Saving Money at the Gas Pump

Tips for cutting driving costs

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As gas prices soar, many families are struggling to fill their gas tanks. If you too are looking for ways to keep your travel expenses down, be sure to read our money-saving tips.

Today’s gas prices are reaching historic highs—higher than many families can afford. Consumers all over the country are wondering, “How do I manage to keep these gas prices from getting the best of me?” If you use a car, check out these tips to help you get the most miles out of your buck when gassing up.

Use the Recommended Grade Gas for Your Car

While most cars these days recommend regular grade fuel, some recommend a higher grade. Either way, it is best to use the recommended grade for your car (but not higher) so your car will perform at its best. To find out the grade recommended for your car, look in the owner’s manual. Also when gassing up, do not top off past the automatic shut-off, as this may lead to spills that waste gas.

Keep Your Car Properly Maintained

Keeping your car in tip-top shape will help keep your fuel economy up. In particular, keeping your tire pressure at the highest recommended levels will increase your mileage per gallon by decreasing road friction. Tire pressure is something you can easily monitor and adjust yourself with a simple air pressure gauge and air refills at your local gas station.

Another way to increase your mileage is to check and change your air filter as needed. According to Edmunds.com, you should change your filter every 12,000 miles. A clean air filter will reduce the strain on the engine, and increase your fuel economy.

Lastly, make sure your car is free of clutter inside, the extra weight will increase the total weight of your car and decrease your gas mileage. Unless you use it regularly and often, remove the roof-rack from your car. It increases wind resistance and drag.

Carpool When Possible

Look for families in your neighborhood with children who attend your school and start a carpool. This can be a good way to save gas and develop great family and friend networks. Also, check with your coworkers to see if you can set up a carpool to and from work. You may be surprised to learn how many coworkers are also your neighbors!

If you work in an office setting, talk with your manager or an HR representative about offering staff the possibility of working from home one day a week. It’s a no-cost benefit a company can offer which most workers appreciate—especially when the price of gas is high!

Get a Gas Rebate Credit Card

A gas card is a great way to monitor how much you spend on gas and take advantage of gas rebates. There are many cards out there to choose from: Most gas stations offer their own, and major credit cards also offer gas rewards if you don’t want to be limited to a specific gas company. Do your homework before choosing which card is right for you. Some cards offer cash back, while others offer discounts or money toward future purchases. Also, read the fine print as some cards have maximum amounts that can be saved, while others have no limits.

Adjust Your Budget

Your monthly budget may need an adjustment to counter-balance increased gas prices. Check to see how much you have been spending for gas for the last three months. If you are going over what you budgeted for gas, try to find other places in your budget where you can cut back. Maybe instead of going out to dinner twice a week, cut back to just once a week. Or instead of going to the movies, rent a movie and make popcorn at home. Look for any spending areas that can help you reduce your overall expenses.

Plan Your Driving Trips

This is not just for long distances. Sometimes when running errands we drive extra, unnecessary miles. Short trips on a cold engine use gas less efficiently than long steady drives, so plan out your errands and try to consolidate your shorter-distance driving needs into just one or two trips.

For family vacations, do your homework and get directions for the most direct route. Or how about taking a vacation closer by, visiting kid-friendly venues your children will enjoy? If you do go for a long drive, use cruise-control when possible. It prevents you from unknowingly speeding, and keeps the car operating at a consistent pace.

Watch Gas Prices

There are websites that list where gas prices are the cheapest in your area. Of course, it is not wise to travel 20 extra miles to get gas one cent per gallon cheaper. Use your best judgment. (Some helpful sites for finding good gas prices are AAA, Gasbuddy, and Gaspricewatch.)

Walk or Bike When Possible

If you can, choose walking or biking instead of driving. Leave your car in your garage, and grab a stroller or your bike to visit the post office or grocery store. It is a great way to get some exercise, spend time alone with your child, and save extra money, too!

Don’t forget public transportation! While bus, subway, or train fares may sometimes seem steep, don’t forget that driving your car involves more than the price of gas: There’s wear and tear, parking fees and worries, risk of accident, and not least, the environmental impact.

Modify Your Driving Style

This has the promise for being the most rewarding in terms of gas savings, but may be the hardest to implement. Driving more slowly, less aggressively, and more mindfully will significantly improve your miles per gallon. This is true generally but is magnified at highway speeds.

The government website Fueleconomy.gov says that each five miles per hour you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.30 per gallon for gas. Tom and Ray Magliozzi (a.k.a. Click and Clack, or The Car Guys) of the radio program Car Talk say, “Slow down. You’ll be a safer, more relaxed driver, and you’ll increase your fuel efficiency. And, believe it or not, due to an unexplained Einsteinian time warp, you’ll also get to your destination in about the same time.”

Rapid acceleration and sudden braking are big eaters of gas. Don’t zoom up to the stop sign, screech to a halt, then peel out on your way to story time at the library. It’s just not worth it. We’ll forgive your driver if you’re in labor and on the way to the hospital, however.

If your car is going to be stopped for more than a minute, turn it off. When you are idling you are getting zero miles per gallon.

If you drive a vehicle with a manual transmission (i.e., stick shift), shift into higher gear as soon as is reasonable. When running in the lower end of a gear, the engine turns more slowly and saves fuel.

Finally (and feel free to share this with your spouse), don’t be too proud to stop and ask for directions. It’s a lot cheaper than burning gas driving around lost.

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