and keep your budgeting sanity.
How do you keep track of fluctuating budget expenses?
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