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By Samantha Peters
If you’ve filled up your tank or watched the news recently, you’re probably well aware that gas prices have been skyrocketing over the past couple months – and this rise is only expected to increase through the summer, during which gas may hit new record highs. The increased gas expense makes commuting and traveling more costly and it poses a burden on families that are struggling in a stagnant economy.
What to do? Fortunately, although it’s impossible for many of us to completely avoid filling our car with gas, there are numerous ways to reduce your transportation expenses this summer. Here are 15 such ways that you might want to keep in mind:
Turn your commute into a workout
Your daily commute to work likely comprises your greatest transportation cost. It also forces you to waste time twice a day sitting in your car and doing nothing productive. The “workout commute” can help you reduce your costs and take better of advantage of your time. By biking, running, or even walking to work, you can bring your monthly costs down by over $150 – and you can achieve tremendous fitness benefits in the process.
Plan out trips and errands
Many people lose time and money by not planning out their transportation needs in advance. Rather than going to the grocery store, returning home, heading out again to pick up the kids from school, returning home, and then leaving one more time to pay your student loans at the bank, you can instead consolidate your travel by accomplishing your errands all at once whenever possible.
Seek out cheap gas
While gas prices may vary tremendously between countries and even states, there usually is little variation among the gas stations in a given neighborhood. That being said, if one pump is 10 cents cheaper than another on average – and if both of these stations are equally convenient to you – then there is no reason not to frequent the less expensive one and realize some savings over time. Websites such as GasBuddy.com are good resources in this endeavor.
Find lower insurance rates
Despite all the publicity regarding costly gas, the average American spends more money on car insurance than they do at the pump. On this note, finding ways to bring down that insurance rate can make for the most effective means of lowering transportation costs. The best way to reduce your insurance burden is to shop around and get quotes from different providers – especially if you’ve recently moved or been in an accident. You may be surprised to see how much the quotes differ from company to company.
Upgrade to a more gas-efficient car
Switching to a gas efficient car certainly won’t save you money on transportation this summer (after all, a new car is an expensive proposition). But if you were planning to upgrade anyways, now is a great time to buy a hybrid, an electric vehicle, or simply a small sedan that promises excellent gas mileage. Your savings from a more efficient car can be considerable over time.
Take advantage of rewards cards
Several gas stations offer credit card rewards programs that provide rebates (usually in the range of 3-10%) for all gas purchases made at that company’s station. If you usually fill up at the same place, or if you are willing to be loyal, say, to BP, a gas card is a valuable cost-cutting tool to have.
Follow political trends
As recent data has clearly showed us, the rise and fall of gas prices are highly correlated to political issues on a global scale. If you keep up with the news, then, you may find yourself better prepared to anticipate a conflict and fill up your tank before prices jump upwards.
Walk and take transit when you’re not in a hurry
For most Americans, walking and public transit are unfeasible modes of transportation on a day-in, day-out basis. But this does not mean that you should forsake these options when looking to go somewhere on the weekend or whenever you have a bit more time. Walking, of course, is always the cheapest way to travel. And since the average person pays under $1/mile for mass transit usage, this route is also far cheaper than vehicular travel in most situations.
Carpool to work
Carpooling to work is a great way to reduce maintenance and gas costs on your car. Not only does a carpool provide the obvious savings realized by splitting the expense of gas, but it also allows you to travel in H.O.V. lanes on the highway. This makes for a quicker commute that requires less gas.
Look for tax breaks
The government offers numerous transportation-related tax breaks and rebates. If you are buying a new car, commuting by more efficient means, or travelling long distances there may be a rebate in store for you. Don’t forget to check for such a rebate as tax season nears.
As with the advice regarding a new car purchase given above, you are unlikely to save money this summer by relocating to a home with cheaper transportation options. But, in the long run, the place where you live has a tremendous impact on the amount of money you spend getting around. If you live in a walkable neighborhood with transit access, for example, your car is much more likely to sit at home in the driveway. Consequently, if you’re looking to move in the near future, checking out an area’s WalkScore can translate into savings down the road.
Commute during off-peak hours
As a country, we waste billions of dollars in gas every year from sitting in rush hour traffic. This wasted expense can be reduced for anyone who chooses to travel outside of peak hours. Switching up your commute can also be beneficial from a non-driving perspective. If you take the train to work, for example, you might find cheaper fares if you travel later in the morning. If you want to bike to work, moreover, you may find that roads are less congested and that biking is more feasible at odd hours of the day.
Along these same lines, forgoing your daily commute entirely (or at least doing so once or twice a week) can provide you the ability to sit at home and do your work – and spend $0 on transportation in the process. This is increasingly becoming an option for workers in the digital age.
One of the reasons gas prices usually rise during the summer (although not to the degree expected this year) is that demand jumps considerably when people look to take summer road trips. So while it may be tempting to head into the country for a relaxing weekend, you can naturally save on transportation by staying put and instead looking for summertime outlets in your immediate area.
The way you drive your car can make a difference on how much you pay at the pump. A driver who accelerates and breaks quickly, for example, is going to get fewer miles per gallon than someone who attempts to maneuver as smoothly as possible.
These are 15 of the main ways you can try to reduce your transportation costs this summer. While it is likely impossible to forgo all travel expenses, a smart and prudent approach can save you tremendously this season – and in the long run, as well.
(Photo courtesy of Laura Helen Winn)