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Work & Money

These Frugal Fill-Up Tips Could Save You $400 a Year on Gas

Ladies, let’s fuel our retirement savings by paying less at the pump. Now, about that junk in the trunk …

My last fill-up was an eye-opener. What with working at home since the pandemic began, I really wasn’t doing too much driving. Then a relative fell ill, and I started making frequent trips to visit and help out where I could. I’m now gassing up almost twice as often and my wallet is wincing.

So, I started looking for ways to pay less at the pump. There’s a lot we can control. For instance, if you’re a lead-foot who likes to speed through yellow lights instead of coasting to a stop, you’re paying extra money for gas that could be fueling your future retirement instead. That’s just one of several tips I found on how to put the brakes on gasoline spending. During the holidays, when every extra penny often goes toward presents for and visits to loved ones, more of us may be feeling continued pain at the pump.

Think about tip number 3 for a minute: If you fill up your SUV’s 15-gallon tank once a week and you drive at 55 instead of 65, fill-ups could cost you $201 over four weeks versus $227.40. Over the course of a year, you could save $343.20.

Earlier this month (at the time of writing), the national average of $3.35 was seven cents less than the previous month — but still $1.21 more than the previous year. And that’s the case even though prices had softened due to COVID fears related to the omicron variant, and President Biden’s move to give drivers a break on Nov. 23, the eve of the holiday travel rush, when the White House authorized tapping a total of 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 

Thankfully, there’s a lot we can do to make fill-ups less frequent, and therefore, more frugal.

Some driving tips from the U.S. Department of Energy:


  • Minimize idling your car by turning off your engine when your vehicle is parked for more than 10 seconds. Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use, adding up to three cents of wasted fuel a minute. In the winter, most manufacturers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds. The engine will warm up faster being driven, which will allow the heat to turn on sooner, decrease your fuel costs and reduce emissions.
  • Drive sensibly and avoid aggressive driving, such as speeding, rapid acceleration and hard braking. Aggressive driving can lower your highway gas mileage by 15 to 30 percent and your city mileage by 10 to 40 percent*.
  • Avoid driving at high speeds. Above 50 mph, gas mileage drops rapidly. For every 5 mph above 50, it's like paying an additional 22 cents per gallon of gasoline. 
  • Reduce drag by placing items inside the car or trunk rather than on roof racks, which can decrease your fuel economy by up to 8 percent in city driving and up to 25 percent at interstate speeds. 
  • Avoid keeping heavy items in your car; an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could increase your gas costs by up to 3 cents per gallon.
  • Combine errands. Several short trips, each one taken from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
  • Check into telecommuting, carpooling, public transit and active transportation like bicycling or walking to save on fuel and car maintenance costs. Many urban areas provide carpool lanes that are usually less congested, which means you will get to work and home faster and more refreshed!

*All cost estimates assume an average price of $3.15 per gallon. Source: FuelEconomy.gov

Think about tip number 3 for a minute: If you fill up your SUV’s 15-gallon tank once a week and you drive at 55 instead of 65, fill-ups could cost you $201 over four weeks versus $227.40. Over the course of a year, you could save $343.20. Taking the junk out of your trunk, as in tip number 5, could save you about $23 over 12 months. The more frugal fuel habits you adopt, the more savings. How does saving close to $400 a year sound?

Car maintenance tips from AAA:


1.   Take care of your car. When the “check engine” light comes on, it usually means that there’s a problem causing excessive emissions and, possibly, reducing fuel economy.

2.   Take care of your tires. You’ll notice that your car stops moving if a tire is deflated. If the tires are underinflated, your fuel economy will suffer, too.

3.   Don’t use premium fuel unless your owner’s manual says you must.

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