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Gas Money: How old is too old?

April 29, 2010

We have unwritten age limits for a lot of things. Twin beds, boxed wine, and naps are a few that come to mind.

But I never thought you could be too old to offer gas money—until my friend Liz laughed at me.

We’d planned a short road trip from northwest Indiana to visit friends in Indianapolis—about 360 miles round-trip.

“I’ll pay for half the gas,” I said.

Liz waved a dismissive hand at me.

“What? Do you want me to pay more?” I asked. “Yeah, that’s probably fair, since it’s wear and mileage on your car.”

“No!” Liz said, laughing. “You don’t have to give me gas money. I think we’re past that stage in life.”

Pitching in for gas is a life stage? How come nobody told me?

Liz’s stance makes sense, I suppose. Generally, with increased years comes increased salaries and, therefore, decreased necessity for splitting every restaurant bill and writing an IOU for every beer spot. With more financial stability, we have the luxury of treating our friends now and then and not concerning ourselves with every dollar that leaves our wallets.

Additionally, there is less of a have/have-not dynamic with cars now. When we were depending on parents or struggling with tuition payments, some people didn’t have cars. To reduce the burden on their friends who did have cars, the have-nots shelled out a buck here and there in exchange for rides. Now, the logic is that a ride received will be repaid with a ride given at a later date, because everyone has cars—almost everyone.

What if you can’t simply repay a ride by giving a ride in return?

Not only do we car-free folks not have the vehicular means to reciprocate the favor, but our transportation situation means that we’re also likely to be on the receiving end of the favor more frequently than other friends. If we’re not careful, we could wind up being greedy-seeming ride-moochers. Even if we don’t ask very often and always express sincere gratitude, our generous ride-giving friends could come to resent us for our transportation needs.

Of course, just because we don’t have cars doesn’t mean we can’t do our friend some other sort of favor. In fact, I plan to explore all the fun and interesting ways you might express gratitude and repay your chauffeur in a future post. But there are times when it seems like the best solution is to hand over some cash:

  • When the ride-giver is a not a close friend but an acquaintance whom you may never see again.
  • When the ride is an agreed-upon, recurring event.
  • When the ride will run up a significant bill in gas mileage, tolls, parking fees, etc.
  • When you’ve already reciprocated with one or more non-monetary favors, but you still feel indebted to your ride-giver.

If it’s a matter of feeling like a mooch or feeling like a teenager, I’ll take the latter.

We all yearn to be young again anyway, right?


3 Comments leave one →
  1. pawl permalink
    May 7, 2010 5:12 pm

    360 miles would constitute a chip-in in my book.
    When I am going with friends on a trip like that I’ll usually buy gas and they’ll pay for something like food. At the end of the trip we split the difference.
    I can see how throwing a couple bucks for a ride to the lake would be a thing of the past, but I usually expect some help with gas money when it’s more than single digit miles.
    Maybe I’m old fashioned.

  2. avaerewyck permalink
    May 8, 2010 9:11 am

    I think we’re old-fashioned in a good way – like trolleys, Chuck Taylors, and oatmeal.

  3. July 5, 2011 1:34 pm

    I suspect drivers are in part reluctant to accept money for rides because they’re underestimating the costs of driving, or considering only the marginal cost per mile… AAA estimates the cost at around $0.50/mile all in. I usually just try and make it clear that driving isn’t cheap, and that I’ll never be able to reciprocate the ride. If they still don’t want the contribution, well, at least I was honest! I’ll also sometimes offer to help get their bike back in shape… for all those single-digit-miles trips!

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