Since we don’t pay separately for the gas for each time we drive the car, it’s easy to keep ourselves blind to the actual cost of these trips. Since all our trips run together in our mind, when it’s time to fill up we can’t usually name any one trip as the culprit that drained the gas tank. We may wish we didn’t have to fill up, but what can be done? We can’t stop driving the car. And so, if we go over our gas budget but there’s still a week left in the month, unless we suddenly decide to stay home from work, school, or church, we’re pretty much forced to spend more than we planned. Gas seems like one of those expenses that we just have to suck up and pay, no matter the price.
While we don’t have much control over the gas price (besides choosing one station over another), there are lots of ways we can save money on gas by using less of it. Just as important as saving money on gas is making sure that savings goes somewhere productive instead of getting lost in our checking account. Don’t forget, every time you spend on gas, you are also incurring real expenses in vehicle maintenance and time.
Here are a few great ways to save money on gas and how to take advantage of low gas prices.
After our discussion about getting organized, you are probably already thinking about ways you can combine trips to save time and sanity. The nice side effect is that it saves you a lot of money in gas! Combining trips can mean two things. First, when you know you’ll be going out, try to schedule other errands at the same time. Try to plan your trips to be geographically efficient. Hopefully you’ll prevent driving back and forth across town. Second, combining trips means that instead of making three Target trips this week to pick up a few things each time, you’ll keep a list of what you need so you can get it all in one trip!
If you know someone else is headed the same direction, offer them a ride. Chances are you’ll be on the receiving end the next time. Not only will you save gas, prevent wear and tear on your vehicle, be more environmentally friendly, and get to use the carpool lane, you’ll also have good company!
A note of caution: I heard from my sister that one of her friends’ husbands has been commuting 45 minutes with a female co-worker to save on gas. Sadly, that time together has led to an affair and a divorce. No amount of money saved on gas (or anything else) is worth jeopardizing your marriage! Be smart about who you ride with and don’t put yourself in a compromising situation.
Take a Better Mileage Vehicle
If you have more than one car, be conscious of which car gets better gas mileage and use it whenever possible. We have a car and a van. The car gets 10 mpg more than the van, so whenever we go out as a family, we take the car (well, until April when we won’t all fit in the car anymore!). I calculated our annual savings to be $145 just for taking the car instead of the van to church on Sundays.
Consider the Cost of Each Trip
Have you calculated how much a trip to the store costs you in gas? Consider that amount when you decide whether the trip is worth it or not. For example, if I know that a trip to Walgreens costs me $4 in gas, then it’s easy to realize that making a trip there just so I can use my $2 off coupon to get a free item isn’t worth it.
I don’t like paying for shipping when I buy things online, but knowing that it costs me $9 for a round trip to Target (yes, we live in the boonies) makes shipping costs sound a lot more reasonable. Plus, with Amazon Prime, I don’t even have to worry about shipping costs (or standing in line, wrestling my kids, impulse buys, or being in the the car for 2 hours).
I know people who will drive an hour from home in their truck to pick up random “free” stuff that someone is giving away. While they sometimes happen on worthwhile things they can use, more often than not the stuff just becomes clutter (or requires another trip in the truck to take it to the dump or thrift store). Their mentality is, “Hey, it was free!” They don’t seem to take into account that 2 hours on the road in an old pickup costs them $25 in fuel, plus wear and tear on the vehicle, making the load of stuff no longer “free.”
Walk or Ride Instead
For those of you who don’t live in the boonies, some of the places you frequent are probably within walking or biking distance. When I was in college, I didn’t have a car, but I didn’t let that deter me from getting where I wanted to go. I can also be a nice change of pace and a good excuse for some exercise!
Just Stay Home
As often as possible, try to stay home instead of driving around. This is a surefire way to save money on gas,but you might have to say no to some things or cut out some activities. You’ll also find more time to cook from scratch, work from home, clean your house, play with your kids, and maybe even take a nap.
Taking Advantage of Low Gas Prices
I am really excited to see gas prices going down. Our local gas station is down to $2.25 now and I’m sure many of you have prices under $2/gallon. We are taking a family road trip soon for my niece’s 8th birthday and baptism, so we’ll be taking full advantage of these low prices.
When prices on food or other home goods hit rock bottom, it triggers our stocking up instincts. If you time things right and stock up on food when prices are low, you’ll never have to pay full price. It’s not so easy to stock up on low-price gas, but you can still cash in on the savings at the pump and have it make a big difference in your budget. If you don’t budget, your gas savings will be lost in the shuffle. You probably won’t notice the difference in your account balance because it’s too easy to just spend the difference.
The way we have found to make sure our gas savings aren’t lost is tied to how we budget down to zero each month, then use the excess in each category to go toward our financial goals (namely, getting out of debt). The savings from cheaper gas prices doesn’t just disappear into space, we notice it and we harness it because of the way we budget!
Resolve to reduce your gas usage in some way and aim the savings toward your financial goal!
- How do you save money on gas?
- Have you ever considered the actual cost of a regular trip that you make?
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