Your Early Holiday Present: Gas at $3 a Gallon -- or Less

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By Krystal Steinmetz

Filling up your vehicle with gasoline won't leave your pocketbook quite as empty these days.

The price for regular gas has dropped to or below $3 a gallon at two-thirds of gas stations across the U.S., CNN Money says.

According to AAA, Monday's national average price of $3.04 a gallon for regular was the lowest it's been since December 2010. Wednesday's average was $3.02, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

CNN Money added:

In fact, most drivers are actually paying less than $3, despite what the AAA numbers suggest. That's because places with high-priced gas like Hawaii, Alaska and cities like San Francisco and New York are distorting the national average.

Gas prices traditionally drop in autumn, but not by this much. And experts predict the price will fall even more. So, why the big decline in prices at the pump?

According to The Huffington Post, one reason is that "investors fear that a global economic slowdown could weaken demand." Another factor: The U.S. is contributing more crude oil to the global oil supply.

If you need to fill your tank with premium gasoline, the cost savings aren't as dramatic as you'll experience with regular unleaded. Wednesday's national average for premium was $3.41, compared with $3.63 a year ago, AAA said.

The price gap between regular and premium recently hit its biggest divide since 2008. Bloomberg said:

The gap between premium and regular swelled to 40 cents a gallon last week, according to Heathrow, Fla.-based motoring club AAA. The difference was as small as 13 cents in January 2009.

That is partly a result of drilling at U.S. shale formations. The shale oil produced is more easily converted into low-octane gas.

"Companies using new drilling technologies to reach shale oil deposits boosted U.S. production by 66 percent in the past five years, helping create a supply glut that's driven crude down 23 percent in the past four months," Bloomberg said.

I was elated when I pulled up to the gas station on Tuesday to discover that I could fill my vehicle with super unleaded for $3.35 a gallon. (Note: If your owner's manual doesn't require premium gas, you're likely wasting money by buying it. See this explanation from

How much is gas where you live? How are you using the money you're saving? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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6 Little Changes You Can Make to Save Big Bucks
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Your Early Holiday Present: Gas at $3 a Gallon -- or Less
Most of us spend a ton of time researching our options when we first sign up for a plan or policy, then forget all about it and make monthly payments like a robot. But this can cost you.

If you've been on the same cell phone plan for a while, or you haven't looked at the terms of your insurance policies (home, life, auto) since you got them, it's time to do a review. Your circumstances may have changed, and new plans or deductions may have come out since you first signed up. Call up customer service (or your agent) and have them walk you through your options if you're having trouble comparing things on your own.
One of the biggest budget sucks is our own forgetfulness. We miss payments and incur late fees because we've misplaced our statement or didn't manage to get our mail out in time. We fail to save as much as we'd like because we just never remember to do it.

The easiest way to save yourself some money (and hassle and stress) is to set it and forget it. Sign up for auto-pay so your monthly bills are automatically deducted from your checking account. Have a certain amount automatically transferred each month from your checking to your savings account. Remove the human error factor, and your budget will be better for it.
We charge so much nowadays -- whether on credit cards or debit cards -- that it's easy to spend a lot of money without really registering it. When you have a set amount of bills in your wallet, however, it's extremely easy to see how much you've spent so far this month and how much is left.

Take those budget categories of yours -- groceries, entertainment, etc. -- and turn them into real, physical envelopes. At the beginning of each month, put that month's allotment of cash into each envelope. When you're running low, you'll know you need to be careful with your purchases. When you're out, you're done spending on that category till next month.
If you're prone to impulse purchases, imposing a waiting period on yourself is an easy way to break the cycle.

For large purchases, a 30-day waiting list is best. Write down the item that's calling to you, then wait 30 days before allowing yourself to buy it. You may realize in that time that you don't need it after all. Or you may forget why it called to you in the first place.

For smaller impulse buys, like that fancy new product you spotted in the grocery aisle, follow a 10-second rule. Before the item can go into your cart, spend 10 full seconds asking yourself if you really need it and how you will use it. Simply analyzing why you're getting something can disrupt the siren call of a product.
It's all too easy to blow $5, $10, even $20 on something, whether it's an extra meal out or a coffee on the run. In the grand scheme of things, it "doesn't seem like much" to us. But if you start thinking of your money in terms of the time it took you to earn that money, suddenly you find yourself evaluating your spending choices a little closer.

Figure out what you make per hour if you're salaried (if you're hourly, this will be easy). Let's say you make $15 per hour. For every $15 you spend, you'll have to spend another hour of your time at work to pay for that item. A coffee a day for a week can cost you an hour or two. And bigger items, like that flat screen TV you're eyeing? You get the drift. Framing purchases in light of time spent can help you make sure something is worth it.
In the end, a budget is simply a means of making sure your money is working for you. It allows you to see how much you're brining in and allocate it towards the things that are most important to you. If you can hold those bigger goals in mind, everyday budgeting becomes easier.

If you're wondering whether or not to buy something, ask yourself if that money would be better spent towards your big goal. Put a visual reminder in your wallet to keep you on task-like a photo of a sandy beach if you're trying to save up money for a trip. Viewing your budget in terms of what it will allow you accomplish-not the things it won't allow you to buy, can revolutionize your spending.
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