The NEWS with Tim O'Callaghan

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

No such thing as a free lunch

This first published November 6, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

Finally, the campaign season is over and my phone has stopped ringing. Monday night our phone rang off the hook with all of the calls going directly to our trusty answering machine.

This has been the dirtiest campaign season I can recall, greatly attributable to the robocall machines disseminating every imaginable distortion of the truth or misrepresentation of candidate character possible.

No sense in repeating them here so adios robocall!

Now that the election is over, we can turn our attention back to daily life and economics. One of the most interesting items to speak of is the price of gas. This fall marks the sharpest decrease in prices at the pump in four years.

According to GasBuddy.com, in December 2004 the average price of regular grade gas in the Las Vegas area was $1.81 per gallon. During the next 3 1/2 years, until June of this year, prices bounced up and down to an all-time high average $4.26 per gallon.

During this period, the following average highs were reached: September 2005, $2.90; May 2006, $3.15; May 2007, $3.20; and in June 2008, it soared to $4.26.

Since then the price has dropped an amazing $1.71 to its lowest average since March 2007 at $2.55 and is still dropping.

Interesting enough, the price of oil was trending the same as gasoline until June 2007. Then it bolted up from $70 a barrel to over $146 in just over a year, nearly doubling the increase of gasoline in the same period. Then it tumbled back in line to around $60 per barrel this week.

The question remains, will prices continue to fall if Americans continue to use less fuel? U.S. oil consumption is down 5 percent, mostly attributable to the troubled economy and world financial crisis. As the price of gas falls, we may be more inclined to drive more rather than pocket the savings.

This could also build some consumer confidence, encouraging consumers to loosen their tightened purse strings. However don’t get too giddy, because the Saudis are tightening their pipelines to force the price of oil back up to what they consider a comfortable level.

I’m no expert but I would bet the price of gas will start an upward trend sooner than later, even if we continue to reduce our consumption in the U.S.

Personally, I will continue to reduce consumption whenever possible by planning local errands, fewer trips out of town, carpooling and driving the hybrid whenever possible.

While on the subject of gasoline, I’d like to tell you about an experience my bride is having. First, you must understand that she comes from generations of penny pinchers, with three of them still living. She can find a deal where no other can except her mother, grandmother and aunts. They will jump through fire to get the savings or at least jump over more hurdles than most.

So, last August we decided it would be a good idea to have the windows of our Prius tinted. We looked around for a good deal and located a tinter. The business was offering a special on the latest UV block tint material, which was a bit more than the one we planned on. However, it came with $500 in free gas! Sounded fair enough, so we agreed to the super duper (or duped) tint job, and we would get a certificate for $500 in free gas.

Right!

Once we got home, she called the number to activate the certificate in order to receive our gas vouchers. She finds there are a few stipulation, such as one must purchase $100 in gasoline per month from the same oil company, then turn in the receipts before a certain day of the month with your vouchers to get a $25 gas card.

Okay, spend $100 on gas to get $25 free in gas easy enough. If you noticed, you can only claim $25 per month. Which means we will have to spend $2,000 over 20 months to redeem our $500 in free gas.

This is all attainable, right? One fillup of the Big Red Truck and we are three-quarters of the way there.

The vouchers arrive from freebiegas.com all twenty of them on a single sheet of paper. They look official with the redemption number, month, the name of the oil company we’re using, a line stating “Return with $100 in receipts” and her name Donna O’Callaghan printed on each little voucher. There is a bonus here you can spend the $25 on anything the station sells.

I wonder if that includes $25 in quarters for the slot machines?

Needless to say the bride completed every detail and sent the first batch on Sept. 17, her birthday. I’m sure that was deliberate to memorialize the event. She waited the required 28 days then called to get an update, only to leave a message. Then a gentleman called her back to assure her the first card would be here in seven to 10 days. No worries, except its now been more than 20 days. She called again and now you can’t even leave a message, a recording assures you the gift cards are in process and they apologize for the delay due to processing issues.

One thing is for sure: While others give up, Donna will show them the other pincher in her, the Doberman pinscher. Look out freebiegas.com. While there is no such thing as a free lunch, a deal is a deal, and she knows it.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the News, can be reached at 990-2656 or tim.oc@vegas.com. He writes a regular column One Man's View.