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Gas is a major expense for most of us, and you may feel like there is nothing you can do about it since you need to get around and you have no control over gas prices. But the truth is, there are a number of different ways that you can reduce the amount of money you spend each month on gas.
In this article we’ll look at 20 different tips that will help you to save hundreds of dollars every year.
Some are simply changes to the way to you buy gas. Some are changes to they way you drive or plan your trips. And others will be relevant to you when it comes time to buy a vehicle, whether it is new or used.
By following these tips you’ll save a ton of money on gas, and you’ll have more to save and invest for your future.
Want to see even more ways to save? Be sure to check out my article 101 Practical and Realistic Ways to Save Money.
→ Related reading: How to Create a Budget That Works
GasBuddy is a really handy mobile app that makes it easy to find the best gas prices in your area. Simply open up the app and it will show you the gas station with the best price near you. The app is free to download and use, and you may be surprised by the difference in prices between gas stations within the same town.
In addition to helping you find the lowest price, GasBuddy also offers a program that allows you to save money on every gallon of gas purchased. It’s free to join and you’ll get a card in the mail that works like a debit card attached to your checking account. When you pay with this card you’ll save at least $.05 per gallon ($0.10 per gallon for your first fill up). You can also link Pay with GasBuddy to a free Shop Your Way account and $0.15 per gallon cash back in points, or $0.30 per gallon during your first 60 days. The details are here.
→ Sign up for “Pay with GasBuddy” and enter referral code EEXM8PB when creating your account.
Since gas purchases total up to be a significant amount for most of us, this is a great way to rack up some credit card rewards. In order to get the most bang for your buck you’ll need a good rewards credit card. Something like the Chase Freedom Unlimited that earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase is a great option to have in your wallet (there’s no annual fee). Alternatively, there are some credit cards that offer increased rewards specifically for gas purchases. The only downside is, this means more credit card accounts to manage. So you can either go with a credit card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited that earns a high percentage of cash back on every purchase, or get a card like the Bank of America Cash Rewards card that earns you 3% on gas (but only 1% on other purchases).
→ Right now you can also get a $150 cash bonus by signing up for the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card.
The Chase Freedom credit card offers 1% cash back on all purchases, but each quarter there is a specific category that earns 5% cash back. The 5% categories change each quarter, but typically each year includes one quarter when you can get 5% cash back on gas purchases. I’ve had the card for about 5 years, and I think every year there has been a 5% offer on gas purchases (although there is no guarantee that will continue in the future). That 5% cash back is a good an offer as you’ll find anywhere. Even if you only use the card for the 5% offers (that’s what I do), it’s worth having in your wallet. There is no annual fee for the card, and right now you can get a $150 bonus just for opening an account.
→ Sign up for the Chase Freedom card and get a $150 bonus.
Trunow is another free mobile app that, like GasBuddy, shows you the location of stations with the lowest gas prices in your area. BUT, Trunow is also a cash back app. All you need to do is use the app to take a photo of your gas receipt and you’ll earn 1-2% cash back. It’s really easy, and you can do this on top of paying with GasBuddy or using a rewards credit card. I just found Trunow about a month ago and it’s already become one of my go-to apps. I’ll gladly take an easy, extra 1-2% cash back.
→ Use the referral code R7N8DR to get a $2 bonus just for installing Trunow on your phone.
A lot of gas stations have their own rewards cards and programs. Sometimes this is an actual credit card that you use to make a payment, and in other cases it may be a loyalty card that will reduce the cost, allow you to earn rewards points for your purchases, or both.
The gas station in my area that I typically use is Sheetz, and they have a loyalty rewards card. With the card I get a $0.03 discount per gallon of gas, plus I earn some points that can be used towards food or drinks. At the current price, that $0.03 per gallon is about a 1% discount. It’s not a lot, but I can still pay with GasBuddy or a rewards credit card, and I can still use Trunow for extra cash back.
Some grocery stores also have their own gas stations, or relationships with local gas stations. With a loyalty card you can earn discounts on gas when you purchase a certain dollar amount of groceries. It’s not worth shopping at a higher-priced grocery store just to get these rewards, but if the grocery store that you normally shop at offers these perks it’s a bonus.
Free Budget Spreadsheet
Download a free budget spreadsheet for use in Excel and OpenOffice, plus a PDF version that you can print.
Some warehouse clubs like Costco or BJs offer low prices on gas. If you have a membership you may be able to buy gas here cheaper than the other stations in your local area. We have a BJs membership and they typically have the lowest price in our area. It’s not really close to our house, so I only fill up there when I’m driving by.
You wouldn’t want to pay for a membership just for the cheaper price on gas, but if you already have a membership you may want to buy gas here when you can.
No doubt, the most effective way to save money on gas is simply to drive less. Cut back on unnecessary trips and you’ll see your gas expenses drop noticeably. Here are some quick tips that can give you some ideas about how you can drive less without a drastic impact on your lifestyle:
Don’t pay more for premium gas unless your vehicle requires it. Most cars these days are designed to run on regular gas, so you’re just wasting money if you’re buying more expensive gas thinking it will be better for your car.
By driving fast you’ll burn more fuel, and spend more money to get to the same place. Slow down a little, you’ll get better gas mileage, and you’ll save some money. Also accelerate slowly and steadily. Avoid slamming on the gas to speed up quickly (unless it’s necessary to avoid an accident, of course).
Constant braking is bad for gas mileage. If you’re tailgating or following the car in front of you too closely, you’ll need to brake often in order to avoid accidents. Instead, allow a comfortable distance from the car in front of you, and you’ll need to brake less frequently.
Having the windows down is very bad for the aerodynamics of the vehicle, and will negatively impact your gas mileage. Keep the windows up and you’ll save money.
Running the air conditioner is also bad for gas mileage. Minimize use of the AC as much as possible if you want to get the best gas mileage possible. Of course, depending on where you live and the current weather, there are times when the AC is a necessity. But when it’s not necessary, try using the vent instead.
Under inflated tires will result in poor gas mileage. Check your owners manual to see the recommended air pressure (a lot of times it is also listed right on the tire) and check the air pressure frequently. Weather changes can easily cause the air pressure to vary a few PSIs (pounds per square inch), so be sure to check it.
If you’re going to be sitting still for more than a couple of minutes, turn off the car instead of idling. For example, if you’re waiting in a parking lot while a friend or family shops, turn off the car. Idling wastes gas and increases pollution.
When it comes time to buy a car, pay attention to the fuel efficiency. With new cars it’s very easy to research the typical gas mileage (it’s always listed). Even with used cars, you can do a simple Google search to see the typical gas mile for year, make, and model that you’re considering.
I wouldn’t recommend going out and buying a new (or used) car just to get something that is more fuel efficient, but when you’re looking at cars it’s definitely a significant factor that you should consider.
Manual transmissions tend to get better gas mileage than automatic transmissions, so that’s another factor to keep in mind. They’re also cheaper to buy, and typically cheaper to maintain since you won’t need to replace the transmission.
Clean filters will be more fuel efficient and will save you money, so be sure to replace the filters when needed.
In the winter it’s common to let a car run for a few minutes before starting to drive. Today’s cars don’t need to warm up for a long time before they’re ready to go. The longer you wait, the more gas you are using.
Get in the habit of filling up your tank before the tank gets too low. Don’t wait for the light to let you know that you need gas. If you’re waiting till the last minute you’re always going to be buying gas wherever you are, regardless of whether it is a good price or not. If you’re thinking ahead you can fill up when you’re near gas stations that have the best prices.
Disclosure: Information presented on Vital Dollar and through related email marketing is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be taken as financial advice. Please see our Disclosure for further information.
I've been working in internet marketing full-time since 2008. I started VitalDollar.com to share from my experience and to help others who want to improve their own financial situation. You can read my full bio here.
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