Q: How do you save money on gas? Deana, St. Paul, MN
A: Gas prices are dipping back down finally, but it's still so high that filling the tank of even my small car makes me cringe. Because gas is one of my big monthly budget items, I make sure I implement strategies for cutting back as much as possible. Here's what I do, friend.
1. We're a one car family.
First and foremost, being a one car family is our biggest money saving strategy here. One car means we fill one tank. I wrote all about the hows and whys of being a one car family here
2. Plan, plan, plan! I live 17 miles to the nearest grocery store and 18 miles from my public library. If I have an appointment, a meeting, an anything, I plan as much as possible around it or I try to schedule it for when I will already be in town.
3. Set a monthly gas budget and stick to it. Most folks think they simply have to spend an unlimited amount of their money on gas. It's as if they have no control over how much it takes to get them where they want to go. Setting a budget forces you to plan and to conserve.
4. Live close to work if you can. We used to live in town and every day, my husband made the 36 mile round trip to work. On days I needed the car, we doubled that. It just didn't make any sense. We moved farther out into the county, much closer to his job. I go into town once a week, so I cut those weekly trips back from five to one.
5. Don't drive a gas guzzler. Families driving Hummers and SUVs make me giggle, but I'm judgey like that sometimes, y'all. When it came time to sell one of our vehicles, we went with my mini van and kept the compact. Even though our family of five would have more room in a mini van, the point of the exercise is saving money. Why keep the less fuel efficient vehicle? We all fit in the smaller car, so we kept that and every time I have to fill the tank, I'm glad we did.
Back in March, 2011, I wrote this frugal tip about cutting back at the tank for a local newspaper. I thought it would be helpful to repost it here!
Combine errands/trips. This is a priority in my house. We combine all of our weekly errands into one long errand day. We drive fewer miles and use less fuel than we would by taking several trips throughout the week. Think about ways you can make fewer trips in your car.
Cut down on that junk in the trunk. Carrying around an extra 100 pounds in your trunk will cut the typical car’s fuel by up to 2%. That’s costing you almost $50 a year, so empty the trunk whenever you think about it. Even an extra 10 pounds less will help you save.
Slow down! Driving over 60mph decreases your gas mileage. For every 5 miles over 60 you drive, you pay an additional 24 cents a gallon for fuel. That’s enough to make me slow down.
Idle engines are the devil’s playground. You get 0 miles per gallon when your car is idling. Cars with bigger engines waste even more gas while idling.
Carpooling isn’t just for city folks. People who carpool just twice a week with one other person could save up to $300 a year. Ask around and see who lives near you or who drives by your house on the way to work. You’d be surprised who is willing to join forces to save money!
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