Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reverse Weimar

Price inflation now seems to be built into the economy: since WWII, there's been a relentless 2-4% upward trend. (And occasionally more: sometimes much more.)

Computers and electronics have been running against this trend, being insanely deflationary. (Just wait a year or two, and the device you lust after will be half its current price. Or more capable. Or both.)

What's new and unprecedented in my experience is the sudden collapse of energy prices. (Last spring, the price of fuel oil was still heading upward even after the heating season was over; gasoline peaked in July, and, in a few short months, has dropped by fully 50%.

We all grew up on the horror stories of runaway Weimar-style inflation - all the stories of people rushing to spend their pay before the afternoon round of price increases....

But here's the reverse, an effect I never anticipated seeing:

albanygasprices.com 11/25/08:

Lowest observed 197.9 Sunoco Rotterdam
Average Albany prices:
Today 2.145 So, down 1.6¢ from yesterday
Yesterday 2.161 down 13.6¢ from a week before
One Week Ago 2.281 down 69.1¢ from a month before
One Month Ago 2.836 down 93.3¢ from a year ago
(One Year Ago 3.078) (The peak price was in July)

That's down 69.1¢ in 31 days; that's a decline of >2.2¢/day
(Hell, I paid 419.9 on July 22 (so, down ~$2.22/gal in about 156 days)

So all this month - all this season - it's been worth it to wait as long as possible before buying gas.

Which means this price deflation hass had a perverse effect:
the price of gas is dropping so fast that it's encouraging me to use the bus.
Because the longer I can delay filling up, the cheaper the tank of gas will be.

Normally, a tank lasts me about two weeks of commuting.
I last filled the Miata on Nov 2nd, $23.00 at 249.9
I would have been due for another tankful about Nov 14th, when I filled the MPV at 217.9

But if I take the bus to work for a week, I can save a few bucks on a fill-up.

Today - 11 days after 11/14 - there are several local stations at 199.9 or below:
50 cents less than I last paid for the Miata, 18 cents less than I last paid in the MPV, 13.6 cents lower than just seven days ago.

So I'd be saving $5 from fill-up to fill-up, but saving $1.50 of that just by delaying the extra week. A day of commuting by bus is only $1.90. A full 5-day week is only $9.50. Just delaying the next gasoline purchase offsets 15-20% the cost of riding the bus. That's astounding.

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