The price of gasoline continues to rise, reaching an average of $3.61 a gallon this week, up almost 5 cents from last week according to the most recent gas survey from Lundberg Survey Inc. This is the highest that gas has been since July 26, 2013, although the average price is about 4 cents lower than it was the same time last year. The 2013 low was at $3.18 a gallon. The Lundberg Survey queries 2,500 gas stations around the nation to get its average price.
Those living in California continue to deal with the highest prices in the lower 48 states at over $4.00 a gallon, inching up to $4.04 a gallon this week. This is nearly a $0.40 increase per gallon since mid-March. Montana continues to have the lowest average price at $3.20 a gallon.
Fuel inventories have fallen for six straight weeks according to the Energy Information Administration data. They fell an additional 1.57 million barrels during the week that ended on March 28, and now sit at 215.6 million barrels. This is the lowest level since November 2103.
Why do gasoline prices continue to climb? There are a number of reasons. With the warmer weather of Spring, more people are out driving. Gasoline supplies are also lower at the same time of higher crude costs. For states that require an ethanol mixture, higher corn prices have pushed its price some 60% higher from the same period in 2013.
While the current prices haven’t seemed to have a major affect on the economy at this point, that could change if they continue to rise. There is only so much that many families can do to reduce the amount of gas that they use, especially if they have a set commute they must drive each day. This means that they will end up spending more money from their budget to buy gas which results in them spending less money on other discretionary items. Over a period of time, this reduced discretionary spending can have a major impact on the economy, especially if this happens across the nation. States like California with their current high gas prices can be an indicator of what may happen in the rest of the US if prices continue to climb.
You don’t just have to sit back and take the higher prices. There are a number of steps that you can take to reduce your gas consumption. You can also take steps to try to get the best price on the gas that you do buy. You want to be careful that you don’t fall for the gas saving myths that many believe will save them money, but in reality cost them. Below you’ll find some basic ways that you can save money on gas:
Decrease the Amount Driven
One of the easiest ways to greatly decrease the amount spent on gasoline is to simply not drive as much. The less you drive, the less you’ll end up spending on gas. While there are certain trips, such as your commute, that you may not be able to eliminate, there are probably a lot of shorter trips that you can. Before you jump into your car, if the distance you’re going to drive is less than a mile, consider walking. If the distance is a few miles, consider riding your bike. Before you go out to run errands, make sure that you plan to go to all the places you need visit so you don’t drive back home, and then have to drive back out to the store again. By taking some time to use alternative methods to get to places close by, and to plan for those that are a little farther away, you can greatly reduce the number of miles you drive in your car which will ultimately save you money on gas.
Use Grocery Store Gas Discounts
This one can be a tricky one, but if you do the majority of your shopping at a grocery store which offers gas discounts at certain service stations, this can be a great way to save money over the regular cost of gas. The key is to be sure to check the prices of competing gas stations in the area. If you get a discount of $.20 per gallon by using rewards from your local grocery store, but there happens to be an independent gas station on your way to work that charges less than that, then the $.20 off a gallon isn’t really that great of a deal. Be sure to compare so that you can find a gas station which gives you the best price without going too far out of your way to get there.
Check Your Tires
You’ve probably heard this advice a million times. Even though you’ve heard it, there’s a good chance that you still don’t check your tire pressure on a regular basis. Tires that are under-inflated can waste quite a bit of gas, and even worse, they will wear out the tires much quicker than if they’re properly inflated. It’s worth the cost of getting a tire air pressure gauge so that each time you go to get gas, you can make sure that they are properly inflated.
If you are a two-car family, a simple way to possibly save money on gas is to switch the cars that each of you drive. You will need to sit down and figure out who drives the most in the family. The person who drives most should be the ones who drives a car that gets the best gas mileage. Often times, families have determined that one car is for one person while the other car is for the other, when it actually makes more sense for the two to switch cars to save money on gas.
Miss Rush Hour
One place that a lot of people end up wasting gas is sitting in stop-and-go rush-hour traffic. Taking some time to figure out a way to miss the rush-hour traffic can save you quite a bit of money on gas, and also a lot of time. Doing so isn’t always convenient, especially if you have to get up earlier than you usually would, but it can be worth the effort in both time and money saved. For example, if you drive to work and arrive earlier than you normally would, you would miss rush-hour traffic and actually get to your place of business in a shorter period of time. This could allow you to catch up on your morning coffee and newspaper reading, or you could do work that you would normally do at home. While it’s certainly a sacrifice, it can help you stay within your gasoline budget if prices continue to go higher.
Drive the Speed Limit
Everyone always seems to be in a rush, but the truth is that if you slow down a bit, you’re likely to save quite a bit of money. Driving the speed limit saves money by using less gas than you’re always driving 10 to 15 miles over the speed limit. Yes, it’ll take you a little longer to get to your destination, but you’ll get to that destination using less money.
(Photo courtesy of Mark Turnauckas)