November 23, 2014

Carving Out the Cash: David’s Fuel Strategies

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Flickr Photo Credit: Riza

One area that can rapidly spiral out of control in both travel and household budgets is automobile fuel consumption. Since this in an area David takes care of almost exclusively, I asked him to brainstorm with me both the household strategies and the ones he’ll be using on this cross-continental drive from Arizona to Maine.

For regular day to day savings, here are his favorite picks:

  • Mid-week fuel ups. Gas prices tend to spike just before, during and just after the weekends. Dave’s favorite fuel-up day is Tuesday, but he says Wednesday should also work. He’s been doing this for a while now, and he’s seen a noticeable difference in our fuel bill.
  • Use a gas rebate credit card to swipe at the pump and (here’s the catch) pay the account in full each month. Ours gives us a full 5% cash back on gas, utilities, cell phone bills, business equipment and office supplies. All other purchases provide a 1% rebate. Obviously, this takes discipline. It will do you absolutely no good to get the 5% rebate on fuel if you turn around and pay over 10% interest on the purchase the next month. However, we have been receiving this rebate for several years, and the monthly savings has been significant.
  • If possible, combine your rebate card and a discount club card at the pump for even greater savings. For example, at a particular gas station we frequented in Arizona, customers were allowed to use a Safeway discount grocery card which allowed a separate percentage discount on gas. It was possible to swipe the Safeway club card at the pump and the pay by swiping the rebate credit card for actual payment. However, at Costco, where the price of gas is also very low for club card holders, the system would only accept our debit card. This prevented us from receiving the combined savings.  The bottom line? It’s worth a try if the gas station has a club card affiliation. If anyone knows of any other combo card opportunities at the gas pumps in the states, pop us a note.
  • Fuel-saving vehicle and driving checklist. Several items can save you major bucks on gas with little to no effort. Some of Dave’s favorites?  1. Checking and mainting proper air pressure in the tires. Your vehicle should have this information posted inside the driver’s door. We carry a portable air compressor in the car to assist with this.  2. Active use of cruise control during highway driving in good weather (we’ve heard horror stories of using this during rain). 3. Not being a lead foot. This is challenging for some. However, moderate speeds will assist with more efficient fuel consumption.

Traveling Gas Tips: While all of the previous methods can still apply, there are several ideas David has come up with to put to use on a long road trip.

  • Using the web site Gas Buddy to get a sense of average gas prices. David’s thinking on this is that we’ll be able to have a mental reference point for evaluating gas prices we see along the highway, and therefor know whether or not a particular station is offering a good deal.

He’s also read recently that the non-brand name “mom and pops” gas stations frequently offer lower prices than the larger, corporate affiliate stations. This would apply for household gas budgeting as well. We realize this will be a bit more challenging to implement with long distance highway driving across unfamiliar territory, but we have at least three stops where we’ll be staying with friends. It’ll likely be doable there.

More to come!