6 Ways to Save Money at the Pump

I went to fill up our van yesterday and about cried. $3.29/gallon!

After living in Israel for many years and paying truly exorbitant sums for gas (I think we were paying the equivalent of $9/gallon to gas up our diesel-guzzling Kia van back in 2008), I feel it’s a bit disingenuous for me to even complain about the rising prices.


After bumping up our monthly gas budget by $40, I turned to Swagbucks for more ways to increase our fuel efficiency. Here are six tips I’m going to try to cut our gas bill.

1. Keep the tires properly inflated.

This tip was at the top of every “how to save money at the pump” list I read. Check your owner’s manual to know your tires proper pressure level, then top them off at the gas station. In addition to making sure your tires aren’t under-inflated, it’s also important to check alignment and balance. I’m putting all three of these things on my to-do list!

2. Clean out the car

I’m fond of saying to my kids, “My car is not your closet. It’s also not your garbage can.” And yet, the floor of our van is covered in … garbage and clothes. Ugh.

Aside from being gross, all that extra junk we’re schlepping around could actually be wasting us money. According to Bankrate.com, for every extra 250 pounds you schlep around, you lose about one mile per gallon in fuel efficiency. If that’s not motivation for cleaning out the car, I don’t know what is.

3. Don’t top off your tank.

This was a good one, that really surprised me. Apparently that extra bit of gas just sloshes off. It’s only a few cents, but why throw it away?

4. Drive the speed limit. Or slower.

Every time you put the “pedal to the metal”, you are burning a hole in your gas efficiency. Again, according to Bankrate.com, driving 55 MPH vs. 65 MPH can save you two miles per gallon in fuel efficiency. Time to slow down.

5. Plan your route and combine trips.

It’s only a five minute trip to Target, but if I’m just picking up a prescription, that’s an awful lot of fuel being burned for $10 worth of medication.

Instead of making quick “one-off” trips, I’m trying to work in my errands when I’m out anyway dropping off or picking up kids. Life in the suburbs actually makes this pretty easy, since most of the big box stores are all within a one-mile radius of each anyway.

6. Use the a/c judiciously.

It’s not air conditioning weather yet – not even close! – but this is going to be tough one for me. Using the a/c can reduce your fuel efficiency by as much as 20% (!), so I am planning to use some of these work-arounds to fight my cool air habit:

  • Park in shady spots, so the car doesn’t require a full and prolonged blast of arctic air when you are out running your (consolidated) errands
  • Invest in a sun-shade – ditto above
  • Park overnight in a covered spot, if possible, so the car can be fully cooled before you start out on your morning commute – you might even find you don’t need to turn on the a/c at all (at least not first thing in the morning)
  • In city driving, roll down the windows – I’m terrible about turning on the air the second it’s ever so slightly warm in the car, but just cracking a window can give the same relief (unless it’s really beastly outside, in which case, ignore that advice).
  • On highway drives, roll up the window and turn ON the air conditioning – Having the windows down during highway driving can actually increase air resistance, which decreases fuel efficiency.

How much is gas where you live? Are you doing anything different to try to conserve gas – and save money at the pump?


  1. caroline says

    Chicago suburbs: $3.57 yesterday. On days when I don’t work, I drive as little as possible, preferring instead to run errands at the end of workdays. And I only buy gas in the suburbs, because in my (city) neighborhood, it’s around $3.80/gallon.

    • Yikes, I guess I should be grateful for our $3.30. Missouri – which is 10 minutes away – is usually lower by about $.05 – $.10/gallon, but I wonder about the savings when I have to drive 5 miles roundtrip to get the gas.

  2. Just filled up at $3.75 in Chicago (Yikes!). As for tips: Don’t forget using alternative transportation, i.e. walking and biking. Biked to the train station today (instead of driving). As weather gets better, I’ll be biking more and more (like I did in late summer through late November).

    • Absolutely! Walking and biking is great. Good for you for biking to the train. (Public transportation helps, too!) Doesn’t help me so much with the kids’ carpool, but I wonder if I can convince DS (5) to bike to his Tae Kwon Do lessons with me in the summer.

  3. I am going to try to encourage my husband to carpool to work, at least once a week will help!

  4. $3.69 in Connecticut. Stop & Shop has a gas rewards program. For every $100 spent you get 10 cents off at their gas pumps. I have saved as much as $1.00/gallon when it was Pesach hahaha

    • Wowzers! And interesting how much more CT is than NJ. I would’ve expected them to be about the same. Love those gas-grocery deals. I will have to remember that for Pesach at our Price Chopper.

    • Brenda Mommy says

      Not crazy about those 10 cent off gas/grocery deals. I end up spending $100 at the grocery to save $1.60 cents at the pump (to fill up the 16 gallon tank in my van)

  5. it’s $3.19 here in NJ, but i try to plan my trips so i’m not going out of my way to go to most stores.

    • I am so surprised it’s cheaper in NJ – and you guys don’t have to pump your own gas. Well, there it is, the *one* thing that’s better about living in NJ 😉 (Just joking. Kindof.)

  6. I wrote a similar article last week. My husband is a mechanic and when he replaced my oxygen sensor, I got two miles/gallon better. That was nearly a 10% improvement on an older model.


    PS. I love your site!

  7. I use my a/c even in the winter. otherwise the car is just so stuffy! not on cold all the time, but I have to have that a/c button pressed on.

  8. I have been meaning to change out the gate on my pick-up truck with a vented one. Allegedly it improves gas mileage in addition to being safer when backing up. It might finally be the time!

  9. I try to get gas at Costco, which is usually a few cents cheaper, but I also get 3% back with my AMEX/Costco card.

  10. In Southern Missouri we reached $3.19! We went to fill up our truck, and shelled out $75–and it wasn’t even empty when we started! I’ve cut down a few of my trips to the “big town” which is 20 mins away. Hoping it doesn’t get too high over the summer, or we’ll need to get extra creative with our fun.

  11. I can only dream of gas being $3.19/gal. Here in Northern California, it’s anywhere from $3.67-$3.85, depending on the gas station. We function on cash in our household. If I gas up, I use a gas station that has a lower price if paying with cash. If my husband has to get gas, he goes to Sam’s Club which only takes credit cards, but the price per gallon is usually the same as what I’m paying cash for. When he finds out how much the gas cost him, he tells me, and I put the cash back in the bank and applied to the credit card. If it isn’t raining, or isn’t below 35° in the morning, he rides the motorcycle to work. That costs us $7.50/day for his commute. If it’s raining, he takes my van, and it costs $ 15/day. If he has to take the truck (*cringe*), it’s $33/day. It’s rare that he’d need the truck, but it has happened. Typically I get the truck for getting the kids to school and home, and I try really hard not to go anywhere unless I can take my van!!

    • Wow, $33/day is KILLER! Looks like you’ve got it worked out to save the most you can and we’ll just hope that things in the ME settle down soon and the prices come back down, too.

  12. We around $3.50 a gallon for gas. I am really working at staying home more. I have heard the air pressure tip many times too but I haven’t checked our tires for a while. Good reminders!

  13. I just found out about the Stop & Shop grocery store (Northeast region)and Shell gas station promotion where you can use your Stop & Shop rewards card to save money at the pump based on how much you spend at Stop & Shop. I saved .20 cents per gallon which helped considering my state is one of the highest gas prices in the nation (CT) running about $4.39-$4.59 for regular this week.

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