A trip to the gas station is like a visit to the local ZOO! It smells funny, the kids become instantly restless, and it costs way more than it should.

If you don’t live in New Jersey or Oregon, where laws prohibit motorists from experiencing the joys of self-serve refueling, you have to stand out in the cold, fumble around with the gas cap, and hit “yes” on the machine four times before it stops asking if you want a receipt (only to send you into the store to get your receipt when you’re finished).

And, of course, there are the ever increasing gas prices. I’m sure we can all agree that it’s never pleasant to spend the equivalent of half your grocery bill for 15 gallons of something you can’t even see. Wouldn’t it be nice to reduce the number of times you have to relive that experience and save a little money along the way?

Well, you can, and here’s how:

LAY OFF THE GAS (AND THE BRAKE)

I know what you’re saying: “Duh, of course the less you push the gas pedal, the less gas you use!” That tip is a no-brainer, but, did you know that laying off the brake also helps to save fuel? By anticipating the stop sign ahead or the slowed traffic on the highway, you can use less gas by starting to slow down sooner, instead of using the gas to maintain the same speed getting to the stop sign.

In addition, when driving on a highway, instead of driving 65 until you have to brake due to slowed traffic, begin to slow down as soon as you can. The less you have to use the brake, the less you are wasting gas that you couldn’t use anyway. Besides, driving at a slow and steady pace is safer for everyone.

PUMP UP THE SAVINGS

Your engine has to work harder when your tires aren’t properly inflated and your car is out of alignment, so make sure the air pressure is at the recommended level (on most cars, suggested tire pressures can be found on the inside edge of the driver’s door or on the tire itself).

While you’re at it, check your vehicle’s alignment. In addition to saving fuel, maintaining proper tire pressure and alignment will also extend the lifespan of your tires, and that’s an $800 bill we’d all like to put off as long as we possibly can.

IDLE CHATTER

According to the California Energy Commission, idling your car for two minutes uses the same amount of fuel as it takes to drive one mile. Ten seconds of idling uses the same amount of fuel as restarting your engine, so if you’re going to be stopped for more than 30 seconds, turn the car off.

While we’re at it, starting your car and letting it idle while you finish your make-up on those cold January mornings might make for a toasty start to your commute, but it’s certainly not saving you any money at the pump. Instead, bundle up and just drive the car. It’ll be warm in five minutes (instead of taking 15 sitting in the driveway) and you might save enough money to grab a non-fat caramel soy latte now and then.

TOO MUCH JUNK IN THE TRUNK

The more weight your car is carrying, the more gas you’ll use to get from point A to point B. In other words, it’s time to lighten up and stop using your trunk as a miniature storage facility.

Similarly, avoid the temptation to fill up as soon as your tank dips below the half way mark. Constantly toting around 10 gallons of gas in your 20-gallon tank, means an extra 80 pounds of cargo your car has to haul. Instead, wait until your tank is nearly empty (but not too empty), and refill to just above half a tank if you can.

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

Gas Buddy is a free app for smart phones that gives proud penny-pinchers instant access to daily fuel prices at gas stations throughout their neighborhood. In 30 seconds with the app, you might learn that the gas station you thought has the lowest prices in town is actually five cents-per-gallon more than the little two-pump station just down the road. Just be sure to always pull over before using the app. Savings and safety go hand in hand.

This has been a guest post by Shanna from Harrisburg, PA
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