Saving money at the gas pump

You can’t change gas prices but you can still save by making some changes in the way you drive.

Most people who drive a vehicle are aware of rising and fluctuating gas prices. Gas prices change from town-to-town, day-to-day and sometimes even hour-by-hour. It can be extremely frustrating, especially when we have no control over the gas prices; yet we need to get to and from work, take the kids to school, run errands, and perhaps go out for some family fun.

Even if we can’t change the gas prices, there are some things we can do to make our hard earned dollars last a little longer with the fuel we purchase. Supported by Michigan State Univesrity Extension, the United States Department of Energy recommends the following tips for smart fuel economy:

Drive more efficiently. The faster you drive, the more fuel you use. Sticking to the speed limit could save you up to 50 cents per gallon of gasoline. Try to reduce extra and unnecessary weight in your vehicle, especially in smaller cars. This could save you up to seven cents a gallon. Avoid idling, especially with the air-conditioner running and you could save up to three cents of fuel per minute.

Keep your car in good condition. Keeping your car tuned-up can save up to 40 cents per gallon. Keep your tires properly inflated for a potential savings of 10 cents a gallon. The proper inflation for your car’s tires can usually be located on the driver’s side door-jam. Use your car manufacturers recommended motor oil for maximum fuel economy and save up to seven cents a gallon. When shopping for motor oil, look for motor oil that says "Energy Conserving" on the API performance symbol to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives. You may have heard that replacing your car’s air filter will save on fuel, however a new study titled Effect of Intake Air Filter Condition on Vehicle Fuel Economy, published by Oak Ridge National Laboratory shows it improves your car’s performance, but does not affect miles per gallon.

Plan and combine your trips. Since several small trips can really use up fuel, try to combine errands into other trips. Try running errands either on your way to work or on the way home to save on unnecessary trips out. If possible, adapt your work schedule so you are traveling during non-rush hour times. This saves fuel and time. Carpooling for work or for longer business trips can save you money. It can save wear and tear on your car and give you a chance for some socializing which is good for your mental health. If you have a roof-rack or bicycle rack on your car all the time, the extra aerodynamic drag can reduce your fuel economy by five percent. If it is removable, take it off, when not in use.

In summary, even though we have no control over how much we are charged at the gas pump, we do have choices on how we use the fuel we purchase. By following even a few of these suggestions you will use less fuel, making the fuel you have last longer and in the long run, saving money by having to get gas less often.

For more information on saving money and other money management topics such as setting personal financial goals, saving and investing, credit and loans and many more, visit Michigan State University Extension and the MI Money Health website.

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