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Soften the Effect of High Gas Prices

This article was written by in Consumer, Featured, Travel. 25 comments.


I got lucky: I decided to leave my job, and the associated daily commute, around the time gas prices started rising faster. Now, with more unrest in northern Africa, a gallon of gasoline at the pump costs more than $3.50 on average, with some location sporting a price north of $4.00. High gas prices, though they may be more equitable compared with prices in other locations around the world, could stall our economy as we still are trying to find our way out of a recession. The best options for dealing with high prices involve changing our own habits and decisions.

Here are some suggestions for softening the effect of increasing gasoline prices.

1. Work from home more often. A good rule of thumb is to try to add an additional day outside of the office for every 20% gas price increase. This may not be practical depending on the type of job you have, but if working remotely is an option, taking advantage of the opportunity will help save a significant amount of money over the course of a year.

2. Invest in oil as a hedge. It may not be perfect, but for the most part, gas prices increase along with the price of crude oil, while gas prices eventually decrease when crude oil gets significantly cheaper. Investing in an oil fund like the Vanguard Energy ETF will help your net worth increase to offset your loss of cash flow. If you gas expenses are fixed on a volume basis — always a similar number of gallons consumed each week — then you can modify your investment to match.

3. Buy a better car. If you already have a vehicle that’s considered energy efficient, it may not pay off to replace that car with one that’s slightly more efficient. The difference between 15 mpg and 20 mpg and the difference between 35 mpg and 40 mpg are both 5 mpg, but the former example has a much stronger energy-saving effect than the latter. To reduce your gas expenses significantly, look beyond these incremental changes and consider a paradigm shift. It may mean that you’re spending more money up front for newer technology, and you may never reclaim that cost through savings on fuel, but for alternative energy to make an impact, it will take long-term thinking and an expensive initial outlay.

4. Move closer to your office. Another way of reducing your commute is finding a way to live closer to where you work. When I worked for a non-profit organization in 2000 and 2001, at the same time gas prices started spiking, I had just realized my finances would not be able to handle the commute much longer. I decided to move to be ten minutes from my office rather than ninety minutes away. It was certainly a sacrifice, because my living conditions changed significantly, but it was a necessary decision at the time.

5. Car pool. You can cut your fuel expense by 80% by sharing a ride with four other people who both live and work near you. Car pooling is not always possible, but with some creative approaches, sharing a ride can still be a way to save some money.

6. Take public transportation. This isn’t possible in most areas of the country, unfortunately. Even in New Jersey, where we have an extensive train system, not every community is services by trains or buses. Public transportation is also subject to the cost of fuel through increased fares. While I took the train to my office during the period of time I functioned without a car, our fares increased several times. There were discount programs available, and my office even offered a commutation reimbursement benefit, but the effect of increased gas prices still hit me.

7. Buy using a gas rewards credit card. The main argument against using a credit card is that people generally spend more than they would with cash. I don’t see that as a problem if you have a card that you use only for gas purchases. The amount of gas you buy is a fixed amount based on your driving habits, which are unlikely to change. If you can afford the gas you buy, you might as well get some cash back for buying the fuel your car needs. The most obvious choices are the TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express and the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Card, both offering cash back on your gas purchases. Terms and restrictions apply. Read more about these cards and other choices here.

What are your suggestions for reducing the effect of high gas prices?

Photo: Robb North

Updated March 11, 2014 and originally published March 9, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar richard

Get a gasoline cash back rewards credit card. Amex blue cash and others are pretty generous.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,373 (Platinum)

Good suggestion — I’ll add some recommendations to the article.

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avatar Justin

If you live in the city where you work and want to take this advice an extra step, you could go the pure environmentalist route and invest $200 or so in a road bike. The distance from one point to another may seem daunting, but as long as you’re careful and safe, a bike ride on your way to work in the morning is SO much more invigorating than a car ride. The only time I spend any money on transportation at all (save ten bucks for a new inner tube every now and then) is when it’s icy enough out that I have to take a bus/cab to work.

I don’t own a car…but that’s probably only a practical option in a big enough city to have reliable mass trans (and yes, public transit fares have more than doubled since I moved to Chicago eight years ago, though here that’s probably paying more for corruption than for gasoline). But by not owning a car, I’m able to rack up that many more dollars each month in savings so that, hopefully, gas prices won’t be as big a burden on my checkbook if I do start driving one some day.

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avatar faithfueledbennetts ♦264 (Nickel)

While these are all great suggestions, none are feasible for me. I live way out in the country, 45 minutes from work & everything else. I am quite a good deal finder, so I have been purchasing things on amazing sale & reselling them on ebay for extra cash. It is tedious and annoying at times, but it is extra $$. While I would love for it to actually be extra rather than go to my gas bill, it is effective for now.

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avatar Will @ HackingTheBank.com ♦258 (Nickel)

Well, I must say, I am at least looking forward to the prospect of my mileage reimbursement increasing at work. My car was cheap ($1k) and gets about 28 mpg based on my calculations. The mpg is nothing amazing, but it gets the job done and the car was cheap. I’ve been looking at newer cars but it always surprises me how little increase in gas efficiency they provide even though they’re about 8 years newer. It would take a long time to make back the money in gas efficiency along, but rising prices make this this more economical. I also think that the increasing prices are good for us because it will continue the pressure on auto makers to increase mpg in their cars as consumers begin to place more value on this. It’s too easy to generally ignore mpg when gas is cheap.

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avatar Ceecee ♦796 (Dime)

It’s time we got with the program and implemented your tips all of the time….not just when the price of gas is high. We have had decades to lick the problem of see-saw gas prices and we do nothing. When I see someone driving a gas guzzler, I refuse to listen to them complain about the price of gas.

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avatar Todd Anderson

Although I do not like it, I actually understand why the big oil companies raise their prices when there is trouble in an oil producing area. But what I REALLY resent is the local gas stations raising their prices by over 20 cents overnight, because their prices WILL go up. That’s the same gas in their under ground tanks that I paid $3.15 for last night. Why is it $3.39 today? That was illegal during the 1970′s oil “shortage”. Whats different now? I’m disgusted.

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avatar Don

Stations raise their prices overnight because they have to buy the next day’s gasoline on the “spot market”. At 5 p.m. each day, they get notice from the refinery as to the wholesale cost of gas for the next 24 hours. They commit to a volume, and then send or hire a truck to go pick up the gas. So why do the refineries raise their prices overnight? Because they are not charging for the gas in their inventory, they are charging for what it will cost them to replace their inventory. That’s an important distinction.

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avatar rewards ♦31 (Newbie)

Interesting insight. Care to comment on Flexo’s statement:

“High gas prices, though they may be more equitable compared with prices in other locations around the world”

Are prices more expensive in other locations around the world? And if so, what is the real cost. Is it because of refining capacities?

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avatar cubiclegeoff ♦896 (Dime)

Also simple measures when driving, the usual stuff, keep tires inflated properly, don’t accelerate hard from a stop, don’t stop hard, etc.

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avatar tbork84 ♦1,867 (Half-Dollar)

I know that Sunoco offers a rewards card for purchases in their food marts where purchases will knock several cents off each gallon of gas that you buy. It varies per location, but if you already stop off for coffee or breakfast on the way into work, why not have some of it save you on gas. The rewards accumulate, so making it a routine could really add up to help soften the blow from rising gas prices.

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

The grocery store I shop at has a gas rewards program that you can use at their gas stations. For every $50 you buy in groceries you get a 10-cent gallon discount on gas. Unfortunately, their stations are really convenient for me to use, but my driving-age children use the discounts on their own fill-ups. Costco offers members a good discount price on gas – last weekend there was a long line at each of their 8 pumps.

One thing I’m doing that doesn’t directly relate to gas prices is, looking for alternative energy companies to invest in. I think there’s going to be some good technology coming out of this latest gas crisis. Necessity is the mother of invention!

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avatar tigernicole86 ♦55 (Newbie)

A few of these I’ve talked to my boyfriend about such as getting a gas credit card which will offer us a discount at the pump(we usually go to Marc’s to buy gift cards because there’s an automatic 10 cent discount when you buy those gift cards). We’re also looking into possibly moving closer to where we both work but we’re waiting until we have a renter for our house that we’re renovating. We’ve been keeping up with oil changes, stp fuel injector cleaner(it works I swear!).

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avatar Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

I felt like I was reading a story about myself when I read this post. When we moved a couple years ago we did so to live closer to work. Now I can walk to and from work and save myself driving. I also take the bus when I need to go to work meetings at different locations other than my office.

The only tip I couldn’t do is invest in oil to offset the costs. I really don’t want to support the oil industry because I am passionate about being green and that includes green investing.

Thanks for the great tips.

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avatar The Latter-day Saver ♦706 (Dime)

We are super fortunate to only live about 7 blocks from my office. I bike or walk to work every day. That means we only fill our gas tank once a month!

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avatar Sandy @ yesiamcheap

Here are some additional suggestions. Dumb all the extra stuff that you don’t need out of the trunk. The lighter your car the best. Don’t use the autostart to warm up your car. Do combine trips into one big trip. Do drive conservatively – no fast starts and no short stopping.

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avatar Nina

These are some great suggestions! With gas prices up so much again, it’s always good to remind ourselves of some ways to conserve. In particular, I’ve been looking a purchasing a hybrid, but I’m still not convinced that the gas savings outway the expense of the car–I guess I’m just waiting until hybrids are more common and affordable, they’re certainly getting there. I also thought the idea of a gas card for personal use was a really great idea, that way you can keep a good estimate of exactly what you’re spending on gas. I’ve used gas cards for my employees, I own a small business, and have even considered switching to fleet cards, which I just recently found out about. Great presentation about it here, if you’re not too familiar with them:http://slidesha.re/h3NxZu. Basically, they only allow someone to spend it on gas and allows you to track expenses more easily.

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avatar Pat S.

Properly inflate your tires. This can improve mileage by 5% or more.

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avatar Sonya

I have a great suggestion for beating the gas hike, ride a bike when ever its possible. Carpool and have everybody pitches in for gas that way it soften the blow on the indivivual.

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avatar skylog ♦368 (Nickel)

all great suggestions, even if some may not be feasible for each and every person here. that said, while i do not have the answers, there needs to be a mass switch in thinking, technology, well, just everything, so that our reliance on oil can be reduced. i can not even begin to understand how it will happen, if ever, but something will change one way or the other.

now that i have backed away from the edge, a good start would be for people to try to do the suggested things all the time, not just when the price spikes.

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avatar wylerassociate ♦906 (Dime)

When I first moved to Arizona, I lived an hour away from work and with gas being nearly 4 dollars a gallon, fuel costs were eating my wallet. I now live 5 minutes away from work and it’s helped cut fuel costs.

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avatar gotr31 ♦224 (Cent)

we are fortunate to have carpooling for our work and school commutes. We also combine errands and walk or bike when possible. It also helps that we drive smaller cars and not the big gas hog vehicles that seem so popular.

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avatar love2savegas

I keep 10 clams a week in my pocket just driving a little slower because of a great app I found in itunes called MPG Gas CalcuSaver. This app shows it only takes me a couple extra minutes of drive time a day to save a lot on gas – this is a big help these days with high gas prices. The app is easy and totally worth it.

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avatar dawgette ♦199 (Cent)

It does not look like the gas prices will go down anytime soon. My suggestion would be from some where I read that you should not drive over 60 mph because mpg goes down significantly.

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avatar 4hendricks ♦248 (Cent)

Gas is killing us! We are using a small car to commute, cruise control, etc. but where we live out in the country, and no bus service for school or work we have no choice but to drive. I am encouraging the seniors that I work with to take advantage of senior busing – $1 a trip and that is a donation! What a bargin.

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