Gas prices have really jumped recently. Why are they so high? It’s due to a combination of things. Rising crude oil prices are at the highest level in more than three years, and are expected to climb higher, pushing gasoline prices up. There’s also an increased demand for gas this time of year—most drivers spend more time driving during the summer than any other season.
Thirdly, prices surge with the impending hurricane season—with prices climbing even before the storm arrives, and jumping up again due to the disruption to gas refineries.
And the changeover to summer-blend gasoline also plays a role. It’s more difficult to refine and more complicated to distribute, with different blends used in different regions.
As the higher prices pinch your budget or affect your vacation plans, here are some frugal ways to keep your gas expenses down this summer.
1. Join a warehouse club
Warehouse clubs such as Costco, BJ’s or Sam’s Club all sell gas to members, and it’s often among the lowest priced gas in town. Even with the added club membership fee, you can recoup the fee if you buy club gas frequently.
2. Use a smartphone app
There are a number of great apps that help you find the top local gas prices while on the go. The best-known is GasBuddy—it helps you uncover the best price in your area from user-submitted data, as well as through partnerships with other companies and directly from station operators. Registered GasBuddy members are encouraged to input gas price data, with the incentive to earn points that allow them to obtain electronic tickets for entry towards a daily drawing for a $100 prepaid gas card.
According to financial forecaster Kiplinger, when using gasoline pricing apps, you’ll need to “…keep in mind that prices may change during the day and nobody is fact-checking user-reported prices. So, the price you found online may differ from what you find at the station. You’ll also want to check that the price on the pump matches what is on the sign.”
3. Take advantage of grocery fuel programs
No matter where you live, you can get fuel perks and rewards using a supermarket loyalty card. These programs offer a great way to save money on gas simply by buying groceries.
Many offer discounts of up to a dollar a gallon. Some programs even allow double program points when buying gift cards.
Check with your favorite food seller—or click here to see 21 different stores that help save you gas money.
4. Get discounted gift cards
You can buy gas station gift cards at a discount from websites like Raise.com and CardCash.com for your favorite gas retailer. Get up to 10% off at popular gas stations including Exxon, BP, Shell, and dozens more. Some stations even offer cards with the convenience and speed of pay-at-the-pump.
One nice feature is that as a payment method they can be combined with other strategies. For example, you can use a grocery store loyalty card to get a discount, and then pay with the discounted gas station gift card.
5. Other ways to save
Drive slower. Avoid going too fast and driving abruptly — those jack rabbit starts cause significant fuel economy losses.
Drive Less. Combine your errands into one trip to avoid repeat drives around town. Consider walking instead of driving for nearby pick-ups, or bike your way in on two wheels instead.
Monitor your tires. Under-inflation can cost you —soft tires slow you down and can cut gas mileage. Cleaning your air filters regularly is also a good idea.
Don’t idle. It wastes gas and pollutes more, too.
Use cruise control. Smoother rides, with less pedal pushing, can improve fuel economy, with up to 14% savings, and average savings of 7% according to Edmunds.com.
Reduce weight. Ditch the cargo or bike rack and remove extra items from your trunk. A lighter car will use less fuel, so don’t drive around with unnecessary items.
Consider switching to a more fuel-efficient or electric vehicle. Or, consider several models of affordable non-hybrids that can get 40 miles per gallon. Use the Tower Car Buying Service to help find the top models and the compare tool on FuelEconomy.gov to look for a car that suits your needs.
Resources: Money Talks News, Consumer Reports, The Penny Hoarder, Frugal for Less, Kiplinger, Edmunds.com