Pain at the Pump?

Why do gas prices increase, and what can we do about it?

According to MEMA, Americans drive about 3 trillion miles a year – that’s about 820 trips from the sun to Pluto and back. As a society, we consume 178 million gallons of gasoline per day (doe.gov). And just when we get some time off to do some things, the price at the pump goes up. Why? The short answer is, supply and demand. Typically, demand spikes around this time, as we go on vacation and have long holiday weekends. When demand goes up, so do prices. Add to the price increase more expensive summer-grade fuels, and the prices climb higher yet. In the spring, oil refineries perform maintenance, which lowers production, making the supply smaller. People want more gas right when there is less of it, and it is more expensive to produce. Taxes in different states, where the station is located in relation to a refinery, and local competition can all impact the bottom line.

So that’s the why. What can we do to keep our budget in check when gas prices rise?

  • Check your car’s air filter – almost 1 in 4 cars could use a new one, and increase fuel economy by up to 10%.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Add another 2.8%.
  • Slow down! (I’m sure this works but I have a hard time doing it, especially in my convertible in the summer…) You can save a few dimes per gallon for every 5mph in speed reduction.
  • Keep the junk out of your trunk – heavier vehicles consume more gas.
  • Get your exercise as well as be more environmentally friendly and bike or walk when appropriate.
  • Take advantage of free shipping instead of driving to the store. Great sites like safetygirl.com offer free shipping when you purchase $50 or more.

Holiday Health Tips

Staying healthy during the holiday season is one priority that often gets pushed to the back burner. But being sick on the holidays is certainly a bummer. Stay healthy this holiday season with these tips from Safety Girl.

  1. Wash your hands frequently. Washing your hands is one of the best ways to stay healthy because so many germs are spread through touch. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, rinse your hands, and dry them with a clean paper towel. Carry antibacterial hand sanitizer in your purse and in your car for the times when you can’t access a sink. Make sure your children wash their hands frequently, too.
  2. Dress for cold weather. Staying warm when the weather is cold will prevent your immune system from being compromised and will help prevent illness. If you’re going to be exposed to the cold weather, dress in layers of lightweight, warm clothing, such as long underwear and fleece clothing. Don’t forget appropriate footwear, such as snow boots, a warm coat, hat, gloves and a scarf. If you have children, make sure to send them to school with warm clothing if they will be waiting outside for the bus and/or playing outside at recess.
  3. Drink responsibly. If you’re going to a holiday party, make sure that you have appointed a designated driver. If you go to a party alone, choose not to drink, or make arrangements to take a taxi home if you do. If you’re hosting a party, collect your guests’ keys when they arrive and don’t let anyone drive home after drinking.
  4. Don’t forget about food safety. Make sure to keep raw meats separate from all other foods and be sure to cook all food thoroughly. When serving food, always have plenty of serving utensils and don’t leave any foods out for more than two or three hours. Be sure to clean up immediately after a holiday party to prevent germs from developing.

Holiday Home Safety Tips

The holidays are a time for celebrating and enjoying the company of family and friends, but they are also a time of increased crime, notably theft, burglaries, and break-ins. Keep your home safe for the holidays this year with these simple tips.

  1. Lock your doors. Locking your doors even when you are home is one of the easiest ways to prevent holiday crime. Be sure to lock all windows and doors when you leave your house, too, even if you’re only leaving for a few minutes.
  2. Install an alarm system and activate it whenever you leave your home. If an alarm system isn’t in your budget, consider a Home Defense Pepper Spray from Safety Girl’s website.
  3. If you’re leaving the house for an extended period of time, arrange for a neighbor or friend to check on your house, take in your newspaper and mail, and shovel your driveway.
  4. Install light timers near windows to give the appearance that someone is home. Consider keeping your TV on a time when you’re away as well.
  5. Keep valuables, such as electronics and gift displays out of sight, especially if you’re leaving town. Be sure to dispose of or store boxes from gifts, as well.
  6. Install motion-sensing lights around your house. Crimes are less likely to occur in well-lit areas, so keeping lights around your house–especially those that turn on in response to movement–will deter criminals from breaking in.
  7. Create an inventory of your valuables, including the make, model and serial numbers, and have photographs of them, too. Valuable should include electronics and jewelry. Keep the inventory in a safe place, preferably out of your house.

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

The holiday season is in full swing, and with the holiday season comes holiday shopping. With busy holiday shopping, many people become careless or more vulnerable, and consequently, crimes such as thefts, burglaries, break-ins and muggings increase this time of year. Safety Girl wants you to stay protected by following these simple holiday shopping tips:

  1. Staying alert is one of the most powerful actions you can take to preventing yourself from becoming a victim to holiday shopping crime. Pay attention to your surroundings in and around your car and all around you while your shopping. If you see something suspicious, report it immediately to the shopping center’s security or to the police.
  2. Stay safe in and around your car by parking in a well-lit area. Check behind and around the passenger side of your car before you enter your car. Have your keys in hand when approaching your car so you’re not sifting through your purse to find them. Keys also make a powerful impromptu self-defense tool.
  3. Protect your car from a break-in by making it unattractive to criminals. Don’t leave anything in your car, if possible. If you must, store valuables in the glove compartment or console, and store any shopping purchases in your trunk.
  4. Shop during daylight, if possible, and take a friend or family member along with you. Individuals are much more vulnerable to criminal activity than groups of people.
  5. Keep your belongings safe by carrying them in a purse with a strap that fits across your body so that your bag is under your arm. Make sure that your purse has a secure–preferably zipper top–so criminals cannot reach into your bag. Store your wallet in an inner purse pocket.
  6. Keep your money safe by carrying as little cash as possible. Try to carry only one or two credit cards, as well, and pay for most of your purchases on those cards. Thinning out your wallet will make it less attractive to criminals and will also lessen your loss in the event that your wallet is stolen.

Beat Belly Fat This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving CupcakesWith the holiday season coming up, you may find yourself feeling a little bit heavier (or maybe a lot!) than earlier this year. For most of us, this weight gain goes to our hips, thighs, butt, breasts, and—perhaps most of all—our bellies. The bad news about belly fat is that it’s especially dangerous: it is associated with higher rates of heart disease, diabetes type II, high cholesterol, and other chronic health problems. The good news, however, is that belly fat is usually the first fat to burn off when you start losing weight.

The best way to beat belly fat is the hard way: diet and exercise.

Dieting can be tough during the holidays. Do your best to keep your eating in moderation: avoid eating too many sugary or salty foods, which are known contributors to fat around the belly area. Focus your attention on eating foods that make you feel good, both before and after eating. Try to structure some healthy meals complete with complex carbohydrates, colorful fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. If you absolutely need to eat sweets or salty foods, see how much self-control you can exercise by only eating a sliver of cake, two bites of a cookies, or a few chips and absolutely no more.

Make a commitment to do some moderately vigorous cardio training. Although moderate exercise (think brisk walking and biking) has long been the prescription for weight loss, more recent studies have shown that vigorous exercise may be better for weight loss. If you have a gym membership, hit the cardio room: cycle it up on the elliptical machine, do some high-intensity intervals on the treadmill, or take a spinning class. If you can’t get to a gym, try to get outside to jog or take a brisk walk with jogging or power walking intervals if it’s not icy.

Vary your workouts in front of your home television. With the weather getting colder, try having fun with kickboxing, dancing, and weight training DVDs. For a calmer workout, try yoga or pilates. These DVDs are often short—some are only 15-20 minutes—help you break a sweat, and allow you to have fun learning a new routine.

Finally, remember to relax! The holidays can be stressful, so be sure to take care of yourself by eating right, working out, and sleeping well. Your body will thank you come January when all your friends are hitting the gym with those ambitious New Year’s weight loss goals.