With gas prices hovering around $4, and even higher in some parts of the Country, consumers are rightfully concerned about keeping their monthly gas budget in check.
People with long commutes or those who drive for a living are painfully aware of even the slightest uptick in prices. These high prices have to be killing some folks.
To be honest, it’s not been too big of a deal for me. I have an extremely short commute to work every day (either to the local library or to my desk across the bedroom). Mrs. PT does as well. She commutes down stairs.
The increase in prices is something I’ve noticed (due to the media), but not something I stay up at night worrying about. Except when we went on our trip to Destin, FL. Gas expenses were almost 50% of our costs. Crazy.
Regardless of what type of commute you have, Summer is usually a time when we all need to start paying attention to this stuff. So, if you’re in the same boat, pay attention to these simple steps to help you improve fuel economy:
1. Keep Tires Properly Inflated
This could cut your fuel cost by $65* every year. I’m assuming the flatter your tires, the more friction they create with the ground and the harder your car has to work to get going.
I mostly rely on the mechanics who change our oil to check the pressure, but more recently I’ve been checking them with the cheap little tire gauge that I have. I also recently bought a small air compressor, which I use to keep them properly inflated.
Here’s an informative post explaining how to care for your car tires.
2. Proper Motor Oil Grade
Do you know what type of oil your car uses? I couldn’t exactly spout it off from memory. Check your car’s manual to find out, because using the correct grade could cut your costs by $40 a year. Get your oil changed regularly.
3. Keep Your Car Tuned Up
Beyond tires and oil, you should strive to keep your car in good running order. This means keeping things like air filters, spark plugs, and belts and fluids in tip top shape. Before the heavy traveled summer months hit, take your car in for a tune up.
Investing $100 today could save you hundreds over the length of the summer. It certainly helps to have a trusted mechanic to rely on, but you don’t have to take it in to someone else.
Do a bit of research online and with your car’s manual to see if there are things you can do yourself.
Checking the oil and the air filter aren’t hard on most vehicles, and replacing filters is usually very easy. See if you can do it yourself.
4. Combine Your Trips and Walking
I’m bad about this. Some days I go out to work, drive home for a lunch I could have packed, and come home after work only to go right back out to run an errand.
If I’d only spend an extra 10 mins in the morning preparing a lunch and preparing for errands, not only would I save time, but I’d save gas. Those 10 mins seem like an eternity when I’m rushing out in the mornings though.
Walking is a different story. Here in the big, spread out metroplexes of Texas, you’d be crazy to try and walk or even ride a bike anywhere. Although, I’d like to be able to do this sometimes.
It’s just not feasible for me. These two changes though could cut your costs by $100 a year.
5. Shop More Online
These days you can buy just about anything you want online, and with the advent of the many free shipping sites, you can just about get everything you need without having to pay to have it shipped in. Some people even have their groceries delivered from an online service.
Not only does this save you a bit of fuel expense, it can possibly save you time running around.
6. Eliminate Speeding and Jackrabbit Stops and Starts
Slow down, dude! When I see people pass me up speeding only to be caught by the red light a few hundred yards away, I just have to laugh. We all get in a hurry sometimes, but it’s still funny to me to see people do this.
I’m certainly not immune to this type of driving, but I have mellowed out tremendously over the past few years. This is the big tip which could cut your costs by $260 a year. It might also save your life.
7. Don’t Idle for More Than a Minute
If you know you’ll be sitting idle in your car for a few minutes, turn it off. If there is a long line at the drive through, consider parking your car and walking in. Stuck at a train? Turn your car off.
Experts say it’s better to restart your car if you know you’ll be idle for more than a minute. One last tip, if you’ve been avoiding getting that zip pass for the tollway, consider the cost of idling to pay the toll at the booth.
8. Removed the Junk from Your Auto
Got some junk in the trunk? Clear it out and cut your costs by $40 a year for every 100lbs. We keep our cars pretty clear of stuff so we’re all good here. How about you?
9. Buy the Cheapest Gas
Duh! To keep fuel costs down, you should buy the cheapest fuel. But don’t let your efforts to get the cheapest send you all over town, wasting precious gas, to find the cheapest. Get smart about it.
Download the Gas Buddy app for your mobile device and you will quickly find the cheapest gas in your zip code. It can help you save as much as .10 per gallon just by going to the right gas station.
10. Consider Discounts and Cash Back
If you shop often at Kroger, like we do, consider becoming a loyalty member. Each time you buy $100 worth of groceries, you’ll qualify for .10 per gallon off your next gas purchase. Another way to save at the pump is to get cash back for using a gas rewards credit card or debit card.
Of course, as always, only use the credit card if you can pay off the balance in full each month. Interest on credit cards will defeat the purpose of using them for cash back rewards.
*Cost estimates based on a family that drives 12,500 miles in a year in a vehicle with a fuel economy of 20.1 miles per gallon.
Know any other ways to improve fuel economy? Leave ‘em in the comments below…
photo by SqueakyMarmot