There’s something truly American about the summer family road trip. Piling into the car with your luggage and favorite snacks in tow, getting out on the miles and miles of paved road, gazing at the stretches of wild scenery (or maybe just fields and cows)… it’s all a little romantic.
That is… until you need to fill up your tank again. The glug glug glug of dollar after dollar pouring into your tank is a jarring snap back to reality. Especially now. (Even though it may not be quite as bad as a few weeks ago.)
The pain from prices at the pump can be felt everywhere – when you’re driving to and from work, when you’re getting your kids to activities, when you’re heading to your favorite Chattanooga date night spot, etc. And it’s worse for those making lower wages who spend so much to make so little.
And as I alluded to, though prices have been steadily decreasing over the last 30 days, many are still uncertain about what gas prices will look like over the next few months. We still need to be creativeabout gas savings.
That includes making moves to ensure your tax liability is reduced come January 1st. But also, let’s get into some creative tips on gas savings so you can save on that high-dollar fill-up … that way you can still work in a family road trip or just make it around town …
Gas Savings for Every Chattanooga Driver
“Wherever you’re going this summer, it might be cheaper to mail your car.” — Amy Poehler
Unless you’ve bought absolutely nothing over the past six months, you’ve noticed that prices for everything are through the roof. And you get the clearest sign of this in huge glowing numerals every time you drive past a Chattanooga gas station.
You’re more than aware of the hole the pump is putting in your wallet. Aside from siphoning your neighbor’s tank in the middle of the night, is there any way to get more gas savings? There sure is, and you can start today by knowing how to shop around.
The rocket and the feather
The average price of a gallon of gas remained well north of four bucks for the past few months… though has been steadily inching down for a while now.
That probably isn’t good-enough news for the more than four out of five Americans who recently told a survey that the price of gas is impacting their ability to cover other expenses – and a minimum wage worker now dumps almost a whole day’s pay into their tank every time they fill up.
What was supposed to be the summer of “revenge travel” has turned into “wince and stay at home.” Even if the price drops continue for gas, the pain will be around awhile. Gas prices have historically followed the “rocket and feather” pattern: shooting straight up fast and then ever-so-slowly drifting back down.
Your wallet’s hurting now. Don’t wait for that feather to start racking up those gas savings.
How to shop around
Most folks have a favorite Chattanooga gas station where the pumps always work and the bathroom’s usually clean. But don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons in your hunt for a cheaper fill-up. I have found that if your favorite station has more than one station around town, even they will have prices that can be 10 cents or more higher than the one you usually use.
Technology can be your friend. Lots of apps and sites out there can help you find cheaper gas not far off your normal route. Among them …
Waze. Yes, this app is almost unmatched for great directions, but it’ll also help you find the cheapest pumps nearby – even how many minutes away they are. When the app asks you where you want to go, type “gas station” and it’ll show local stations. Then sort them by price.
Google Maps. Click on the Search box and type, “Cheap gas.” It’ll show all nearby prices, though they’ll be sorted by distance and not price.
Geico. The insurance giant has both an online gas finder and a mobile app.
GasBuddy. This well-known app is crowdsourced: A lot of its information comes from actual users, which means you might be able to pull into a bargain station before anybody else. Links right to your bank account, if you want.
Gas Guru. Regarding up-to-the-minute cheap prices, this app gets their info from the Oil Price Information Service and offers the date of last price update.
One word about these apps: Tinker with them until you find one that confines your search to stations that are ahead on your route, not ones you passed five minutes ago. Nothing’s perfect.
Gas savings at the pump
Did you know that topping your tank off is a waste? That’s right – that extra little squirt of expensive fuel that you squeeze in is just as likely to spill or evaporate as it is to help you get around.
And while your thirsty tank’s sucking down all your money, do you ever glance above the pump and see an ad for a fuel rewards program? True, you have to study the fine print. But these days, depending on your fueling habits and where you buy your gas, they may be worth some homework. Just don’t sign up for one that takes you too far out of your way – burning your money with every mile – before you “save” anything.
How close to “E” are you usually before you hit a station? Pulling in the nearest one on fumes is a great way to not save money. Plan your gas runs before they’re emergencies, and you give yourself time to shop around. This also helps you beat the usual pre-weekend and pre-holiday price hikes.
A few notes on driving and your vehicle:
Time your wait. Used to be that idling for less than a few minutes burned less gas than shutting the car off and turning it back on. With modern engines, no more. If your wait’s longer than 10 seconds, shut the car off.
Check your tires. The convention wisdom is true: Proper inflation does get you the best mileage.
Lose a few pounds. Your car, that is. The lighter your vehicle, the better the mileage. Clean out the trunk, for starters.
While we can’t change the gas prices or reduce prices on goods, we can help save you money when it comes to your tax liability with the IRS.
On your team,
John and Wanda King