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So you’ve implemented your monthly budget and now you’re looking for ways to cut costs. This may seem overwhelming at first because you’re just not sure where you can actually cut costs in all of your budget categories. Especially in your “Necessities” categories, like “Auto and Transport.”
Note: This is part of my “Saving on Necessities” series of posts. If you’re unfamiliar with the 50/20/30 budgeting rule and what “necessity” categories are, read my post on that here.
How do you save money on auto and transport when you’ve still got to take the kids to school and extracurricular activities, go grocery shopping, run errands, drive to work, etc?
There’s no way to get around spending what you’re currently spending in this budget category, right?
Wrong. It just takes a little creativity and a frugal mindset to find ways to cut costs- in any category!
You CAN save money in your “Auto and Transport” budget category.
Read through some of these ideas and see what you can implement right away. You may just surprise yourself how much you can save in this “necessities” category with these simple tips.
- Empty your trunk. Don’t carry extra weight in your vehicle because it will take a toll on your gas mileage over time. Similarly, clean out your car and get rid of anything that doesn’t need to be in there 24/7.
- Check your tire pressure. This will also affect your gas mileage negatively over time, and put you at risk for an accident or flat tire–scary and bigger costs you want to avoid. If the air is low, fill it up with a free air pump at a Quik Trip. Don’t pay for air.
- Wash your car yourself. An automated car wash can easily cost you $10 or more around here. Save that cash and do it yourself. You can even make it a fun family activity in the summer time. However, don’t get too crazy on the water usage. You can fill up a couple buckets and change them when the water is really dirty, rather than keeping a hose on and spraying the entire time.
- Do errands all in one trip. Pick a day and get it all done at once. Then you prevent wasting gas driving there and back. And make sure you drive the shortest distance from one location to another. This requires a little planning ahead, but it’s well worth the little effort required. You’ll save on time in the car and gas usage. For example, if you know you’ve got a doctor’s appointment, you could take care of the groceries if the store is on the way home.
- Go lighter on the gas pedal. There’s no need to gun it when the light turns green. Be nicer to your engine and it will be nicer to you when you have better gas mileage, need less gas, and have cheaper maintenance costs.
- Drive the speed limit. Or even a little slower. This is another way to save on gas, gas mileage, go easy on your vehicle, be safer, and avoid getting pulled over. A ticket is a quick way to bust your monthly budget and is totally avoidable. Safer driving has an extra bonus in that it can get you a discount on your car insurance.
- Call your insurance for a discount. Sometimes if you just call and ask if there are any new deals that can be applied to your account to bring the price down, they can find something for you to knock a bit off the total monthly price. I did this in January and saved $5/month.
- Check for cheaper insurance. Some insurance companies are cheaper than others. Get a few quotes to find savings. We have California Casualty and have been super happy with their customer service. I also recently learned that you can get a $25 gift card just for completing an auto insurance quote online if you are a public school employee, law enforcement officer, firefighter, EMT, nurse, or nurse practitioner! So you have nothing to lose by just checking out what pricing they can offer you. Here’s the link to get your auto quote: California Casualty Auto Quote
- Shop around for best prices on oil changes and maintenance. Just like insurance companies, some auto shops are cheaper than others. Make a few calls to ask pricing before you schedule your appointment. Sign up on YourMechanic.com and they’ll give you a free estimate plus $10 to use on your first service. Many times they are cheaper because they don’t have to pay for a brick and mortar shop- they come to you!
- Ask your auto shop to price match coupons. If you find a coupon for another auto shop that’s cheaper, ask your auto shop if they’ll price match. That’s how I saved $10 to get “The Works” vehicle check up for my car this month. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
- Sign up for free auto shop rewards programs. Many dealerships have these programs and they’re generally free to sign up and come with nice perks like a signup bonus, coupons, rebates, and 5% discounts on services that can be used on your next purchase.
- Sign up for free gas station rewards programs, including grocery stores. Some gas companies like Shell offer a free rewards program that will give you a discount on gas prices. For doing nothing but filling up at a Shell gas station, Shell’s Fuel Rewards program will give you a 3cent/gal discount. If you fuel up a certain number of times per month, they up that to 5cents/gal. In addition, you can get more discounts on your gas for shopping at certain stores and linking your master card to the app. And some grocery stores, like Hyvee, will give you a discount on gas for buying groceries. These programs are free so take advantage of things you’re already spending money on and get them at a discount.
- Use an app to find the cheapest gas station near you. Don’t drive around trying to discover which gas station has the current cheapest price. Do a quick online search. (Of course, if you’re driving. Pull over or park first. No texting and driving, please.) Geico offers a free search: https://www.geico.com/save/local-gas-prices/ and there’s also gasbuddy.com
- Pay at the pump. Try not to go inside the gas station so you aren’t tempted to buy anything in addition to your gasoline. If you don’t see the drinks and donuts and scratch cards, they can’t call out to you. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Keep snacks in car. This is another tip that will help you avoid buying extra things when you stop at the gas station.
- Park in your garage or covered parking. This helps prevent any unforeseen maintenance costs due to nature (falling trees, hail damage, cold/hot weather, etc). You also won’t have to run the air conditioner or heater so hard as soon as you get in.
- Use less air conditioning and heating. This is a gas mileage killer. You can crack the windows while you’re driving. You can keep blankets and fans in the car. Do things to make yourself more comfortable without using the air conditioner.
- Avoid driving during high traffic times. Save your gas mileage by spending less time idling in traffic. Who wants to spend their time doing that anyway? You can try planning your work hours and errands around higher traffic times. There’s a free app called Waze that can help you with this.
- Carpool with coworkers, friends, family, neighbors. Are there other people driving to the same place as you for the same events? Try carpooling to save gas. Bonus: it’s good socializing time. Sometimes, time spent in the car can seem like a total waste so the company is a good thing.
- Find free parking or cheaper parking. Oftentimes there is free or cheaper parking where you want to go. Do a little research and plan ahead. You may have to walk further, but that’s good exercise and you’ll rack up your steps and points on your pedometer- and you can get free money for that. But that’s a separate post. Read more about free cash for pedometers or sign up now to start racking up points! When my daughter was invited to a birthday party downtown, I looked online and discovered that parking at that building was going to cost $10. But our city has a free streetcar that has a stop at that very location. So we parked further away for free (saving gas as well) and caught a ride on the streetcar. It was a new and super fun experience for my kiddo, and we saved on parking.
- Take free/cheap public transit where available. Does your city have a free streetcar, or cheap bus rides? A subway? When you don’t have to worry about time, check out your options and enjoy the view, listen to an audiobook or podcast, or read a book during the ride.
- Downgrade the mini van or pickup truck. Evaluate how often you really need all the extra space you have in your truck or mini van. Do you really need the gas guzzler for daily use? You could downgrade to a smaller vehicle, and only use the big ones for hauling things and long trips.
- Fly instead. There are some instances where taking an airplane to your destination is actually more cost-effective than driving, especially when you add in the extra time, gas, meals, and hotel stays required for long distance driving. Do your due diligence and weigh the pros and cons using a free calculator.
- Get a transit pass. Does your place of residence have a subway or other public transportation? Sometimes paying up front will save rather than paying for each individual trip. Write down your individual charges and compare to a pass so you can make a frugal decision.
- Work from home days. Does your employer allow you to work from home? Take advantage of that. You’ll save time and money. Bonus: You might even get to sleep in a little longer in the mornings.
- Detail your own car. Don’t pay someone else to vacuum and clean the windows. You can do this yourself.
- Fix your window chip ASAP. Ugh, a flying rock just chipped your front windshield. Do NOT wait to see if it’s going to bloom into a crack and spread. It will- sometimes slowly, sometimes within hours. Spend about $10 and put some windshield glass sealer over the chip to keep the crack from spreading and you’ll save your windshield and a lot of money on what you would’ve paid to replace the whole thing. Read more details: https://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/a77/easy-windshield-repair/
- Replace your own headlights or windshield wipers. These are maintenance tasks that you can accomplish on your own with just a little googling and preparation. Do your due diligence and you could save a lot of money on the price of the headlight bulbs, wipers and the price of labor at an auto body shop.
- Give DIY a try for other simple maintenance jobs. If you decide it’s too difficult, then you can go to the mechanic. But a little initial research can make things seem doable and save you money.
- Buy used vehicles. If your car is on its last legs and it’s time to buy a new car, buy used. It’s still new to you, but you can save literally thousands of dollars on this one purchase and the heartache of paying monthly payments for years. Dave Ramsey explains this tip in great detail. Please don’t buy new. We learned that the hard way. Bonus points for buying electric. You won’t need oil changes or gasoline! And electricity is cleaner and cheaper than gas. Plus, there are many places you can go to charge your electric car for free-and fast.
- Get the most money possible from your old car. You can trade it in, sell it on craig’s list, sell it for parts, or even get paid to have it towed by Carbrain. I am a big fan of Carbrain. Read about our experience with them here. Check around and don’t leave money on the table.
- Ride a motorcycle. To be honest, this isn’t a top tip for me because motorcycles are like little death traps in my opinion. But if you like motorcycles, you do you and save on the price of a car and gas. They get much better gas mileage than other cars.
- Walk or bike. You didn’t think I could make a list about saving on auto and transport and not include walking or biking, did you? If there is anything within walking/biking distance from your house, skip the car and get the exercise. You’ll save gas, car wear and tear, and get healthier. When you’re out running errands, can you park where you can walk to multiple stores without driving from one to the other? Get creative. And, of course, there’s that extra plus if you’re wearing a pedometer and racking up steps to get free money on the My Achievement site.
So there you have it. 33 ways to save money on your “Auto and Transport” budget category.
Now it’s time to flex your frugal thumbs.
Get out there and start saving! And please share any other ideas that I may have missed in the comments below.
Happy frugal budgeting,