Archive for May, 2008

Cost Analysis of Delivering Pizzas

Friday, May 30th, 2008

By now, it’s old news to just about everyone but my 14-year-old son that gas prices are hitting record highs every day.  According to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report website, today is the 23rd new record gas price … in a row.  I’ve been watching it, naturally.  This morning over coffee I decided to do a “back of bill envelope” calculation to see if it is still worth delivering pizzas as my part-time job.

Gas Prices

The Pizza Taxi takes between 8 and 10 gallons to top off from just under a quarter of a tank.  The last few tankfuls I have gotten the following fuel economy/gas mileage/MPG:

  • 36.0 mpg
  • 33.1 mpg
  • 32.9 mpg
  • 36.0 mpg

It looks like 33-36 mile per gallon is my upper limit on summer-blend regular unleaded gas for pizza delivery.  I can live with that.  It now takes $32-40 to fill that bad boy up, depending on how good I can get at the pump price comparison game, and with my Kroger Plus shopping card.


Overall, tips at work are slowly declining.  There are some gems of customers who have upped their tipping to help us drivers out as they do see gas prices rising, but unfortuneately those gems of customers are few enough that all of us drivers have their addresses memorized.  The trend I am noticing is that people who used to tip $3 to $3.50 per order are now tipping $1.75 to $2.50 per order.  Some have slid down to the insulting range of $0 to $0.75 tip, and of course those customers always tell me “Have a nice night!” when they do it.

Gas Offset Pay and Minimum Wage

I’ve talked to the Boss Man (the owner) several times over the past two weeks, and he has laid out the economic realities for me: He cannot afford to increase our gas offset pay.  He raised the delivery charge by a quarter, but says that is to absorb rising food costs for him.  He is afraid to raise his menu prices because of new competition that opened up in the area over the winter, and dreads the upcoming increase in the federal minimum wage in July 24th.  Federal minimum wage will jump up to $6.55 per hour which is a whopping 70 cents more an hour.

Maintenace and Upkeep on the Pizza Taxi

I’m due for another round of maintenace and upkeep.  Oil change is due/was due about 250 miles ago … which is only about three days in delivery terms.  Since the Pizza Taxi is over 93k miles, I may ask my mechanic about that special oil for high mileage engines, and see if they think it is worth the extra cost.  It is also time for my annual brake check (and probably replacement).  I’ve been putting that one off, which I know I shouldn’t do.  I’m also debating the merits of a tune-up since I passed the 90k mark on the odometer.  I’m looking at $200-500 dollars, depending on the brakes, possibly more if they’ve raised their prices.

Am I Still Making Money Delivering Pizzas?

Bottom line is: Yes, I am so I will continue doing it.  The rising costs have taken a bite out of my money though, so it is not nearly as profitable as it was before the big spring run-up on gas prices.  If I didn’t get as good of gas mileage as I do, it might not be worth it for me.  I have a coworker who says he only gets about 19 mpg in his truck, and I honestly don’t see how he is making any money doing this.

Last summer, I had called 25 mpg the point where pizza delivery makes good money, and I think I need to revise that to something higher.  Maybe 28 mpg now … but if gas prices continue their climb it may end up only cars that get better than 30 mpg will make money.

More posts about the economics and realities of delivering pizzas as a part-time job:

Happy reading!

Welcome Simple Dollar Readers 28 May

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

A big welcome to Trent’s readers clicking over from the Simple Dollar.  Since I do not blog well without massive amounts of coffee, I’ll give y’all a few links to browse while I brew a fresh pot and pry my eyes open LOL

  • Best of DFR page has a lot of my favorites from my early days, plus the entire “Teenager on a Budget” series
  • The MPG Fuel Economy Challenge After a couple of posts giving driving tips I use at work (delivering pizza) I have challenged my readers to try them also and post results!
  • CPI, Inflation, and Reality I am a harsh critic of the BLS’ method of calculating the “official” inflation rate, and April’s numbers gave me quite a bit of ammo!  Read and judge for yourself.
  • Congress and Fed Take on Credit Card Industry I tend to be very cynical about government, but when they do something right I will give them props.  Be sure to write to your Congress-critter about this one!
  • How To Pay For College the debt-free way!  I’m doing, and I will make sure my son does it as well.
  • Safety Tips from Your Pizza Driver Inspired by real-life and a particularly bad weekend.

That should keep y’all busy while the coffee-critter brews :) and I kick-start what few brain cells I have left to blog about something new today.

Hubby, Money, and Investing

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Yes, I’ve been quiet recently.  A little over a week ago I had a very eye-opening money talk with hubby that really threw me for a loop.  Where to begin …?

It all started with a discussion about the economic “stimulus” payment that came in half of what we expected (granted, I hadn’t bothered to run the numbers through one of the website calculators out there).  So instead of having $900 or $1200 to play with, we only got $600.  I shouldn’t fuss, since we are in the ZERO % tax bracket.  Hubby has asked for $150 of it, and I agreed, figuring he had some anniversary plans he was keeping secret.

Well, after the anniversary evening out, hubby asked if he could write the check for the money market/big emergency fund deposit for only $400 instead of $450 … Yes, it was “only” $50 but I thought I was being generous by letting him have one quarter of the “stimulus” to begin with!  I of course wanted to stuff all but $50 of it into the big emergency fund.

It was time for another Big Money Discussion, with capital letters.  I learned he feels “poor” because he doesn’t have as much spending money as he did before he went to Korea (and before I started budgeting).  He learned (?) I have a deep psychological need to have a big honkin’ emeergency fund for security, as the expenses section of the budget keeps growing due to gasoline and food price increases combined with concerns about upcoming tuition bills.  So far, so good …

Then I made the remark I wanted to hurry up, tighten the belt, and get that big emergency fund funded so I could move on to investing.  Hubby said he didn’t like investing … he preferred to keep his money in his checking account, or maybe a money market account at best.

GASP!!  CHOKE!!!  cough, sputter … !!!!!  Insert mental image of me banging my head against the desk!  After making quite a few shocked noises, I asked him how he could say that …??!?

This is a basic synopsis of several conversations over the past week and a half: Hubby doesn’t understand investing.  It’s a huge blow to my ego as a PF blogger that I can write things here on my blog … but can’t seem to explain why investing is a smart thing to my own husband.  Hubby says this “investing idea” seems to be losing money, not making money so he’d rather just earn interest in a regular savings account, checking account, or a money market account.

“Ok, so just TEACH him about why investing is the best idea…”

That would work IF he was inclined to learn.  Hubby feels he has his hands full with negotiating with re-up and studying for the promotion board, and I can almost SEE him tune out when I get started on the subject.  His eyes either become unfocused or begin to wander about.

The best I’ve gotten from him in the time since he uttered that jaw-dropping sentence is “You take care of it … I don’t want to see it or bother with it.  Just like my TSP.”  Considering what the markets have been doing over the past year, I am extremely grateful the TSP only mails out annual statements.

So now I am thinking hard about how I can sneak little tiny microbits of investing info into our everyday conversations, since hubby is not inclined to sit down for an hour or longer crash course on what little I know about the subject.  The problem is Hubby is every bit as stubborn as I am … but y’all probably figured that out months ago LOL  He’d have to be, to marry me.

It sounds like hubby’s leave has been approved, so we will be heading down to Florida to spend a little time with my in-laws in less than two weeks.  Perhaps I can get a little help from them.  If not, there is still the 12 hour drive to get there and back … when he will be a “captive audience” so to speak!  Wish me luck on this endeavor.  I’ll probably need it.

A Word About Memorial Day

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Tomorrow is Memorial Day here in the U.S., and contrary to what you will see on the television (if you haven’t thrown a brick through the “idiot box” yet) it was not originally meant to be about car sales, appliance sales, and high gas prices.  It wasn’t even meant to be about cooking out and drinking beer on the porch or deck, although at least that is a tad closer being favorite scheduled activities on the duty calendar.

Memorial Day is all about remembering and honoring the military members who fell in service to their country.  As someone who came out of a warzone in one piece, I know I have a lot to be grateful for … and that others were not as lucky.  My team was tented next to a CSH in Kuwait for a few weeks (CSH=Combat Support Hospital) and once the troops jumped the berm we saw the med-evac helicopters flying in the wounded and dying.

So tomorrow, while turning down the volume on those obnoxiously loud televison commercials; grilling up hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, or maybe steaks (if you can find that on sale); and tossing back a beer or two while watching the sun set be sure to spare a thought or two for the honored dead from our military forces, and raise your glass (or can, or bottle) in salute to both the living and the dead in our military at home or overseas.

It’s the least we can do.

Popping in to Update

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Hey y’all, since school let out and the Teenager has still been going to school (today is his last day) I have been a busy little web-bee in addition to picking up more hours at the pizza place.  I’m revamping a bunch of sites I built 2-4 years ago, and that’s going to take up some time as there is about two dozen.  The good news is I am getting paid to revamp them :)

Gas prices are up, tips are down, but the boss man at the pizza place is happy that the semester has ended.  He has me scheduled for five nights this week!  Also, it looks like I won’t need to get another part-time day job, as he is planning to open for lunch on the weekdays now and said I could probably be the delivery driver for a couple days.

Another reason I have been pretty quiet is a conversation last week with hubby about money, the economic stimulus money and where it should go … and “our” money goals.  That’s a post unto itself, and I am not sure I am ready to write it just yet.

It seems I got tagged for that “six word” meme this week … and y’all know I am usually much more long-winded than that!  Grrr … the one meme I definitely didn’t want to get tagged with LOL  I’m trying to figure out how to condense things down to that few of words.  I’ve got a couple in mind.

CPI, Inflation, and Reality

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

So what do the CPI numbers released yesterday, the inflation that they supposedly measure, and reality all have in common?  Apparently, not much … especially between the first and third.

If you’ve been following my ramblings on the CPI and inflation, you were probably as puzzled as I was yesterday when the BLS released numbers way way WAY  under what you expected.  If you missed the announcement, the official CPI says inflation was only 0.2% for the month of April, with the food and energy prices showing a complete divergence from reality.

CPI and Food Prices

According to the CPI data, food prices only rose a “seasonally adjusted” 0.9% for April.  Yet the report admits that fruit and vegetable prices rose 2% for the MONTH, bread prices rose 1.5% for the MONTH, and milk prices went up 1.2% for the MONTH.  Apparently what brought the official food inflation measure down was the idea that less people are eating out at restaurants, which only grew at 0.3% (still positive though).

The news media is calling this the sharpest food price spike in 18 years, with the official number of “year-over-year (y-o-y)” food price inflation being 5.1%.  That means according to the government, food prices overall were 5.1% more expensive in April 2008 than they were in April 2007. 

My personal y-o-y food price inflation looks a lot more like 12.5%, but I don’t count eating out in that figure because eating out is not a necessity.  In fact, that is where the “give” in the budget is coming from, partly.  Here we do follow the behavior the BLS uses.  However, cutting back on restaurant spending is an EFFECT of inflation, not a component of it.

And I haven’t quite figured out just what this “seasonal adjustment” for food prices is.  Does anyone have a link that explains it in plain English?  In my experience, many food prices go down during the spring because of produce sales.  So shouldn’t a seasonal adjustment for the month of April adjust those numbers UP to compensate for the sales?

CPI and Energy Prices

For those who have argued that the BLS’s CPI numbers are accurate, please explain the energy prices numbers released yesterday to me!  According to the official report, gas prices went DOWN 2% for the month of April after seasonal adjustment.  Of course, before the seasonal adjustment, gas prices show a 5.6% jump … so that must be one (heck) of a seasonal adjustment they made!!

Apparently, the number crunchers at the BLS figure that gas prices always rise in the spring.  So they seem to toss out any price rise for April, even though the Department of Energy and AAA say gas prices rose 10% and 9% respectively for April.  Also according to AAA, gas prices posted record high prices for SIXTEEN days in a row in April.

I have to really wonder what gas stations the CPI survey-takers are filling up at.  I also wonder what kind of discount card they carry … because I want one too!  At the beginning of April, I was grumping about gas being $3.28 per gallon locally.  By the end of April, that was looking good since gas prices were up to $3.49 per gallon.  According to my handy little calculator, which does straight math, that is a 6.4% increase in gas prices for the month of April.

The May numbers ought to be even more interesting, as gas prices have gone from $3.49 per gallon on Monday to $3.68 per gallon last night.  Local gas stations usually don’t raise their prices from Monday to Wednesday … they wait until Thursday night after they close to do the weekend hikes. (note to self: fill up again tonight after work!)

Experts Now Questioning CPI Accurracy

It isn’t just me scratching my head over these numbers that have absolutely nothing to do with my reality.  More and more economic experts are starting to publicly question the CPI methodology for figuring inflation, with the harshest being Bill Gross of Pimco Total Return bond fund calling the CPI

a “con job” that deliberately understates the price pressures faced by Americans in order to keep Social Security payments and other government costs pegged to the index unduly low. (source here)

These experts not only question the CPI accuracy, they are also questioning the BLS’s unemployment numbers … and suggesting both are “understated” by the government.  The alternative numbers they offer for both statistics suggest the American economy is in deep (doo-doo).  I won’t get into the unemployment numbers today, but I totally agree the CPI numbers are completely wacky and don’t seem to reflect reality, even to the most imaginative mind.

So, what do ya’ll think?  Am I still a “tin-foil hat” nutjob?  And just what is this seasonal adjustment that can swing the gas prices from a 5.6% rise to a 2% decline??  How in the world can the BLS claim gas prices went DOWN?  And that food prices rose less than 1%?  This doesn’t reflect MY reality … does it reflect yours?

Spring Fever

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Yesterday I had a case of spring fever (sometimes called cabin fever).  Not the elevated temperature type, but the type inspired by a pretty day where you just can’t sit still!

The day started out sunny and clear and mild, as opposed to the normal for this time of year where it is  sunny and humid and hot.  So, I left the computer to do a few things that had been waiting for a nice day … like getting that limb out of the yard from the previous weekend’s storms and talking to one neighbor who is worried about being laid off his job while my other neighbor fired up his lawnmower and tamed the jungle my grass had become.

My neighbor facing possible layoffs has already had his hours cut, so I mentioned pizza delivery to him and explained how we drivers get paid along with some driving tips to increase his gas mileage.

Once my son got home from school, it was off shopping.  The teenager needed clothing, rather a costume for a school project, so it seemed to be a good time to start his $20 per month clothing budget.  I took him first to the Goodwill, then to Wal-Mart, where he also bought his groceries.

By the time we got out of Wal-Mart, the storm clouds had rolled in, and the storms started just as I was going to bed last night.  They are still here, all dark and grey and rumbly with thunder.  About the only good thing about the timing is I work tonight, and bad weather usually means above-average tips.

Hopefully this series of storms will be mild enough to not bring down any more branches and limbs.  I am beginning to wonder just how many the old tree in my yard has that can come down!  One extremely large one hit the house last fall, scaring hubby and me and tearing off part of the guttering.  Then the one the other weekend landed right on the cable co-ax, tearing it out from the side of the house.  Hubby was wondering over the weekend how much it would cost to have that tree taken down professionally, since it seems to be half-dead anyway.

I’ve heard having an older tree taken down professionally can run as much as a couple thousand dollars, especially one that is close to the house, so I think it may have to wait until we have enough saved for both my son’s tuition and my tuition.

Meanwhile, gas prices have jumped 9 cents a gallon in 24 hours.  I could kick myself for not filling up two days ago when I spotted $3.48 a gallon.  To be fair, we were driving hubby’s truck at that time, and it didn’t make sense to me to go get the Pizza Taxi just to fill it up.  Next time I will!

Have a happy Wednesday, folks.  The week is half over!

139th Carnival of Debt Reduction: Debtors Prison

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Welcome to the 139th Carnival of Debt Reduction, the Debtors’ Prison edition.  We may not have debtors’ prisons any more, but there is still Credit Hell!  According to wikipedia, a debtors’ prison was a prison for those who are unable to pay a debt.  The first category for today are the progress reports of those definitely not headed to debtors’ prisons:

“Prior to the mid 19th century debtors’ prisons were a common way to deal with unpaid debt.”  Sounds scary, doesn’t it?  Fortunately, we have better, non-incarceratory ways of dealing with debt today!

“In the United Kingdom, the Debtors Act of 1869 abolished imprisonment for debt, although debtors who had the means to pay their debt but did not do so, could still be incarcerated for up to six weeks.”  Student loan debt lasts much much longer…

“In 1833 the United States reduced the practice of imprisonment for debts at the federal level. Most states followed suit.”  The state versus federal dynamic in American government makes some interesting legal situations, which brings us to credit cards:

  • Christopher Johnson presents Getting A Handle On Your Credit Cards
  • Maria O’Brien presents Dealing with Credit Card Debt
  • Brice Hogan presents 3 Steps to a Lower Interest Rate
  • Ray presents Debt Reduction With Low Interest Balance Transfer Credit Cards
  • J. Savings presents Budgets are Sexy.: Credit Cards are cool

“The Province of Georgia in the colonial United States, was originally intended to be settled by debtors.”  I found this little tidbit quite amusing!

“Debtors’ prisons varied in the amount of freedom they allowed the debtor. With a little money, a debtor could pay for some freedoms; some allowed inmates to conduct business and receive visitors; others  even allowed inmates to live a short distance outside the prison–a practice known as the ‘Liberty of the Rules’”

Whew!  That’s a lot of quality entries this time around!  I do hope y’all enjoyed the fun with the debtors’ prison theme :) and be sure to read these great posts on reducing or eliminating debt.