31 Days to a Better Budget
Budgeting Fuel & Travel
Each day of the series offers new tips, ideas and a challenge to start the year with a solid financial plan.
Setting a gas budget is really tricky—you can’t control the prices, and it’s often hard to predict exactly how much you will drive each month. The problem comes when we don’t even bother to try! Since you can’t control it, you’ll just pay whatever, whenever you need it—without a thought to how it affects your monthly budget.
If you have access to bank & credit card statements for the last year, spend some time figuring out how much you’ve been spending on gas. Some months will be higher than others (we spend a lot on gas during the holidays), but it can give you a baseline to work with. You can set your monthly budget on the high end to account for extra travel (visiting Mom?) or increased fuel costs (hello, $3.09/gallon!).
Another thing you can do, is merge your gas & vacation budget under the travel heading. This way, if gas prices go up a bit, you aren’t stuck trying to figure out how to pay for it. You’ll just have a little less money to spend on additional travel. On the other hand, if you improve your fuel efficiency, travel a bit less than usual or work from home for awhile, you’ll have more money leftover when vacation time rolls around.
You can also implement a few minor changes in your daily habits, to improve fuel efficiency and reduce driving time. Instead of going here & there at random throughout the week, set an errand day & do everything in one chunk. Pickup stamps at the grocery, to eliminate a trip to the post office. Stop at the bank on your way to library. Pickup dry cleaning, and return DVD rentals next door.
Pay attention to trends at your local gas stations, too. You may begin to notice a pattern for lower gasoline—if there is a day of the week that is typically lower than others, make that your errand day. Fill up on gas while it’s at its lowest, and watch for savings through coupons, discount programs & rewards. A little awareness of when & how often you’re at the pump can help keep your budget in line.
I’m not a financial planner or a budget expert. I’ll just be walking you through the steps I take each time my budget needs an adjustment. In fact, I’ll be participating myself!
Shelly @ Coupon Teacher says
I have to be honest…this is one I don’t even try to save on. Trying to save on gas can be so discouraging with prices climbing higher and higher. Thank you for the encouragement. I need to do better!
Sara at Saving For Someday says
I’m always cognizant of fuel prices. About 5 years ago we had a pipeline break in the Phoenix area and gas prices soared to over $4/gal (and stayed there for months!) which nearly doubled gas prices. It was a huge challenge. It’s not like all of a sudden you can trade in your vehicle for one with better fuel economy. And you still need to get to work and the kids to school & activities.
But with that I learned to better plan my outings. And it also made me think about ways to plan when I travel. I found that with a smartphone you can search for gas prices online, which really helps when traveling. Also, I always take my Costco card with me b/c even if I have to drive a few miles out of the way, saving $0.10 – $0.15/gal is worth it.
This is such a tricky one! I try to watch for prices, but when you’re out of gas, you’re out. It’s amazing to me how the price will change over the course of a day — on my way to work last week it was $3.05, on the way home it was $3.15. How is that possible?
Anyway, we do what we can to combine trips, scan the prices in the area before we fill up, and use a brand’s rewards card. Sometimes we skip an event if gas is high and our dollars are low.
I remember when gas used to be $1 a gallon. Sadly, those days are behind us for good!
Renae @ How to Have it All says
I mainly buy gas at Kroger. They are the lowest in my area since they offer a $0.10 per gallon discount when you have enough fuel points. For the most part, it is very easy to collect fuel points since I shop at Kroger on a weekly basis.
I also plan out my trips so that I am more fuel efficient.