Personal Finance

March 11, 2014

Feeling the fuel price pinch? Squeeze back

Gas prices are inching toward $3.50 again, thanks to the so-called “summer blend” that refineries announce they’re transitioning to now.

Nothing freaks out the American consumer like rising gas prices. They’re one of the most visible and psychological factors in our personal finances. No matter what your budget is, nobody likes seeing those numbers climb, because it means less money available for other things.

Gas prices are inching toward $3.50 again, thanks to the so-called “summer blend” that refineries announce they’re transitioning to now. It wasn’t that long ago that regular unleaded was $3.05.

If it reaches $3.50, and if your vehicle gets 20 miles per gallon, a 20-mile commute goes from $3.05 to $3.50 per trip. Your normal weekly driving goes from $45.75 to $52.50 (15 gallons at $3.50 per), or from $183 to $210 per month. That’s a $27 budget hit most people don’t account or adjust for – and it can wobble anyone on a tight budget.

Adjusted for inflation, today’s prices are near the highest in history (

http://inflationdata.com/inflation/images/charts/Oil/Gasoline_inflation_chart.htm

). So unless you can use the bus system or walk to work, you may have no choice but to pay the price, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay a penny more than you should!

Here are seven simple ways to pay less for every mile you travel:

Get a gas card. I’m a big fan of Hy-Vee’s Fuel Saver rewards system ( http://www.hy-vee.com/resources/fuel-saver.aspx). With the card, you can save on marked grocery items AND receive 2, 6 or 10 cents per gallon discounts per each item. Price Chopper bases its Fuel Advant Edge

program on the amount of your total bill. Either one can translate to significant savings at the pump.

Fill ’er up on Tuesday

. Prices typically go up as the weekend approaches.

Keep it more than half full. Fuel efficiency declines with less than half a tank, so make it a point to fuel at the half-full mark. Save money and

never have to worry about running out of gas!

Test the market. The Gas Buddy ( http://www.gasbuddy.com/GasBuddyMobileApps.aspx - _blank

) mobile app can find gas stations and prices for you, wherever you are, and sort them by distance and price. As long as you don’t have to travel far for the discount, you can maximize your gas purchases.

Avoid freeway fill-ups

. Gas stations near highway exits can command a higher price for the convenient locations.

Get some air

. Underinflated tires require more gas to push down the road. Find your vehicle’s optimum tire pressure on the sticker inside the driver’s door.

Slow it down

. For every five miles per hour you go above 60, you pay another 10 cents per gallon. Observing the speed limit is also safer.

I’m sure you’ve heard these tips before, but they’re worth repeating.

Carpooling to work can extend the time between pump visits by half or more. Combining all your errands into one trip can do the same. And, with spring on the way, why not walk or bike your way to dinner or out for ice cream? Save the gas, and burn the calories instead!

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.

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