With gas prices at an all-time high, more and more people are looking for ways to reduce their fuel costs. Being a personal finance blogger, I thought I would join in on the advice band wagon and provide some simple ideas I use and have read about to save on gas as it soars past $4 nationally.
Driving less. The most basic way to spend less at the pump is to reduce the amount of driving you do. Simple and the most effective way to lower your gas bill. A number of families, including my own, have summer vacation plans that involve a lot of driving. Rather than cancel your vacation, look into traveling someplace interesting by train or bus instead. Or, even consider planning a vacation at home (a stay-cation as it is being called). If you live in a big city like I do there are a lot more interesting attractions and events going on this summer locally as people stay closer to home. Even if you don’t do anything, you can just relax at home for a few days and enjoy the time off without the stress of packing, unpacking, and traveling.
Look into public transportation for daily commuting. Taking a bus or train to work or school (university) could save you hundreds of dollars in gas costs a month. If you don’t have public transportation in your area, see if you can carpool with some co-workers. I do this, and apart from saving costs you can find out a lot about what is happening in the company through this form of informal networking.
Approach your errands strategically. If you have to drive to run errands, try grouping them together to reduce the distance you have to drive and the number of trips you have to make. This takes a bit forward planning, but can save quite a few dollars at the end of the month.
Walk or bike whenever you can. Walk to the closest mailbox instead of driving to the post office. Bike to a friend’s house or work instead of driving. Besides saving money, biking and walking are one of the most frugal ways to stay fit and healthy. I have also found it is a great to meet your new people in your area who you wouldn’t cross paths with if in your car.
Not everyone can avoid driving or change their driving habits due to work or family constraints. However, even if you are in your car you can improve your car’s gas mileage through better maintenance and smart driving habits. These include:
1. Keep your car properly maintained and tuned. A poorly tuned car can use more than 25 percent more gas. Pay special attention to oil changes and replacing your air filter. Both of these have a direct impact on fuel economy.
2. Check your tire pressure regularly. Properly inflated tires can increase fuel economy by 3 percent or more.
3. Don’t store heavy gear or items in the trunk. An extra 100 pounds can reduce fuel economy by more than 2 percent.
4. Avoid idling. Idling wastes fuel and pollutes the air. Don’t leave your car running when you pick up or drop off your child at school or for any other purpose, including going through a fast-food drive-through. You’re better off parking your car and walking into the restaurant.
5. Drive conservatively. Don’t drive too fast. It takes 20 to 30 percent more gas to drive at 70 mph than 50 mph.
6. Don’t use your air conditioner in stop-and-go traffic. Air conditioning sucks up gas, so simply roll down the windows whenever you can. However, on the highway open windows can increase air resistance, which can increase gas use, so it’s OK to use the AC when you’re traveling at high speeds.
7. Look for the cheapest gas. You don’t have to drive around looking for cheap gas. Sites like GasBuddy can help you locate the least expensive stations in your community. Also, avoid using your credit card at stations that charge extra for credit card transactions. You may be able to save some money by paying with cash.
And finally, remember that although these tips may seem like small changes, they can really add up when gas costs $4 plus a gallon. Feel free to leave a comment if you know of any more fuel saving tips.