Ok, I’ve gotten off track from my close examination of my family budget. In Part 1, I went over monthly fixed expenses. I’m glad to say I cut $6/month in fixed expenses already. Now I’d like to move on to variable expenses. First, gas. Although prices are dropping right now, they still represent a significant part of most people’s budgets. In April, we spent $117 on gas for two cars (and we were gone for a week). We currently just go to the Shell station near our place and get regular gas when we need it. Is it really worth the extra effort to do anything else?
My main tool to save money on gas: I use my Citi Platinum Select MasterCard. It gives me 5% cash back on all gas purchases, which ends up being about 13 cents a gallon. For me, that’s about $100 a year savings on gas!
Other than that, I gathered the usual tips for saving money on gas, let’s see if they help:
1) Buy cheaper gas. Websites like GasBuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com list gas prices of local gas stations, so you can find the cheapest place. For some reason, Arco is just always dirt cheap where I live. I don’t get it. But I still don’t use Arco, as they charge extra for credit cards, which negates their price advantage. I am also soooo waiting for my local Costco to get gas. That would be sweet.
One thing is for sure: Don’t buy premium gas unless your car’s manual says you need it. This has to be one of the best ad campaigns ever, calling hi-octane gas “premium”.
2) Drive differently. Simple stuff really. The more you drive, the more gas you burn. The higher RPM your engine revs, the more gas it burns. Drive less, and watch that tachometer. I already minimize my driving and have no NASCAR delusions like others, so not much savings to be had here.
3) Improve your gas mileage by optimizing your car.
- Make sure your engine is tuned properly according to your car manual. If it’s spurting out crap, check it? I just passed my smog test too, so I’m happy.
- Check & replace air filters. Mental note to check on this. I don’t think I’ve done this in a while for my older car. Supposedly this can improve mileage by up to 10%!
- Keep tires properly inflated. Mental note to check on this too. Hint: Even if the place charges 25 cents for “Air”, fill up first, and then ask the guy in the booth. Every time I’ve asked they’ve turned it on for free.
- Remove excess weight. Pretty obvious. My trunk is pretty empty, but seriously some of my friends need to clean out the New Kids on the Block cassetts from their trunks…
Of course I’ve left out a bunch, like buying fuel-efficient cars, carpooling, etc. For a good resource, check out http://www.fueleconomy.gov/ and run through the items yourself. For me, I think checking my air filter and tire pressure is a cost-effective idea. Otherwise, I’m not sure I can do that much more to save money on gas.