Tips for Saving Money at the Pump
It can't be news to anyone that gas prices recently hit an all-time high with an average price of over $5.00 per gallon. And while they have backed off a little bit in recent days, the pain being felt at the pump is very real and, for many, lifestyle-altering.
Just yesterday, I heard about someone who lives in one community but whose job is in another, requiring a commute of about 120 miles roundtrip. The cost of gas has made the trip so expensive, that along with the childcare costs required because her kids are out of school, she actually loses money every day she works and makes that trip. So, at least for the summer, she's unable to work except for what little bit she can do remotely, which isn't a lot. Fortunately, she has a very understanding employer.
The situation described above is not atypical. DailyPay, an on-demand pay provider, recently twitted out regarding the high price of gas, "In the latest Harris Poll, 81% of American #hourly #workers say soaring #gas prices are affecting their ability to cover other expenses." The pain is real, folks!
With that said, what are some practical things we can do to minimize the impact of high gas prices on our finances and reduce this pain at the pump? Read on friend.
- Avoid the temptation to "pre-start" (as I call it) your car. From a comfort standpoint, no doubt it's awesome to be able to start your engine before you are ready to drive off so that the A/C can get to work cooling it down in the summer or heating it up in the winter. Many vehicles nowadays have remote start capabilities that make this very easy to do, and we can fall into the habit of doing so without thinking. But pre-starting can use up lots of fuel over time, consuming valuable funds, so think before starting.
- Shut it down when parked. Like pre-starting, it's tempting from a comfort standpoint to leave the vehicle (and A/C) locked and running when you park and run into the store or some other location for a minute. Again, a lot of fuel gets burned that way, especially when that quick trip inside turns into something much lengthier, as it often does.
- Be careful how you pay. Oftentimes, gas stations will offer a discounted price if you pay with cash, sometimes as much as 15%. While plastic is convenient, paying with cash can produce big savings. At a minimum, try using a credit card that pays you extra cash back for fuel purchases. For instance, recently one of the cards I use offered a special 5% cash back on fuel purchases for a limited time.
- Loyalty programs. Likewise, many major gas station chains, big-box retailers, and grocery stores have enticing loyalty programs that can help reduce the pain at the pump. For instance, Walmart offers discounted prices per gallon if you're a member of its Walmart Plus program. Others, like Kroger, provide fuel points for making everyday purchases in their stores, which can be redeemed for fuel.
- Get the lowdown on gas prices near you. There are several handy smartphone apps that help you track prices at nearby gas stations. The one I use is called GasBuddy, but there are others. To encourage users to report gas prices and help keep them up-to-date, some even provide incentives such as free or discounted gas if you report enough prices over time.
- Be strategic in your driving habits. Can you carpool to work or school? How about sports practices or even games? Doing so can save everyone involved a ton by sharing the load. If you live in a location where ride-sharing is available, take advantage of that opportunity as well. Ride-sharing sites can be found online to help with this.
- Free delivery. I don't know about you, but one of the silver linings of the recent pandemic was the increased availability of free delivery when ordering any of the things that in the past we would have just hopped in the car and headed to the store to get. These services have largely stuck, and we find them not only highly convenient, but great savers of gas as well, not to mention time.
High gas prices likely are here for a while, and chances are we won't see the low prices of just a couple of years ago any time soon, if ever. The above tips when used judiciously can help you ride it out!