As we passed the local gas station on our way to work together one day last week, my friend Donna gasped “Holy moley – gas prices went up ten cents a gallon overnight!”
Yep. I had just gotten used to paying prices nearer to $3/gallon when they rocketed closer to $4/gallon seemingly all at once. The sticker shock we’re feeling is confirmed by AAA in this article: http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/284081-aaa-four-week-gas-price-increase-largest-in-over-three-years I find it coincidental that the hike happened right as I am settling into a new job here at TransIT, learning about how to commute smarter and cheaper. Nothing like practicing what you preach, I always say!
So how much is too high a monthly cost for just the fuel component of owning and operating your car? $200? $500? If you’re like most people, you have budgeted, fixed expenses like rent or mortgage, utilities, etc… but fluctuating fuel prices are making it harder for you to plan for how much you’ll need to cover them. Remember, fuel is only one cost of vehicle ownership, but it’s one that seems to be more painful since we have to pull our wallets out more often than once a month or every 5,000 miles as we do for other car-related expenses. So, short of working from home (which we’ll explore in a future post), how can you save on gasoline as prices inch higher? (tips are partially adapted from article published 2/19/2013 on www.foxbusiness.com )
No. 1: Share a ride. You may have neighbors or friends who live right along your route to work with whom you can share a ride occasionally, even if it’s only one day a week. You may also have co-workers who live within your commuting radius, so ask around. Donna and I both live and work within a half-mile of each other, so we share a ride once or twice a week, taking turns driving. Both of us really enjoy the company and the relaxation when we’re the passenger. For a more formal ridesharing option, visit www.commuterconnections.org and register for the free, no obligation rideshare database to find a commuting companion if you don’t know of anyone offhand.
No. 2: Explore your options/know how much your commute is costing you: Is it possible for you to live closer to work or work closer to home? Is the difference in home prices or rent where you live and where you work so great that it really saves you money to commute 20 miles or more each way? To use a simple calculator to estimate what it costs you to drive solo in your car to and from work each day, visit www.frederickcountymd.gov/transit, click on “Commuter Services,” and then on “YOUR Commute Costs” on the left menu bar. You might be surprised!
No. 3: If you MUST drive alone, watch your driving habits & pay attention to vehicle maintenance. Aggressive driving habits can cause you to pay more than the posted price for a gallon of gas. Slow down, and accelerate at a slower pace. Drive defensively and coast when you see the light ahead of you turn red. Don’t ignore issues with your vehicle because you don’t want to foot the mechanic’s bill. Driving around with a check engine light on, for example, will burn more fuel and can cost you more in the end. Depending on the scope of the problem, you may see your fuel economy increase anywhere between 5% and 30% if you maintain your vehicle properly. You can also improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires, plus properly inflated tires are safer and last longer. The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver's side door jamb or the glove box and in your owner's manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire's sidewall. (this and more tips available at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/maintain.shtml )
No. 4: Be conscious of where you are filling up your tank. Getting gas in affluent areas, for example, may wind up costing you more than stopping in stations in more rural locations. A good website for gas price comparisons in Frederick and the surrounding areas is http://www.marylandgasprices.com/index.aspx?fuel=A&area=Frederick&dl=Y&intro=Y And don’t forget that many area businesses now have programs whereby shopping earns you credit toward purchasing gas at their gas stations or those with which they’re in partnership.