With gas prices at least $1 more per gallon than a year ago, penny-pinching moms are pulling every mile they can out of that expensive tank full.
That is after they recover from the accompanying sticker shock.
“Forget the road trips, I guess,” posts Katherine C. in the Money Saving Tips community. “It’s shocking to go fill up my small sedan and spend $60. The same car cost me about $40 a couple of years ago. That’s a big difference!”
So, what’s a frugal mom to do when she still has to shuttle the kids all around town but the family’s income isn’t increasing?
Here are some suggestions from Circle of Moms members.
Pay With Cash
While it isn’t quite as convenient as using the debit card for pay-at-the-pump, paying with good old greenbacks is less expensive.
“It’s a pain to get out of your car in the cold, or the heat, or with children strapped into car seats, to walk in and pay, I know,” relates Katherine C. “But many stations offer a discount for paying with actual dollars. So it can be worth the hassle.”
Those few extra steps from your car to the cashier can add up. The Shell station where I live offers a .10 cent discount for cash. My Jeep has a 20-gallon fuel tank. Current prices here in Alaska are $4.23 for regular. (Yep, I know, it’s a heart attack waiting to happen) I don’t always fill up every week. But if I did and opted to walk those maybe 20 extra steps inside to the cashier (which I do), I could save $2 on each fill-up. In a year that would equal $104 saved just for hoofing it just a bit.
Discounts for Groceries + Gas
Many grocery chains now offer gas discounts when the total of a grocery shopping trip exceeds a certain dollar amount.
The Safeway group located up and down the West Coast offers discounts anywhere from three cents to ten cents per gallon. The Alaska version of Safeway awards a ten cent per gallon discount for every $50 in grocery purchases.
The Fred Meyer/Kroger grocery chain also offers a way to earn points toward gas savings. (Fred Meyer is on the West Coast and Kroger is on the East Coast and parts of the Midwest.) “We get Fred Meyer gas. We shop there anyway and with their rewards card, for every $100 you spend in the store you get 10 cents off gas (per gallon)," explains Brittany G.
The Winn-Dixie supermarkets popular in the South also have a take on grocery-related savings. As Michelle V. explains, "You can buy selected items each week and get anywhere between 5-20 cents off each gallon and all $50 dollars spent on groceries equals 5 cents off each gallon."
Clean Out Your Car
Aside from cashing in on discounts, many moms increase fuel economy by not treating their vehicle like a storage unit.
"Take anything heavy you are not using regularly out of the trunk. Keep your spare and your jack of course, but that milk crate full of tools cleaners and extra fluids is not necessary in your car," says Ink E., adding that "your engine has to suck fuel to lug that extra weight around all the time."
According to Katherine C., the time of day that you fuel up your car can also make a difference on just how much gasoline gets in the tank.
"It's best to fill your car up with gas during the coolest parts of the day - early morning or late evening. You get more gas for your money that way," she writes.
I decided to do a little research on this topic. Turns out Katherine C. is right on the money. In an article entitled Gas Mileage Secrets, Will Cold Gas Save You Money published on the website Car Gas Mileage, there was this explanation of why a gallon of gasoline is not always a gallon of gasoline:
“What’s inside that gallon is subject to change at different temperatures. The tiny molecules that make up a gallon of gas are tightly packed and condensed when they are cool, but when the gas heats up they expand and separate. This will mean that the warmer the gas the less molecules per gallon and the less fuel you get for that gallon."
According to Gas Mileage Secrets, Canadian motorists get a discount at the pump when temperatures soar in the summer months. It is a practice called “temperature compensation” and can save Canadians the American equivalent of nine cents per gallon.
Road trip up to where the Royal Mounties patrol the highways, anyone? This practice is not in use in the good ole’ USA.
Maintain Your Vehicle
Ask any mechanic, and they will tell you a well-maintained vehicle gets better gas mileage.
"A car that isn't running clean is going to cost you more fuel on a daily basis. New plugs and wires ensure that your engine is actually firing on all its cylinders and clean air filters keep your engine from struggling to suck clean air. Both of these things work to help your engine burn fuel efficiently," writes Circle of Moms member Ink E. in the Money Saving Tips community.
She also suggests having the mechanic check what is known as the EGR valve. It stands for exhaust gas recirculation and it is what takes fuel that did not burn during its first cycle through the engine and sends it back through the throttle.
“A car will run with a broken EGR valve,” she explains. But if it isn’t working correctly, “it can cause the engine to surge when your are on the interstate at high speeds. Surges cost you fuel too.”
Other basic maintenance remedies can add to fuel economy.
"Keep your tires inflated; air filter clean and drive the speed limit," says Stacy B.
Limit Your Driving
Consolidating your driving also saves fuel. As Kelli G. suggests, "Plan your trips if you have to go out. Don't make separate trips to go to the grocery store, dry cleaner, bank, etc. Do it all in one trip without going back and forth."
And whatever you do, don’t waste your time driving around town looking for the best deal on fuel.
The website Gas Buddy offers online access to prices across the United States. Its first page offers a full map with color-coded images based on dollar amounts. You can then select specific states, cities and locales to find the best gas prices in your neighborhood.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.