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The Suburbanite
  • Gary Brown: Gambling on gas prices? A losing bet

  • Predicting the price of gasoline is like trying to forecast what the weather is going to be like the next day, without the help of Doppler weather radar.

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  • Forget about investing in stocks. If you want risk, buy gasoline. The financial ride is far more exciting.
    Stocks go up and stocks go down, most often gradually. You’re in it for the long-term and your broker can help you keep track of your portfolio. But, the price of gasoline seems to rise and fall like a roller coaster. And you’re all on your own deciding when to fill up your motorized amusement park.
    Predicting the price of gasoline is like trying to forecast what the weather is going to be like the next day, without the help of Doppler weather radar. No “gaseorologist” comes on television or radio during the nightly news and says, “Gasoline will be partly pricey in the morning, turning less costly in the evening, and becoming mostly affordable for the rest of the week.”
    MATTER OF CHOICES
    I never know when to buy gasoline. Driving past stations in the morning, I can see that the price of gas is lower than the price the night before. But, is it at its lowest price? I’d hate to buy gasoline at $3.79.9 at the break of day if I can get it for $3.73.9 at noon, or maybe even $3.71.9 in the evening.
    It doesn’t make sense to buy before the price bottoms out for the day. It doesn’t make cents, either.
    Still, do I dare ride on fumes all afternoon hoping to save my two cents worth? If I coast into a gas station at dusk and put 15 gallons into the tank, I’m only keeping 30 extra pennies in my pocket.
    How low the price will go before it begins to bounce back up is almost always a guess.
    I remember once when I had the price of gas at $3.61.9 but I got greedy. I thought I could let my savings grow. But, the more I waited to buy gas — the larger the return on my investment that I sought — the more gasoline I eventually had to buy at the whim of the gas pricers. As I recall, someone smiled and put his thumb up, then suddenly I’m buying almost a whole tank of gas at $3.85.9.
    You can always tell a driver who has just barely missed out on cashing in at a low price. He’s the one walking away from the cash register counter mumbling, “I had the money in my wallet ...”
    GAMBLING ON GAS
    I suppose that buying gasoline these days is less investing and more gambling. You’ve got to know when to cash in your winnings. Every time you pass a station you’re letting it ride.
    Gas pumps are starting to look like slot machines to me. Instead of attempting to match up three pieces of fruit on the front of the machine we’re all trying to find any price that looks like a winner to us — regular, regular plus or premium.
    Page 2 of 2 - I confess I have become addicted to betting on my gas prices. As is the way with gamblers, I have a system. If gas gets to $3.71.9 or $3.80.9, I don’t buy, believing the price will be brought down to an enticing $3.69.9 before it launches skyward again.
    I think, too, that I know which days gas prices increase or decrease, which I would tell you if my betting and buying methods really worked. But, when I am honest with myself, I realize they don’t.
    Gasoline is a volatile commodity, and retail prices for it fluctuate — far more it seems than such commodities as peas, green beans, and carrots.
    We should probably just pay for our gas, keep quiet about it and be thankful that we don’t have to use veggies as betting chips in some grocery store’s Frozen Foods and Casino section.