If you filled up at the pump lately, you probably experienced a bit of sticker shock. Gas prices are soaring across the country, and while most people assume this increase is due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the answer is a little more nuanced.
While the situation in Ukraine has certainly contributed, gas prices were already rising before that. As Covid cases have dropped across the country, consumers have begun to travel more – increasing demand for gas in the process.
So what can you actually do about it? Let’s take a look at some of the best strategies to save money on gas.
How to Save on Gas Costs
If rising gas prices are squeezing your already tight budget, read below for ways to save at the pump:
Ride a Bike
If you live within biking distance of work, you may want to consider biking instead of driving. This may be difficult for those living in cities without dedicated bike lanes, but you might be surprised by what you can accomplish on a bike.
If you already love biking, consider upgrading to an electric bike. These scooter-bicycle hybrids can easily go 20 MPH, and allow you to conserve energy while pedaling. Electric bikes are pricey and can cost over $1,000, so only buy one if you plan to use it regularly.
Carpool with People
If your company is returning to the office, it may be time to start carpooling with a coworker. Ask around and see if anyone lives near that would be interested in carpooling. Send out a mass email if you’re comfortable doing so.
If you frequently have to drive your kid to after-school activities, ask other parents if they’d be interested in carpooling. Many families are also feeling the pinch, so you might find several people who are willing to take you up on the offer.
Map Your Errands
If you ever find yourself running errands without planning them out, you may be wasting more gas than you realize. Before heading out, plug all your stops into Google Maps and play around to see which route is the shortest. Consolidating errands for gas efficiency may also save you some time, which is an added bonus.
Ideally, you should try to consolidate your errands as much as possible. Instead of going to the pharmacy one day and the grocery store the next, try to hit both on the same day.
You can find other ways to minimize errands as well. For example, can you start getting your prescriptions at the grocery store? Can you go to the post office after dropping your kids off at school?
Research Gas Prices
Look up gas prices before hitting the pump. You might be surprised at how much you can save just by doing some basic research. GasBuddy.com lists prices from gas stations near you. Just type in your address and see where the cheapest gas is. Make sure you’re not driving too far out of the way to buy cheaper gas, as that might defeat the purpose.
Warehouse clubs like Costco often have better gas prices than other chains. You have to be a member to access those rates, so do the math beforehand to make sure it makes sense to buy a membership.
Also, many grocery stores offer gas station discounts after spending a certain amount. Look around and see if any local grocery stores offer this kind of discount.
Avoid Rush Hour
No one likes to sit in traffic. Not only does it feel like a waste of time, but it can also be a waste of money. One of the easiest ways to save money on gas is to drive when there are fewer cars on the road. When you run errands, pick a time that is less crowded.
If you’re commuting to work, ask your boss if you can come in later to avoid rush-hour traffic or if you can work from home some days to save money on gas.
Driving safely is not only good for you and your car – it’s also good for your wallet. You can waste a lot of gas when you stop and start suddenly. Remember, driving in the real world isn’t like playing Grand Theft Auto.
Following the speed limit and braking and accelerating gently can improve your fuel economy, while also making you less likely to get into an accident.
Make sure your tires are inflated correctly, as low tire pressure can decrease your gas mileage. Remove anything from your car that doesn’t absolutely need to be there, because extra weight can also drag you down.
Use the Right Credit Card
Go through your credit cards and see if any offer cash back at gas stations. If you don’t have any rewards cards, consider signing up for one.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 3% cash back on gas stations, as well as 6% cash back on grocery stores. The card has no annual fee for the first year, and a $95 annual fee after that. But if you spend a lot of money at the pump, that annual fee could be worth it.
Join Gas Loyalty Programs
Many major gas stations offer free loyalty programs that you can join to save money. If you have several different chains nearby, you can join each of their programs to see which is the best.
Some gas chains also offer discounts if you pay in cash. Before you do that, make sure the cash discount is greater than if you use a credit card offering gas station rewards.
Buy Gas on the Right Day
Research shows that Monday is the least expensive day to buy gas. If you’re buying gas on any other day, you may be overpaying for no reason. Set a reminder in your phone to buy gas on Mondays, possibly on your way to work.
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins.