I have heard arguments for why anything less than $3 per gallon for gasoline is a downright bargain.
Here's one: Three bucks is nothing compared with the cost of petrol in the UK or Europe. And another: Allowing for inflation, we're paying less for gas now than we did 25 years ago. To all of that, I say phooey. To me, gasoline is darned expensive. A trip to the station is enough to take your breath away.
So is there anything we can to do to combat the high cost of gas? There are lots of little things that, when observed in concert, will make a big difference over time.
COMPARE PRICES. Wait. Don't jump in the car and drive from station to station jotting down today's price. There is a better way. Benefit from the information uploaded daily to the internet by "spotters" who report the price in their neighborhood. Go to www.GasBuddy.com or www.GasPriceWatch.com and input your Zip code. Bingo! Up pops the lowest price in your area. But don't assume that station will always be lowest. It pays to check sites like these each time you need a fill-up. A 25-cent difference per gallon means about $5 per fill-up. Better that money stay in your pocket than go into the pump.
USE LESS. Stop making so many short, impulsive and basically needless trips. Instead of going to the dry cleaners today, the hairdresser tomorrow and the post office the day after that, plan your route, and make all three stops in the same trip. It's all those short stop-and-go trips that guzzle the gasoline.
DRIVE BETTER. Doing 75 mph in the carpool lane might make up for the fact that you overslept, but it wreaks havoc on your gas mileage. Keep it to 55 mph and you'll burn through that expensive fuel at a slower pace. Avoid sudden stops and fast accelerations. Imagine a raw egg sitting just beneath the gas pedal, and then drive gently so as to not break it.
CONSIDER REBATES. Some reward credit cards offer cash back on gasoline purchases. But this can be tricky. If you're carrying a balance and you use the card to add to your debt mess so you can get a rebate, you're probably shooting yourself in the foot. The interest you'll pay will far outweigh the rebate, in which case you'd be better off paying cash. But if you have no revolving debt and are certain to pay off the full balance each month, using such a card to reduce the price could make sense for you.
JOIN A CLUB. Discount warehouse clubs like Sam's Club, Costco or BJ's offer gasoline at wholesale prices. But there are restrictions. First there's the membership fee ($60 per year for a standard membership at Costco). Costco does not accept cash at the pump — only debit cards, Visa cards or Costco Cash Cards. Costco Cash Card customers do not need to be Costco members.
GO EXTREME. Get rid of the car altogether, and buy a bike. Chris Balish, author of "How to Live Well Without Owning a Car," says that's the way to save money, relieve stress and get more mileage out of life. The idea does sound interesting, doesn't it?
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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