Remember the good ol ‘days, when you could fill up your gas tank and spend all weekend rolling around town and having mini adventures with your family and friends? Ha! With gas prices creeping past five dollars a gallon in even the cheapest states, that kind of lifestyle just isn’t possible anymore – at least not until fuel prices fall back down from the stratosphere. Road trips are out. Cruising the beach? Nope. Going for drives to put the baby to sleep? Uh, well … that’s mandatory. As a matter of fact, many things are mandatory. Some people’s * brilliant * suggestion for how to save money on gas is just “don’t drive” or “stay home,” but that’s just not feasible for everyone.
Many of us live in areas without decent (or any) public transportation. Some of us are too immunocompromised to take the bus and risk getting sick. And, you know, there’s the whole gainful employment thing, aka you’re no longer telecommuting and have to actually commute to your job – even if right now it feels like you’re just working to pay for the gas it takes to get there . You still need groceries. Your kids still have appointments and cool hobbies that require practice and lessons that aren’t within walking distance.
So, how are you supposed to cope? How can you save a bit of money on gas when driving less simply isn’t an option? Don’t worry; there are corners to be cut and pennies to be pinched here.
Before you take inventory of your personal possessions to see what you can sell on Facebook Marketplace, try some of these money-saving techniques.
Note: We’re not sharing those weird TikTok “hacks” involving glorified cheat codes. Assuming they even work, they’re most likely used by business owners, and using them is stealing.
1. Combine trips.
This is obvious, but it’s still something you probably flake on. Keep a list at home of crap you need to do during the week. When you must go out and travel to a certain part of town, make sure you’re checking your list for other things you need to do in that area.
2. Run errands in the evenings.
Your engine works much harder when it’s hot, so it uses more gas. Sign up for the soccer team that meets in the evenings and wait until after rush hour to go grab groceries.
3. Maintain your vehicle.
When was the last time you had your oil changed and a regular tune-up done? While it might seem like an added cost you just can’t afford right now, taking care of your engine helps it run more efficiently, thus saving gas and money over time. Also, don’t forget that fuel additive. (Do your research or talk to a mechanic first.)
4. Check your tires.
Just like servicing your engine, keeping your tires in good shape can help save your gas. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, keeping tires properly inflated can improve gas mileage by up to 3%. All it takes is three easy steps:
- Check tire treads.
- Maintain proper tire pressure.
- Schedule a tire rotation / alignment.
5. Get the gas app.
Your parents are probably already using an app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas in the area … why aren’t you? Sure, driving all over town to save 10 cents a gallon isn’t actually saving you any money. Sometimes, though, you’ll see as much as a 10-cent difference just between one side of the neighborhood versus the other or between your house and that station near dance class. Geico, AAA, and Gas Guru all have helpful gas station trackers.
6. Befriend someone who can flex like this.
Like Beyoncé said, “Baby, let me upgrade you.” (Gotta laugh to keep from crying, right?)
7. Carpool it up.
Does Avery’s best friend from t-ball live just down the street? Then why are you both driving your kids to practice? Not only will carpooling and taking turns save you serious gas money, but it’ll also give you some alone time when it’s not your week to drive. Win-win!
8. Roll up your windows.
Yeah, yeah. Back in the “old days” when you were running low on gas you’d turn off the air conditioning and roll down the windows until you could coast into a gas station. Now, however, engines are made to handle your A / C in an efficient manner. Rolling down your windows just creates more drag which actually ruins your fuel economy.
9. Move somewhere more affordable and / or walkable.
Ha! OK, so moving is expensive and won’t really save you money – especially right now when house prices are even wilder than gas prices. So, sure, this isn’t a quick fix. But if you’ve already been considering skipping town, it’s worth considering all the benefits. While we can hope gas prices will settle down soon, the fact remains that some areas will always be more expensive than others. Over the last few years, there was a giant influx of California residents who moved to Texas because it was so much cheaper. Experts suggest similar exoduses will continue thanks to inflation, price gouging, and climate crisis. Perhaps it’s time to start looking at ways to make moving more feasible in your future? If so, add to your criteria list: somewhere highly walkable or with an excellent public transportation system.
10. Change vehicles.
Yes, 100 percent, this requires a certain level of privilege. However, if you have a car that guzzles gas, it’s something to consider if you can. You don’t have to go electric to see a difference in your gas bill. If you’re driving your 1.5 kids around in a Suburban, it might be time for a “downgrade.” You can fit two car seats in a hatchback. You can also put the seats down in a hatchback and still do some serious moving and hauling. The very average-priced Mazda 3 hatchback has an average of 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. The trendy Toyota Highlander only averages 21/29. Don’t forget that your older car might be doing even worse. While a brand new car isn’t in everyone’s budget, it’s an excellent time to trade in an SUV and come out ahead, then put that money towards a smaller, more reasonably priced vehicle. Bonus: Cars with better gas mileage are better for the environment.
11. Join all the (free) memberships.
Sometimes Target is just so convenient for groceries. But when you buy your food at Kroger, you can save 10 cents per gallon for every $ 100 you spend. In that same vein, places like Speedway, Shell, ExxonMobil, and BP also have their own membership cards that come with gas discounts when you do things like grab your coffee or pop from them instead of the big box store.
12. Take full advantage of that paid membership.
Speaking of big box stores, are you using your Sam’s Club or Costco cards to their full advantage? While not all of us live close enough to our clubs to make it worth the trip, some do. If you’re driving to BJ’s to stock up on toilet paper and Vitamin water anyway, why not see if you can get cheaper gas there? (Spoiler alert: You almost always can.)
13. Hit that ECO button.
If your car has an eco button and you haven’t been using it, it’s time.
14. Use the right gas.
Those premium, plus, and ultra gasses aren’t just for when you’re feeling baller or for your uncle’s fancy Lexus. You might be surprised to know that some “basic” cars require higher quality gas, too. Make sure you’re reading your owner’s manual for the right gas for your car. If better gas is “recommended,” use it. Sure, it doesn’t say “required.” But feeding your car the gas it needs is no different than making sure you stick to foods that don’t make you sick.
15. Slow down.
According to Popular Mechanics, fuel economy peaks at around 50 mph. That means trying to blast past everyone at 85 mph is not only putting lives in danger, but it’s hurting your bank account, too. Similarly, you waste a ton of gas when you put the pedal to the metal on green lights. Start off easy and accelerate gradually.