A couple of weeks back, we asked our readers to give us their advice on the best ways to save money at the gas pump. Sorting through the 1,500 comments that we got back, we found that their ideas ranged from the banal to the bizarre, the obvious to the incredibly creative.
We've already shared some ideas for economizing, squeezing extra miles out of your tank, and finding surprising discounts. In the final part of this series, we'll take a peek at some of the more unusual ideas that you shared. While they might not all work, they are certainly interesting, and show -- yet again -- the impressive creativity of DailyFinance's readers!
Making Work Work for You
When it comes to cutting back on gas expenditures, most consumers slash their discretionary driving: weekend trips, jaunts to the mall, and other leisure activities go out the window. As some of our readers noted, however, there are numerous ways to cut down on the standard, day-to-day drives that seem to be absolutely necessary. "Susan," "Grocollect" and "Eff" all endorsed carpooling, but other readers went even further. "Immervation" wrote about his office's plan to cut back on gas expenditure: "My colleagues and I are working three days from home over a secure VPN network ... Our goal is to eliminate our head office space by 2019 or reduce it but maintain our current employee count." He admitted that this solution might not work for every company, but noted that it has really helped his: "Everyone feels better about not having to commute everyday and we all have more money for vacations."
For another reader, "Teltech543," work resources helped make high gas prices a little easier to take: "I have a company car. I leave my house a little early and do things at stores on the way ... The rest of the time I walk or ride a bicycle." As far as gas usage, the company car slashed expenditures: "I filled my truck up last October at about $2.65 a gallon. I still have 3/4 of a tank." Of course, not everyone has a company car, but "Condley" found a way to cut back on trips to the store. He suggested that readers "Do more of your shopping on the Internet, and let UPS do the driving!"
Play Wall Street's Game ... Against Wall Street
"Blair" came up with an interesting solution for dealing with gas speculators who are driving up prices at the pump: "Buy energy stocks. If you can't beat em' join em'." Other readers claimed to have taken his advice. For example, "Jjhwy9bc" wrote that "I bought enough Chevron (CVX) stock so the annual dividends are about the same as my annual fuel cost. That way the oil company pays for my gas." "Nick" from Melbourne, Fla., had a similar suggestion, noting that he and his wife own Exxon (XOM) stock: "Our investment advisor expects an annual return (dividends plus stock price gain) of 10% to 15% a year, so the return on 100 shares should just about cover the gasoline price increase." However, he also cautioned that even gasoline isn't a sure bet: "Remember, there are no guarantees in this life."
While Chevron and Exxon are obvious oil picks, several other companies offer promising returns for savvy investors. For example, "David" suggested Suncor Energy (SU), a Canadian company that specializes in crude production from oil sands: "I bought and sold the same 500 shares of Suncor Energy five times for a total gain of just over $7.00 a share. Maybe not as green as selling my Ford Bronco and getting a Chevy Volt but a heck of a lot easier." And, given the current rush for alternative oil sources, Suncor seems likely to hold its value.
"Mel" noted that, even if you don't buy stock, watching the market can help you pick the best time to buy gas. According to him, the trends in oil futures translate directly into the price at the pump: "Follow the market price of oil futures on the Internet and if the price is trending up fill up your tank. If it is trending flat, run with half a tank as less unladen weight will save a little fuel."
"Dave48228" also pointed out that readers can manipulate tax differences between states to maximize their money at the pump. Living on the New Jersey/New York border, he noted that the stations in Northern N.J. "tend to have lower prices." Depending on where you live, simply driving across a border may help you cut your gas expenditures.
Set Your Clock, and Watch Your Calendar
According to some readers, buying your gas at certain times of the day or week can make a huge difference in price. For example, "Mel" claimed that gas is cheaper on Friday morning, while "Jim" argued that prices are lower on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Some readers even claimed that the outside temperature influences gas. According to "Harley414," the best time to buy gas is in the "early morning hours." "Mel," echoed this, suggesting that readers "Fuel up during the coldest part of the day." He explained his logic in terms of gas density, explaining that when the weather is cold, "liquid fuel is most dense and you get more BTU's per gallon."
Regardless of where you live or when you pump, the ultimate lesson of this year's rise in gas prices seems to be that smart drivers pay attention to their spending habits, and manipulate them in order to reduce expenses. In fact, one of the most interesting suggestions came from "Jkennedy806," who found a particularly interesting way to cut his gas usage. While many readers wrote about the cost of driving, he also considered the cost of lawn care, noting that his gas mower was also a big drain. Now, he wrote, "I have a manual push mower and I love it." To cut his outlays even further, he turned much of his yard into a vegetable garden, noting that "I can't afford vegetables and gas, so something had to be done. People, do away with your lawns, get off your couch and plant vegetables."