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Why Are Gas Prices So High and How You Can Save

We’re all glad the quarantine days are in the rearview mirror, but we’ll miss those cheap gas prices back when we had nowhere to go. Now that we’re commuting and traveling again, gas prices are up—we’re talking higher than prices have been in years.  

But don’t toss your car keys into the trash and start walking just yet. We’ve got some tips to help you feel less pain at the pump each time you fill up. But first, let’s dig into the big question on everyone’s mind: Why are gas prices so high these days?

Why Are Gas Prices So High?

If you guessed inflation, you win. The crazy high inflation rate (6.2% over the previous 12 months—the highest in 30 years) is playing a huge role in driving up gas prices.1 The average price for a regular gallon of gas is $3.39. That’s a big jump from this time last year when the average price was $2.12.2 So, no, you’re definitely not imagining it—gas didn’t use to cost this much.

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But trying to figure out why gas prices are so high doesn’t just stop there. Prices at the pump are being impacted by the cost of crude oil going up too (thanks again, inflation).  The cost for a barrel of crude oil runs around $80 now.3 Oh, and let’s not forget about the Colonial Pipeline being hacked earlier in 2021—that really threw a wrench into the supply chain.

Okay, now’s a good time to take a big, deep breath.

So, what’s being done to help lower gas prices? Well, President Biden told the Department of Energy to release 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (the U.S. emergency stash of underground gasoline) in hopes that it will help gas prices to ease up—but don’t expect that to happen overnight.4 Plus, no one even knows if it’ll really make a difference when it comes to gas prices anyway, so don't hold your breath.

As much as we all want to run up to the sign at the gas station and roll back those killer price numbers, we can’t. But there’s still something you can do about it. Here are 11 ways to save a little extra money on gas.

11 Ways to Save Money on Gas

1. Shop around for the best gas prices.

Sure, sometimes you’re riding on empty and you’ve got to get gas as quickly as possible. But if you plan ahead, you can really save money on gas. One way is to use an app like GasBuddy that searches your local area to find the cheapest gas prices around. Or you can pay attention on your way to and from work or the kids’ school to see what places offer the best price.

2. Combine your errands.

Don’t make a special trip to get milk when you can just pick it up on the way home from work. You can cut back on trips to the grocery store in general by meal planning and keeping a list of all the household essentials you need. The fewer trips out, the less you pay in gas.

3. Use that cruise control.

Stumped on how to save gas while driving on the open road? If you’re spending lots of time on the interstate, here’s a simple tip: Turn on your cruise control and save on gasoline and leg cramps.

4. Keep your tires inflated.

There’s a savings myth out there that overinflating your tires can save you money on gas. The reality is, this is a bit of a Goldilocks situation. Overinflating doesn’t help anything, and underinflating can actually hurt your gas mileage. But nailing the recommended tire pressure for your car is like that perfect bowl of porridge—just right. And those just-right savings will add up over time.

5. Ditch the extra weight.

Take everything off your roof rack and unpack the trunk or cargo space. Turns out, the more your car is weighed down, the harder your engine has to work to lug all your junk around. And a harder-working engine is a gas-guzzling engine. So, clean out your car, and enjoy less clutter and fewer trips to the gas station. Who knew figuring out how to save on gas was as simple as getting all the junk out of your car.

6. Join gas rewards programs.

Hear us loud and clear: We aren’t talking about credit card “reward” points here. (Ew.) We mean that your grocery store may offer gas rewards—discounts on gasoline for buying stuff you have to buy anyway. You might have to sign up for a rewards card, but these are often 100% free and 100% worth it. Cheaper gas from the place you already go to stock up on snacks? Yes, please.

7. Join a warehouse membership.

Here’s how to save on gas with money you’re probably already spending at those bulk-buy stores (you know the ones). Some warehouse stores offer lower gas prices to members. Now, that membership will cost you something, but if you’re already a member, you might as well take advantage of that extra savings. And if you’re not a member, before you commit to anything, be sure the annual fee is worth it to save money on gas and other things (like all that bulk cereal shopping).

8. Stop buying premium.

Unless you have a fancy car with a manual that says it needs premium gas, the regular unleaded gas option works just fine. Switching to regular gas is probably the easiest way to save 20­ to 60 cents per gallon, and most drivers don’t even notice the difference. Just be sure you double-check that premium gas isn’t a deal breaker for your car­—or else things could get ugly.

9. Pay with cash.

Cash is king—even at the pump! Some gas stations charge a lower price per gallon if you pay with cash­. It’s their way of skipping the processing fees. Sure, you’ll have to actually walk some extra steps to pay the cashier, but it’s worth it if you can save a few bucks every time you fill up.

10. Fill up earlier in the week (and never on weekends).

Monday is typically the cheapest day of the week to fill up your tank.5 If you can’t make it on Monday, try for Tuesday or Wednesday. Whatever you do, avoid the gas station on Friday­­, Saturday and Sunday if you want to save money on gas.

11. Turn your car off while waiting.

Here’s a simple way to save money on gas—turn the car off when you’re not actually driving it. Think about it. You’re sitting in your car for 5, 10, maybe even 15 minutes waiting on someone else to get in—and probably jamming out to your favorite song. We’ve all been there. But next time, turn the car off. Keeping your car running wastes gas­ even if you’re not driving anywhere!

What to Do With the Money You Save on Gas

Okay, so you’re saving cash with those tips. Great! Now what should you do with the extra money? We're glad you asked.

1. Save it.

Having extra money in the budget every month is a beautiful feeling. But don’t ignore it, or you’ll spend it here and there without even noticing. The first thing you should do with any extra money is save up a starter emergency fund (if you don’t already have one). That’s $1,000 in savings as a safety net for when life happens. Once you’ve got this, jump into our second step.

2. Pay off debt.

Debt keeps you and your money living in the past. You can’t get ahead when you’re paying off something from last month—or last year. So, once you’ve got your starter emergency fund, put any extra money toward paying off debt with the debt snowball method. Because being stuck in the past is bad for your hairstyle, your relationships and your money.

3. Save even more.

Once you’re debt-free, it’s back to saving until you’ve got a fully funded emergency fund of 3–6 months of expenses. Then you’ll be ready for even bigger unexpected life moments—like a job loss, an emergency root canal, or a storm blowing the roof of your house away.

4. Invest it.

When you’ve got solid savings, you should start investing 15% of your take-home pay. Retirement is coming—so be ready for it!

These steps aren’t something we just pulled out of a hat. They’re the first four of the 7 Baby Steps—the proven plan for ditching debt, saving for emergencies, and building wealth in just (you guessed it) seven steps!

Listen, saving money on gas is an awesome way to make a small change with your money that can lead to big results. And when you make lots of those small changes, you’ll get even bigger results. The 7 Baby Steps are just what you need to get there.

Learn how to walk those Baby Steps in Financial Peace University—our tried and true Ramsey+ course. On top of that, with a membership to Ramsey+, you’ll get the premium version of the EveryDollar budget app. Get ready to make saving money (on gas and in life!), paying off debt, and investing a reality.

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners.

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