What To Do Before Gas Hits $5 a Gallon

Whether you’re driving a hybrid compact or a SUV, most drivers are feeling the pain of higher gas prices. We won’t get into the causes or the politics of gasoline prices. That’s for economists, politicians and pundits.

But when Time magazine and the NY Times suggest $5 gas is possible we will recognize that it could happen.

So is there anything that you can do besides waiting for the price to increase and then try to minimize the pain? I think so. There are steps that you can take today that will minimize the impact of higher gas prices.

First, if you haven’t already, begin to take all the normal gas saving steps. Pump up your tires. Shop for the cheapest price. Change your air filter regularly. Don’t drive aggressively. All the usual stuff.

Then go a step further. Consider ways to reduce the miles you drive and how much time you spend in your car.

Presumably you’re already combining errands to reduce your miles. It may be time to seriously consider carpooling. Gas costs twice what it did just a short time ago. If you can alternate days with a co-worker your gas bill will look more like the old days.

Also check with your employer about working four 10 hour days or working from home one day a week. With all the connectivity, you might convince your boss that you’d be more productive without all the office distractions.

Another way to lower your gas bill is to reduce the amount of time you spend driving. Sitting in rush hour traffic burns gas. See if you can shift to a schedule that puts you on the road when there’s less traffic. Better 10 to 7 than 8 to 5.

If your employer won’t allow that, adjust your personal schedule to avoid rush hour. Nothing says that you have to have breakfast at home before heading into work. You could bring breakfast with you and eat at the office after beating the traffic.

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Same thing at the end of the day. You don’t have to go home right after work. Perhaps now is the time to get in the habit of taking a daily walk while traffic is heavy and then driving home after the rush.

Finally you come to a point where you’ve saved as much gas as you can. You might already be there. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing else you can do.

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The reason we’re concerned about higher gas prices is because it causes us a money problem. So let’s not ignore the potential money solutions.

Adjust your budget now. You know how much you spend now for gas each month. Add 25% to it. Figure out today where in your budget that extra 25% will come from. Better yet, start taking it out of the other categories now. Put it in a savings account to help you weather the storm.

Finding that much to cut in your budget could be tough. Especially with grocery prices also rising. But it won’t get any easier if you wait until gas prices do go up. In fact, it will be even harder because you’ll need to make a quick decision.

You might be fortunate and find some money by checking your home or auto insurance policies. But you might need to gut it out and finally give up on the premium cable channel or find that extra source of income. No matter what, it will be easier to make the changes now.

I understand that it’s tempting to sit back and let things happen. Hope that prices don’t go up any further. Who knows. Maybe they won’t.

What happens if the experts are wrong and gas doesn’t go to $5? Well, you’ve tuned up your car, cut your gas bill and saved some money in the process. Not a bad result.

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Keep on Stretching those Gasoline Dollars!

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner with over 30 years experience in getting value for a dollar. He currently writes on personal finance and edits The Dollar Stretcher website. You can follow Gary on Twitter.

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. The site has an active section for baby boomers

He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and CreditCards.com. You canfollow Gary on Twitter.
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