8 Simple Rules for Reducing Your Fuel Budget

8 Simple Rules for reducing your fuel budgetNo one enjoys spending money on fuel. Pumping fuel into your car is pretty much the perfect representation of watching your money going up in smoke. You put the fuel in the car, the fuel gets mixed with oxygen which in turn creates an explosion in the cylinders. The explosions result in a cloud of exhaust (smoke).


Most people assume this is just an ordinary cost of living a productive life. “Everyone has to buy a lot of fuel.” This is what you may say to yourself each week as you slide your credit card at the smelly fuel station. Personally, I rarely ever visit a gas station. It’s because I use follow these  8 simple rules for reducing your fuel budget.


1. Combine Trips

A car gets its worst MPG before the engine is fully warm. An engine is designed to operate most efficiently (ie: use the least amount of fuel in relation to its power output) at normal operating temperature. The less often you go for a trip in the car, the less time it has to spend getting bad MPG. This is especially helpful in the winter when cars take longer to heat up.


2. MYTH: You Should ‘Warm up’ Your Car

As described in this CNN article, warming up your car is unnecessary. Yes, a car operates better if it’s warm. But a car warms up quickest when it is moving. So you can either waste fuel letting it ‘warm up’ or you can get on your way and actually burn less fuel. This myth began with the carburated cars of yesteryear. Carburetors have long been replaced with fuel injection. Unfortunately the warm up myth still remains. It should go away soon…


3. Bike to Work

I bike to work each day – even in the snow. Most days my car rests peacefully in the garage while I get my daily intake of fresh air and exercise. I even did this when I lived 9.5 miles from work. Not turning on your car at all is definitely the best way to slash your fuel budget. It may sound crazy not to drive each day but give it a try – it’s unbelievably refreshing.


4. Maintain Your Car

As they say, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. In the long run, keeping a properly maintained car with cost you less money in many ways. In relation to fuel savings, here are the maintenance items you should keep an eye on:

A. Tire Pressure

According to an article published by the U.S. Department of Energy, fuel mileage can go down by .3% for every 1PSI yours tires fall below their recommended PSI. That means if your tires are 5 PSI low, you may be losing 1.5 miles per gallon! I checked my tire pressure while preparing to write this article (and give you all sound advice). My tires were about 4 pounds low. After I inflated them with some free air from a local gas station, I had myself a car that accelerated slightly more quickly, coasted further, and had crisper handling. A job well done.

B. Air Filter(s)

Clean or replace your air filter when it gets visually clogged. Air filters are inside a plastic box under your hood. All you need is a screwdriver for easy access.

C. Spark Plugs

Spark plugs only cost about $3 each so this is a must do. Dirty spark plugs will cause an engine to run poorly. Remember how a cold car runs less efficiently? A car with ‘fouled’ spark plugs creates an even less efficient car. All it takes is a socket wrench to change spark plugs. But often they are hard to access. Consult a repair manual or an online forum before you begin. It’s smart to do your research before tearing your car apart trying to locate them.


5. Use the Internet First!

15 years ago, I saw a story on the Today show where a man tried to live for one month without leaving his New York City apartment. His only connection to the outside world was the internet. Back then that may have been a crazy experiment but today it would be easy. Heck, even normal for some people. I’m not suggesting you never leave your house but so much of life can be done without ever touching a steering wheel. Order goods online, Skype with friends instead of driving across town, work from home a few days a week…


6. Pick up the Phone

If you’re not sure whether a store will have the item you need, if the movie theater is playing your movie, if Starbucks is open… call first! Or Google it! Don’t drive to a destination unless you have a valid reason.


7. Use GPS

Even when I know where I’m going, I use my GPS. Why? To save fuel, of course! My GPS will show me the most economical route to a destination. It will also reroute me so I don’t get stuck in traffic. An idling car gets ZERO MPG. You can also do fuel price comparison via most GPS devices.


8. Reassess What You Drive

You can do everything listed above but still be paying hundreds of dollars each month just to perform your most basic errands. If that’s the case, reconsider what you drive. Do you really need a 2-ton SUV to drive yourself around town? Use this tool to compare the fuel economy of different cars. You may be surprised to see that your favorite fast red sports car actually gets superior mileage to your boring SUV. Note: Avoid premium fuel requirements if possible. And remember, diesel is usually more expensive than gasoline.


Finally, someday I may update this post to say:

9. Drive an Electric Car

Unfortunately, electric cars are still a bit out of reach. We want to save fuel to save money. In 2014, we’re still better off burning a little more fuel than buying an expensive electric car. It will change soon, however.

But until then, these are my 8 Simple Rules for reducing your fuel budget. I spend so little in fuel each month, I have no idea what a gallon of gas even goes for nowadays. Somewhere between $2-5 I believe…

Care to join in my ignorance?

-Will Lipovsky

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