Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Did You Fill Up on Gas Today? (And Other Ways to Save at the Pump)

As I watch the price of gas go up each week by 3-7 cents a gallon, I'm starting to get memories of last summer and the nearly $4/gallon (here in Seattle anyway) fill-ups. Granted, it's not that bad again...yet. But just like last summer, I will do my best to be a conservative driver for both spending purposes and environmental impact. Here are some helpful suggestions to ease your pain at the pump:

*Fill up on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays. Gas stations typically raise their prices Friday-Monday (before and after the weekend), so your best bet to save a couple of cents a gallon would be to fill up midweek.

*Check for the cheapest prices near you. It makes zero sense to drive to a station charging $2.76 a gallon when it's 15 miles away when a station a mile away is charging $2.81. 30 miles round-trip to save a maximum of $1.25...and excuse me for not showing my work, but I'm guessing that you're probably not saving time or money. In fact, you're probably wasting both.

*Plan ahead and consolidate your trips. Don't go grocery shopping one day, go to the pharmacy the next, go to the dry cleaners the next, and so forth. Most Americans' trips for errands are less than 3 miles (read: walking distance). Although it's probably not ideal for most of us to talk to and from the grocery store with full bags of groceries, you can definitely do a single errand trip, saving you time and giving your car a rest.

*Take the junk out of your trunk. I was driving around with boxes for work, rainboots, blankets...probably an extra 10-15 pounds of stuff I didn't need. For every 250 pounds in your car, you lose about 1 mile per gallon of fuel efficiency.

*Drive safer. I have a lead foot, so this is not easy for me to say, but if you drive at 55 mph instead of 65, you can increase your fuel efficiency by 2 miles per gallon. And if you're a fast starter or slam on your brakes, that's not good for fuel economy either. It makes your engine work harder, which in turn, burns up more gas. Plus, your parents will thank you.

*When possible, carpool, walk, bike, or use mass transit. When I'm going to spend time in downtown Seattle, I almost prefer to take the bus. It's cheaper than parking and I don't have to sit in traffic. Challenge your coworkers for a month to see who uses their car the least and have a prize at the end of the competition. My office participated in a "One Less Car Challenge" and it encouraged everyone to telecommute, take mass transit, carpool, etc. We made a big chart and people could sign up and put stars next to their name for every day they did not use a car. At the end of the month, we had a party for everyone who had at least 1 star next to their name. I know - gold stars...a little elementary school. But it totally worked!

*Keep your car in good shape. Make sure your tires are inflated at the right pressure, change your oil regularly...these things all add up to a more fuel efficient car.

I think I covered a lot of the basics, but I'd love to hear about any other tips or strategies from you all - what have you done to save money on gas?

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