Gas prices in the US are at record highs, and for our clients who are trying to practice sound money management and pay down their debts, high prices at the pump have a big impact.
The use of gasoline is regular and predictable for most drivers. Unfortunately, fluctuating prices make it difficult to budget in advance. If effective money management is your goal, then you’ll need to try some new strategies to cut gas spending:
Don’t buy gas on the weekends. The best time to buy gas is early in the morning, on a weekday (not Friday). Gas prices almost always go up before and during weekends and holidays, so the best time to top off your tank is first thing Wednesday morning. If you must get gas on a weekend or holiday, only get what you need, and wait to finish filling up after prices drop a little.
Use the gas rewards your grocery store offers. Many grocery stores now offer discounts on gas at affiliated stations. The discounts they offer are an enticement to get more people to buy their groceries; they’re not expecting to make money on the gasoline sale. If your grocery receipt offers gas rewards, take them up on their offer.
Consider a gas credit card. Unless you are on a Debt Management Plan or are trying to be careful about credit card use, you may want to consider a gas company credit card. The main benefit of gas cards is the rewards and or discounts for gas purchases. Some companies offer as much as 3% back on gas station purchases made with the card. These types of cards are also a good option for people trying to build their credit rating. Gas company cards can only be used at the corresponding gas station – so they are a good choice for a credit card that won’t get out of control. As long as you pay off the balance in full every month you won’t incur (the often high) interest charges or get into unwanted debt. Gas cards are also a great way to track and analyze your gasoline spending.
Be a responsible driver. This includes being a good car owner. Drive within speed limits, accelerating slowly and without sudden stops, and you’ll use less gasoline. Also, take good care of your car. Give it routine maintenance, keep your tires properly inflated, use the right grade of gas for your engine, etc.
Shop around for the best prices. These days, you can use the internet and smartphone apps to find good deals on nearby gas prices. GasBuddy.com is probably the most popular tool of this kind, but there are many other choices available. For instance, the Waze app will show you gas prices on your route. Ask your friends and family if they have any recommendations.
Beware of pre-authorizations. When you rent a hotel room or a car, your credit card is pre-authorized for a larger amount to make sure you can afford any extra expenses incurred. Likewise, if you pay at the pump, the gas station does not know how big your tank is, so they will pre-authorize a high amount to make sure you can afford all of the gas you’re pumping. Recently, the amount the gas station can hold went up to $175! The amount you do not actually spend will usually be released after a few hours but having that much of your available balance tied up can seriously wreck your day. The solution is to pre-pay for a specific amount of gas with the station attendant rather than pay at the pump – especially if you do not have a large available balance to put on hold. (And paying with the attendant rather than at the pump also helps avoid getting caught by identity thieves using credit card “skimmers” to steal your credit card info.)
Money management can be a chore, but if you get into the habit of controlling regular expenses like gasoline purchases, things will go easier for you. With gas prices at record highs in the US, it’s worth the extra effort.
If you know anyone who needs personalized budget, money management, or credit advice, we recommend a one-on-one counseling session with a certified credit counselor. The counseling is confidential and completely free of charge. If you’re already on a Debt Management Plan and need budget help, reach out to us any time, and be sure to take advantage of the free educational resources we offer through our FIT Academy.