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It’s hard to remember the last time it’s been so important to save on gas, with prices averaging more than $4 a gallon. You’ll want to save any way you can to keep your road trip budget on track.
Many drivers swear by the free app GasBuddy, which you can use to compare gas prices at nearby stations when you need to fill up. Sometimes you’ll save just a few pennies per gallon, other times considerably more. You can get additional savings with a Pay With GasBuddy card, which functions much like a debit card, with payments withdrawn automatically from users’ bank accounts. On top of what you save by using the app to find the cheapest gas, card users get a guaranteed discount of 5 cents per gallon, and then can activate special deal alerts for increased savings of up to 25 cents per gallon.
“We’ve saved $6 to $10 on a fill-up with GasBuddy,” Taylor says. “On a trip to the Florida Keys, we saved nearly 40 cents a gallon [in total] near West Palm Beach by getting off the freeway and driving about five minutes.”
Another option is the free app Upside, a cash-back program in which participating gas stations offer special deals that can also save you up to 25 cents per gallon, according to the company. You pay with whatever credit or debit card you typically use for gas purchases, then photograph and upload the receipt to the company, which then processes your cash-back request (in some locations, you can just log in to your Upside account). Once the funds appear in your account, which can take up to 10 days, you can transfer them to your bank or buy e-gift cards. Upside also offers discounts from 22 to 45 percent at grocery stores, convenience stores and restaurants.
And warehouse retailers such as Costco and BJ’s offer reduced fuel prices at the pump to their members.
Want to improve your gas mileage? Always use cruise control on the highway to stay near the speed limit, not just to avoid speeding tickets but also to save on gas. The faster you go, the more fuel you burn. While gas mileage varies by car, it’s typically optimal at 50 mph, then decreases rapidly at higher speeds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s fuel economy guide. For cars, it notes, “every 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying $0.18 more per gallon of gas (based on the price of gas at $2.63 per gallon). Reducing your speed by 5 to 10 mph can improve fuel economy by 7 percent – 14 percent.” With gas now at around $4.33, that means every 5 mph you drive over 50 mph means paying about 30 cents more per gallon.
An easy first step for saving on the road: Pack your own water and healthy snacks, to avoid having to shell out for overpriced bottles of water or junk food.
For lodgings, it can be worth paying a bit more for a room with a tiny kitchen, or at least a fridge, so you can either whip up a simple meal or store your leftovers.
Goodrich says she eats in as much as possible on driving trips, and she increases her food savings by enrolling in discount programs offered by local grocery store chains. When she does eat out, she’ll look for discounts on restaurant.com. In Bend, Oregon, she bought a $25 certificate to a local restaurant for $10 (she had to place a minimum order of $30, however). “They’re typically not chain restaurants, so you can eat in a local place you might not have found otherwise,” she says.
AARP members can get discounts at more than 40 chains, and there are many restaurants that offer their own discounts for older customers. IHOP and Denny’s, for instance, each has a lower-priced menu for people 55 and up.