Increases in the price of gasoline and home heating fuel can easily and quickly cause havoc for a budget. You’ve already seen the evidence of rapid price increases at the pump and it should come as no surprise to you by now that many experts anticipate home energy costs to skyrocket this winter. It may not seem like you have much control over these increased expenses but making an effort to save on these costs may make the difference in budget disorder and budget stability.
Saving at the gas pump
Here are some ideas for saving money at the gas pump:
- Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving, such as speeding, quick acceleration and breaking, drives up your gas usage. Think about it, will going zero to 60 in 10 seconds be that much of an improvement in drive time than going zero to 60 in 20 seconds? Such driving behaviors, which are totally under your control, can decrease your gas mileage by 5 to 33 percent (that’s anywhere from 15 cents to $1.01 a gallon). (On a side note: aggressive driving includes tailgating. You are not a NASCAR driver drafting – you are tailgating – which does not improve your mileage and can easily create other problems.)
- Watch your speed. Although each vehicle obtains its optimal fuel economy at a different speed, overall gas mileage plummets at speeds above 60 mph. The rule of thumb? For each 5mph over 60 you drive it is as if you are paying an additional 21 cents a gallon for gas. (Speed limit savings = 21 to 71 cents a gallon.)
- Don’t use your trunk for storage. Remove excess and unneeded weight from your vehicle. 100 lbs. could reduce your mileage by up to 2 percent or 6 cents a gallon.
- Keep your car tuned properly. Savings here can be anywhere from 4 to 40 percent depending work done.
- Check and replace air filters.
- Keep tires properly inflated.
- Use the recommended grade motor oil for your vehicle.
- Carpool or ride share.
- If you have more than one vehicle use the most gas efficient for running errands.
- Plan your route – avoid backtracking. Planning saves not only on fuel but also in wear & tear on your vehicle.
- Finally, make use of resources to locate better gas prices. Check out websites likehttp://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/gasprices/states/index.shtml for listings of some of the best gas prices and locations (this one is updated by other consumers like you).
Saving at home
Recognizing what makes up your home energy bill may help you focus on areas to try to lower costs. The average breakdown of your home energy bill is:
- 44 percent heating & cooling
- 33 percent lighting, cooking, and other appliances (other than refrigerator – see below)
- 14 percent water heater
- 9 percent refrigerator (who knew?)
What can you do to limit increased costs on you home energy bill? Here are some tips:
- First, ask your utility company to conduct an energy survey or audit of your home – usually free of charge – a review will help you quickly determine problem areas while your utility company should also be able to recommend ways to remedy identified trouble spots.
- By lowering your thermostat from 72° to 65° for eight hours a day (while at work or asleep) will lower your energy usage by up to 10 percent.
- Clean or replace furnace filters.
- Don’t block registers.
- If you have a fireplace, keep the damper closed unless the fireplace is in use. Leaving the damper open this winter, when not in use, is like leaving a 48-inch window open as it allows the air you are paying to heat to go right up the chimney.
- Purchase a refrigerator thermometer to be sure you have not set the controls too low.
- Wear layered clothing – t-shirt & sweatshirt and socks & shoes – to keep you warm at home, so you don’t have to set your thermostat as high.
You may have noticed that most of these tips revolve around the conscious choices you make on a daily basis. Choices you can control. So maybe we do have a little more control over these expenses than is apparent at first glance. If we choose to, that is.