Gas Goes Up
Gas prices just went up again, and I've never seen them so high. We drive a Kia Forte sedan. It's not a big car and it doesn't have a huge gas tank, but we spent $44 to fill up. Just a few weeks ago we would have spent about $35.
Some of you are still reeling from financial setbacks due to the pandemic, and the last thing you need is to spend another $10 or $15 on fuel every week (or even more). You might have to take that extra money out of your food budget, or go an extra week or two between haircuts, or cancel a streaming service or other subscription in order to find the funds.
I know that complaining about gas prices is petty, and it just shows how safe and entitled I am. There's a war happening, and people are being forced to flee their country, and others are being injured and dying every day. My problems are miniscule.
They are miniscule, but I still need to deal with them and so do you. So let's not complain – let's take action.
12 Ways to Save on Gas
(without replacing your car with an electric vehicle)
1. Take public transportation if you can.
Ride the bus or a train if possible. It's less convenient and it might take longer, but you can use that time to read, work, listen to a podcast or audio book, or simply close your eyes and relax (after all, you don't need to deal with the traffic).
Do you remember the marvelously clear skies of March and April 2020, when everyone was staying home all the time? That huge reduction in smog was a direct result of burning less gas and diesel. Fewer greenhouse gases and budget relief – that's a win win! If you can work from home even one day per week, you'll save 20% on your gas bill.
3. Walk or ride a bike.
It's the really short trips that guzzle the most fuel per mile. I realize that getting milk or Cheerios from the corner store is way more expensive than the regular grocery, so I wouldn't suggest you make it a habit. But why not walk or ride with the kids to school (or let them go on their own)? When I was a child I walked every day – rain, fog, or sunshine (but never two miles in the snow uphill both ways, lol). That seems much rarer today. I get my hair cut at a salon about three blocks from my house. I don't usually walk, but I probably should. Depending on where you live and your level of physical mobility, there might be plenty of trips you now make with your car that could be done on foot or a bicycle. Think about all of the health benefits too.
If you must drive, figure out if it's possible to share a ride. Maybe a colleague lives within a few miles of your house and would like to save 50% of her commuting cost by going together. Your child might be on the same sports team as a neighbor, and you could take turns driving to practices and games. This takes some organization, but you could both save money and time.
5. Shop weekly.
I admit I've thought nothing of driving to the grocery store just for milk and Cheerios. With better planning I could eliminate most (if not all) of the short trips for just a few items in favor of a weekly trip for everything I need. It would be worth taking time to plan meals so I can make a comprehensive list. I'm not the most dedicated cook, but I could limit variety in favor of ease.
6. Plan your route.
I save several errands for one day, and plan a circular route that avoids backtracking and places each destination on the way to the next. Dentist, post office, library, Target, home. Or craft store, pharmacy, grocery store, Starbucks drive-thru, home. According to Fueleconomy.gov, several short trips on different days, each one taken from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as one trip with several stops when the engine is warm. And since the entire route is as short and efficient as possible, I'm saving time too.
7. Shop locally.
I used to drive 35 miles to a Barnes & Noble bookstore just because I felt like it. I've driven even further to go to restaurants my husband and I like. Well, we need to be content with the restaurants in our own town, and since I'm only buying e-books right now anyway I might as well stay away from the bookstore too. Shopping and eating locally means we can save gas while supporting the small local businesses that need our help to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
8. Choose a car-free day.
Challenge yourself to have one day every week when the car stays in the garage. Walk, ride a bike or a scooter, or (horrors!) stay home. You could have a day of rest and relaxation in your home or backyard, and make it a vehicle Sabbath too.
9. Become a one-car family.
We were always a one-car family. When I went back to work part-time and my high school-aged kids were involved in various activities, it took a lot of organization. My husband often rode his bicycle to school (it's not quite five miles from our home) so we could make it work. This strategy may not always save much gas, but it sure saves the cost of buying, insuring, licensing, and maintaining a second car. That more than makes up for the price of gas.
10. Embrace online shopping.
Personally, I'm not a fan. I like seeing items in person and trying on clothes or shoes before making a purchase. And shipping prices are going to go up as gas prices rise. But if the jeans that fit me are only sold in a store that's 40 miles from my house (they are), it might make sense to purchase online. That said – let's remember that excessive and unneeded purchases waste incredible amounts of all kinds of resources. Let's not just worry about wasting gas, okay? Shop for what you need and then stop.
11. Do proper maintenance.
Did you know that regularly changing your car's air filter can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 10%? Change the filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles – more often if you drive on dirt roads or live in California (because: fire season). Keep your tires properly inflated and have the oil changed regularly to get another 2%-4% efficiency boost.
12. Don't speed.
The faster you drive, the more wind resistance you encounter, which reduces miles per gallon. In fact, gas mileage begins decreasing at speeds over 50 mph, according to Fueleconomy.gov. Avoid "jack rabbit" starts where you accelerate quickly, speeding, tailgating, constant lane-switching, and hard braking. All of these aggressive driving habits can lower gas mileage between 10% and 40%, in town or on the highway. You also get better fuel efficiency when you coast more, so look ahead for stops and turns. Take your foot off the gas sooner and slowly glide to a stop.
Can I just say – we should be doing these things all the time, high gas prices or not. We're so wealthy and entitled that we constantly waste finite resources, and we only think about changing our behavior when prices go up. I'm guilty too.
And now I want to say something about the needs of the people of Ukraine. I know we've just been talking about how to save money, and higher gas prices may really be pinching your budget. However, if we can give even a little bit it might help. Here are three reputable charities to which you might donate:
Unicef is working to alleviate the needs of children and families.
World Central Kitchen is providing lots of good food and water.
Direct Relief focuses on medical supplies.
Photo by Carl Nenzen Loven on Unsplash.