How to Save Money on Gas – Part 2 – Know the Cost of Your Trips

March 29, 2012

In case you missed it, you can read the first part of this series on “How to Save Money on Gas – Part 1 – Comparing Prices.”

A quick way to add to your monthly gas costs is to take several little extra trips throughout the week. They might not seem like much. And I see it happen a lot to those new to coupons and deal-finding. They’ll see a posting on a hot deal and think, “I better hurry over to CVS and grab that before it’s gone.”

While some deals are gone quickly, most of them are either still there later in the week or you can get a rain-check on the sale/promotion. I have found considerable savings by only shopping once a week. If I do need an extra item or deal, I’ll have my husband pick it up on his way home from work or I’ll wait until I’m already out and grab it then. Combining trips is a great way to save money on gas.

Sometimes when I am working on my weekly menu plan and weekly shopping trip, I’ll determine my stores I shop at by the distance I have to drive. If there’s only one hot deal at Dominick’s and it’s out of my way, I’ll skip the deal or possibly pick it up at the grocery store that I end up shopping at if the deal is fairly comparable–some stores will even price-match. Often, the amount of money I would have spent on driving to the additional store is more than the deal is truly worth.

You also need to factor in time for that trip. While time may seem endless if your day is free, you might be able to spend that extra 30 minutes or hour doing some at-home freezer cooking or other homemade cooking that can end up saving you more. You might be able to skip a trip, save money on the gas you would have spent, and instead have some great home-cooked meals ready to go for the upcoming weeks.

Before you hop in your vehicle and head out shopping, always ask yourself these questions:

1) Are the items I’m saving money on worth the trip?
2) Do I truly need the items I am making an extra trip for–or will they just add more clutter to my house?
3) Can I skip the trip and find another alternative that will save me time, gas money and possible benefit me more?
4) Is the cost of the trip in my budget for the month?

My neighbor and I have sometimes helped each other out with some deals in the past. If there’s just an item or two we may need, we may call the other to see if that person is already making a trip out that day. It balances out over time of helping each other out with things like that.

The best way to calculate a trip is to figure in the cost of gas, which requires you to know your MPG. (miles per gallon) Most newer vehicles have an “info” button that already calculates that for you. If not, you can calculate it manually. Next time you fill up your vehicle, reset your “trip” or write down the mileage you are currently at on your vehicle and fill up your tank. Then the next time you fill up your vehicle, see how many miles you’ve driven and how many gallons you’ve used (by what you need to add to your tank again.) This number will vary depending on your city/highway driving but you’ll notice an average over time. My car averages 25MPG on the low-end.

Next, see how far your stores are from you in miles so you can figure your round-trip costs. Use your store locators to find their addresses. You could also use Mapquest’s Directions to “calculate fuel cost” for trips. Here’s a peek at the distance round-trip of some of my stores:

Local Grocery Store = 14 miles
Nearest Redbox Rental = 14 miles
CVS – 22 miles
Jewel  =28- 32 miles (depends on location)
Walgreens – 22-28 miles (depends on location)
Dominick’s – 22 miles
Target – 32 miles

With gas prices at $4.29 or higher here right now, you can see how an extra trip can add up. I have to add at least $2 to any trip, and some as high as $4.50 or more. Say I made an extra trip to Target once a week at around $4.50 a trip x 52 weeks = $234 in one year’s time. This doesn’t even figure the “wear-and-tear” and extra mileage added to my vehicle. If I do happen to make a trip there, I try to make it worth its value and grab deals at other stores within that area or turn it into my once-a-week trip. I’ve also found it’s almost cheaper to keep a Redbox Rental an extra day and pay the late fine if I’m not already going out. These are little things you can start to figure when you know the cost of each trip.

So before you run out and grab that extra deal, make sure the value of the trip is truly worth it. The same goes for any trips you make, and not just shopping trips. This might help you keep your monthly gas budget down a little.

More ways to save money on gas coming soon!

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