Gas prices have gone up more than 10% in the last couple weeks, and projections are we’ll see well over $4.00 a gallon by later this spring. Some areas of the country may even see $5.00. So what do you do? Well, none of these tips will necessarily make the trip to the gas station less painful, but every little bit helps.
1. Drive less.
- Car pool – Do you have a friend nearby that works at the same place you do?
- Combine trips – Consider what trips you need to make this week. Can you combine some to drive fewer miles?
- Public transit – If you live in an area where there is a good public transportation system, consider taking advantage of it.
- Ride a bike or walk – If you have short trips to make you’ll not only save gas but get a little exercise in the process
2. Drive sensibly and maintain your vehicle.
- Slow down – according to fueleconomy.gov “You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.29 per gallon for gas.”
- Avoid jack rabbit starts – The more consistently you drive the less gas you will use.
- Cruise control – If you use have cruise control, use it when you can.
- Empty your trunk – Take extra weight out of your car where you can. Again according to fueleconomy.gov each 100 pounds of extra weight can reduce your fuel mileage by up to 2%.
- Check your tire pressure – Poorly inflated tires will also cause your gas mileage to go down.
- Avoid using your air conditioner if possible. But if it’s a choice between turning on the air or opening the windows, it is better to use your air conditioner. The drag created by open windows will decrease your fuel mileage more than using the air conditioner will in today’s cars.
3. Don’t buy high-octane gas unless your car requires it.
Check your car’s owner’s manual. If you owner’s manual doesn’t specifically recommend you use a higher octane gas, you’ll probably get very little value from doing so. Most of today’s vehicles are designed to run fine on lower octane gas.
Gasbuddy.com provides up-to-date gas prices in most areas of the country. I use this site frequently to plan where I may want to fill-up. Additionally, gasbuddy has a smartphone app that will work in conjunction with your phone’s GPS capabilities to list the cheapest gas near your current location.
5. Buy gas at your grocery store.
Many grocery stores now offer gas. If you have a rewards card with the store, many grocery chains offer discounts at the pump based on the amount of money you have spent on groceries. Additionally, some chains also offer discounts on your grocery bill based on how much gas you have purchased, so you can actually get some savings both ways. This one is a no brainer to me when I can save a little money buying things that I would normally have to buy anyway.
6. Warehouse clubs
Many warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club, Costco, and B. J.’s Wholesale now have gas stations and often offer discounted gas to those with a member card. The downside is you need to be a member and this generally costs $40-$50 a year. So you may or may not save enough to justify a membership on gas alone. But if you already have a membership, this is another good way to save.
7. Pay cash
It’s more of a hassle than pay at the pump, but some stations will give a discount for paying cash. Check around to see if there are any stations in your area that do this. Just be honest with yourself though. If you use this approach are you likely to walk out with a candy bar and a soft drink? If so you’ll probably be eating all your savings.
8. Keep track of your gas mileage
If your car is in need of a tune-up or having other mechanical issues, it may well impact your gas mileage. Obviously, you should follow the maintenance schedule that is recommended for your vehicle, but one way I monitor this is by tracking my gas mileage. This is very simple to do. If your vehicle has a trip odometer simply reset it to 0 each time you fill-up. Then to calculate your gas mileage all you need to do is check that mileage when you fill-up and divide it by the number of gallons that you put in your tank. For example, if I went 200 miles and I put 10 gallons in when I filled up, that means I got 20 miles per gallon. If that number starts to change significantly, then my vehicle may be in need of service.
9. Play the time of day roulette.
This last one is far more art than science. My observance is that gas prices usually change around mid-day. When gas prices are low I generally try to get gas in the morning. If you pay attention to the usual cycle in your area, you can generally get a feel for approximately when gas prices are likely to go up. On the flip side of this when gas prices have just gone up, I generally get gas in the evening, hoping that gas may go down that day.
Fluctuating gas prices can damage our budget. These tips may not eliminate the pain we feel at the pump, but they can at least lessen the damage a bit.