Living Large Tip of the Week: Saving on Gas

There’s nothing I hate worse than burning money in the gas tank. Although I love driving my Baby Blazer, we’ve learned to conserve, not only for the environment, but for our budget.

How can we save money on gasoline, thus reducing our imprint on the environment?

There are a lot of ways, including buying a car with higher mpg. That’s not realistic for most of us, so here are 5 ways you can help the environment and save yourself some green in the process:

  • Combining trips: According to Consumer Reports, starting the engine cold each time you make s short trip reduces the mpg by as much as 4 miles. At $4 per gallon, that’s up to $16 additional you’re burning for each short trip. As well, a cold engine emits more pollutants than a warm one. It takes some forethought and planning, but we get 6-7 errands all done in one day (typically a 6-7 hour trip on the weekends. Make an errand list, bundle trips. You might not really need to go to the store today, the post office tomorrow and the bank the next day. How about waiting until that third day to make all of those trips? Do you really need to take the kids to school and pick them up, idling your car in those long lines in front of the school? Can you make a fun family trip to and from school by walking or biking? Can they take the school bus, which is running anyway? Challenge yourself to cut one short trip per week, when you accomplish that, challenge yourself to cut two and keep it going. Note how much you’re saving in gas.
  • Let the wind blow through your hair: Around town, using the air conditioning reduces your mpg by 3 miles. That’s $12 extra in your pocket. I’m rarely on the highway and I like driving with the windows down. I can always comb my hair.
  • Drive the speed limit. I know. We’re always in a hurry, but driving the speed limit could save you 5 mpg in gas, cutting from 65 to 55. If you increase to 75 mph, it further decreases your mpg by 5. Is it really worth up to $20 more to drive fast?
  • Eliminate the unnecessary from the trunk and the back of your truck. Extra weight may be needed in really bad snowy or icy weather, but if you don’t need that weight in your trunk or pick up bed, take it out, as it is costing you and costing the environment.
  • For a complete list: Go to the FTC website, which has a complete list of tips, including keeping your engine in great shape and your tires filled properly.

What are some of the ways you’ve been able to save on gas?

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24 Responses

  1. Jane Boursaw says:

    Great list! I do pretty well on these, although I must admit that since we got a spiffy new (to us) Ford Escort with great mileage, we’ve been a little lax about combining trips to town. So nice to not have to throw $20 into the gas tank on our old truck every time we go to town. I shudder to think how much cash we spent driving that thing around last winter.

  2. I’m fortunate (in this aspect!) that I live near town and my boys can both walk to work. And since I work from home, I usually only drive once or twice per week.

    • Kerri says:

      Me too, Kris. I like to get out at least once a week, but more than that and it takes time away from my other stuff I like to do!

  3. I like the comment on parking in the shade. Not a gas conservation tip, but I like to park far away in lots so I get some exercise walking back and forth to my car. But I’m walking my kids to school right now instead of driving. No need.

    • Kerri says:

      We always park far away as well. My husband hates dings, but it also gives us a little more exercise. Good for you walking your kids to school!

  4. Alisa Bowman says:

    I try to drive as little as possible, but sometimes I get lazy. I get really mad at myself when I use the car when I could have ridden my bike, for instance.

  5. Love Heather L.’s tip in the comments about parking in the shade to conserve gas – who knew? When combining trips, I’ll often throw a cooler in the trunk since buying groceries is almost ALWAYS an errand in my situation. Then I don’t have to backtrack to make sure the food stop isn’t the last one on the list. Anyone else do this?

  6. Sheryl says:

    I wish I lived in a p lace where I could walk or bike everywhere I hate relying on my car for everything.

  7. We don’t drive nearly as much after moving to a downtown condo. When I’m in the car these days, I’m always aware of what a waste and energy drain it is. Thanks for these tips.

  8. Heather L. says:

    Did you know that parking your car in the shade helps save gas? If it’s in the sun a long time, gas tends to evaporate.

  9. mat says:

    1) Check your tire pressure every other week. A lot of people will tell you that any pressure higher than what’s on your door tag is dangerous…which is ridiculous. I personally put my air pressure at 2-4PSI (cold) below what the tire sidewall maximum pressure is. Even if the door says 32psi, I might be at 42.
    2) Look at your tire wear. If 1 inside or outside shoulder shows wear, it means you need an alignment. Let that go long enough, and you’ll need new tires. If both shoulders show more wear than the center, your tires are underinflated. If your center band shows more wear than the shoulders, you are overinflated.
    3) Rotation
    Tires that are rotated simply last longer than those that are not. I recommend rotating every other oil change. Most places charge a little extra for it, or you can do it yourself with a floor jack and your vehicle’s spare tire. You often need a larger jack with trucks or vans, so purchase accordingly.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks, Mat, for these suggestions! You’re our tire man!

      • mat says:

        I’d be content with title of “resident gearhead”.
        I’m by no means an expert at anything tire-related, but there’s a lot of myths around that tire retailers like to perpetuate to sell more tires. Real education on the subject (and it’s not hard to learn) is key, however there’s A LOT of people who “just can’t be bothered” with learning how to take care of their tires…but complain when they see how expensive new ones are. Even a decent 15″ tire (most cars don’t even use 15″ tires now) is still $100 each from online retailers. If you could get an extra year out of your tires, wouldn’t you want to? Wouldn’t it be worth maybe an extra hour of your time over the lifetime of the tires? Isn’t the safety of your family worth that hour?
        Remember the Ford Explorer and Firestone debacle of the late 90s? Firestone paid the price, but the underlying factor was underinflated tires not responding well to emergency maneuvers.

        • Kerri says:

          Ok, Mat, I dub you “Living Large Resident Gearhead.” And the answer to all of your questions is “Yes.” I admit, with a mechanic husband, I’ve been lax in learning about such things, but I should. Thanks for the reminder.

        • And forego the “Plus-sized” tire option that can anyway cost you SERIOUS money, don’t give benefits to anyone but race car drivers, and give less traction in rain and snow.

  10. Kerri says:

    Oh, your story made me shudder. What an A#2!

  11. Alexandra says:

    Great list! I combine errands a lot now, make a point of doing so. I remind my hubby not to sit in the car and let it idle. I will never forget the last election here in my small town, where a supporter of Scott Brown sat outside the election station in a black car that was idling. I suggested he should turn off the engine, since he obviously planned to sit there all day. He started screaming at me, threatening to call the cops for harassment, etc. (Senator Brown was elected in part thanks to the huge influx of Tea Party money that came into our state, a situation I had never witnessed before with huge campaign banners on all our bridges and men wearing cowboy hats.)

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