Currently, the average gallon of gasoline in the nation as $3.55 a gallon. This is an increase from the 2013 low of roughly $3.18 a gallon. While this increase is painful for everybody across the nation, those in California are dealing with an average price of $4.01 a gallon, which is about a $.35 price increase since the middle of March. The city of San Francisco has prices around $4.07 a gallon while Los Angeles gas stations are charging $4.08. Many analysts are predicting that the average price may reach as high as $4.25 a gallon in the coming week.
Why has there been a sudden increase in gasoline prices? At least for the Golden State, there are lower supplies and higher crude oil costs. In addition, ethanol, which is blended into gasoline, is up about 60% from the same time last year due to higher corn and railroad shipping costs.
Even with the current high prices that continues to increase, California doesn’t have the highest gas prices in the nation. That crown goes to Hawaii, which currently is averaging $4.27 a gallon. The lowest gas costs can be found in Montana which is currently averaging about $3.26 a gallon. Most of the nation should avoid the $4.00 a gallon price with predictions of the current average gas price topping out about $3.65 a gallon sometime in the next few weeks.
Another question is how much of an impact will the increase in gasoline prices have on the economy? When gasoline prices increase, it’s common for families to cut spending in other areas to be able to afford to get around. If people begin spending less in other areas, you could see it begin to affect the economies of the cities with these $4.00 a gallon gas prices. If this does begin to happen, there are other large population centers that won’t be far behind. Gas prices have risen to the $3.75 a gallon point in cities such as Chicago, New York, and Miami.
If you find that your budget is taking a hit due to the increase in cost of gasoline, here are a few things you can do to make sure that you aren’t spending more than you need (also be sure that you aren’t accidentally wasting money with these common gas saving myths):
Probably the most effective way to reduce your gasoline consumption is to simply drive less. If you have an errand to run that is close by, instead of jumping into your car, walk or ride your bike. When it comes to the weekends, instead of taking long trips outside of town, look for activities that can be done close to home. By taking a little time to think about where you go and how you can get there, you should be able to reduce the amount of driving you do.
Avoid Rush Hour
If you have a commute to work, that usually entails driving through rush hour traffic. If this is the case, consider changing the time you go to work. Although nobody likes to get up earlier than they have to, getting to the office an hour or two before you usually do can save quite a bit of time that might otherwise be wasted sitting in traffic. This works well if your company offers flextime so that you can go in early and then come home early. But even if your company doesn’t offer flex time, it can still work to your advantage. Getting to the office an hour early to drink your coffee and read your newspaper there instead of at home will mean less time in the car, and it’s a simple way to save on gas.
When it comes to running errands, take some time to plan them out so that you only have to make one trip instead of making several. This will save you both time and gas as you won’t be running back and forth from your house to get things, but instead get them all in one outing.
Rideshare or Carpool
If your schedule allows for a regular commute, ridesharing or carpooling can be an excellent way to reduce the amount you pay for gasoline. It does take a bit of effort to find others who have a similar commute schedule in the same general area as you, but once you find a good group, it can be an excellent way to get to work every morning. Since you will be sharing a car, you won’t be driving yours every day which will save on gas. Another huge bonus is that you will have enough people to allow for you to drive in the commuter lane which will save you even more money since these usually have much less stop and go traffic.
Buy Gas Gift Cards
If you fill up your car at a particular gas station on a regular basis, consider going to the secondary market and looking for a gift card for that gas station. Gift cards for gas stations usually sell for 5% or more off their retail value on the secondary market. That means that you can get $100 worth of gas for $95 or less simply by purchasing the gift card. It’s important to make sure that if you go this route, it’s for a gas station that you would regularly use which also has good gas prices in your area.
Clean Out Your Car
Take the time to open your trunk to clean out all the things that have accumulated in it over the winter months. Every extra pound that you carry around in your car means that your car must work a little harder, and use a little bit more gas, to get around. Doing a spring cleaning of your car trunk and back seat to get rid of anything that you don’t need to be carrying around will help your car get better gas mileage. At the same time, if you placed on a winter car-rack for skiing and other outdoor activities, taking it off will help avoid unnecessary wind resistance that can also help improve your gas mileage.
Drive Less Aggressively
Many people don’t think about it, but aggressive driving will end up wasting a lot of gas. Accelerating quickly from stops and driving well above the speed limit will use more gas than driving with a more patient attitude. Depending on the size of the vehicle you drive, aggressive driving can cost you 30% or more in gas consumption than more patient driving. Learn to slowly accelerate from a stop, drive with the flow of traffic, and stay around the speed limit posted. Doing this should allow you to get much better gas mileage than if you continue to drive aggressively.
(Photo courtesy of Glenn Batuyong)