gas pumpYou've heard the (often conflicting) wisdom about saving money on gas: Turn off the AC (or don't). Fill your tires (just exactly enough). Drive more slowly (but not too slowly). But the best way of all to save gas is simply to drive less. Sure, that's easy for me to say: I don't drive at all! But I know we can't all go cold turkey, so we polled our writers and friends for the best ways to cut back on driving without cutting it out of our lives altogether. Too bad the government isn't taking advantage of ways it could make oil prices fall. Check out our 17 tips -- some really simple, some a little more of a commitment -- that can help you save some dough on gas.

1. Plan Your Menus

If you can plan ahead, even by as little as a few days, you can eliminate those last-minute trips to the grocery store to pick up something for dinner, or school lunches, or because you're out of milk again. If you get disciplined enough to plan a week or two ahead of time, you can save even more.

2. Subscribe to a Food Delivery Service

Have you heard? The milkman is back. And so are a number of other food delivery services, often delivered by bicycle or electric car, thanks to passionate entrepreneurs. In my city, for instance, you could choose from SoupCycle, a dairy that delivers yogurt and cheese, to an organic produce club and a gluten-free macaron delivery service -- and most of these offer food that's way tastier and healthier than what I can get in local stores.

3. Join a Buying Club

I never run out of milk because I pick up my milk each week as part of a standing order through our buying club, where I also get maple syrup (a bottle each month), fresh produce, bagels (a half-dozen each week), a couple of kinds of locally made cheeses, meat from local farmers, and fresh produce. I plan my week around Tuesday afternoon grocery pickup, often combining it with coffee with friends or my eight-year-old's Little League practice.

4. Commit to Local Food

It's a bigger commitment, but making family rules about the sources of your food can keep things simple, even it's something as uncomplicated as deciding to only buy the produce that's available at the farmer's market on Wednesdays, keeping the short trips for bananas and oranges out of bounds. If you make a farmer's market part of your routine and plan your meals around that, you could achieve a big lifestyle change that will have you canning peaches in the summer with a group of friends and eating them all year round, eschewing the grocery store because your pantry is full, and feeling good about the global savings in "food miles" and all the gas it takes to get food to your grocery store by eating local.

5. Buy in Bulk

Stacey Bradford and Sarah Lorge Butler suggest sharing trips to Costco -- as well as the flats of toilet paper you'll buy there -- with friends. And if you eat a lot of oatmeal or bake a lot, you may want to consider getting flour, oats or other grains in 25- or 50-pound bags. Shared among a few neighbors, you could cut gas prices and food costs.

6. Carpool to School

Unless your children are in private school, it's nearly certain your neighbors are also taking their kids to the same schools; carpooling can save gas costs and help your kids make those after-school playdates to which you don't have to drive.

7. Find Friends at Home

Not only do I encourage my children to make friends with neighbor kids; I actively court their parents' goodwill, offering to watch their kids when they need to go on errands or out to coffee. It's a great way to keep my kids happy and to avoid having to go anywhere for companionship. I keep a sharp eye on the window for signs of kids playing and alert my own; it keeps them from spending too much time in front of the screens, too.

8. Coordinate your Activities with Nearby Friends and Neighbors.

Are you doing Little League this year? We are, if Avery is. Some kids may have very defined tastes and special skills that need careful tutelage; most kids could be happy with any number of activities, sports and lessons. Come up with a few choices, and huddle up with neighborhood parents your kids' age; surely you can agree on something and share the transportation. Maybe you can take turns coaching, too; if you take Little League, I'll take soccer...

9. Just Say No to Over-scheduling.

You want to give your kids everything a kid should have. But can you really manage the stress of having to coordinate transportation to three activities each Saturday? I know I can't. So figure out what your child adores, and say no to the rest. This goes for adults, too; you can say no to the volleyball league and the lawn sign brigade. Do you really want to spend your Sunday afternoons driving to the suburbs on the other end of town? Day of rest, right?

10. Find Walkable Groups and Activities.

I was over the moon when my eight-year-old's Little League team got assigned to the field a half-mile from my house. If we want to do swimming lessons this summer, they'll be at the pool that's only a three-minute bike ride away. I've stopped agreeing to book groups and knitting circles unless they meet within a few miles of home, so I can bike there in 15 minutes or less; if I'm going to spend time away from my family, I'm not going to spend half of it commuting.

11. Offer to Host

I'm not the only car-free member of my weekly writing group; Rebecca is committed to sustainability, and she hates to drive. So she's the most frequent hostess of our group, and none of the rest of us mind a bit -- we don't have to clean house, and we don't mind that she's saving money.

12. Combine Errands

This is the easiest and the most stress-reducing way to reduce gas. Pick one day every week (or, if you're lucky, every month) to run all your errands, and make sure you've plotted them efficiently. If you're like me, forcing yourself to do everything at once will reduce the likelihood you'll forget something. Well, hopefully.

13. Eliminate Errands.

This advice may make me unpopular, but I'll bet there are things you do regularly that you could live without. Imagine for a minute that your family's income was cut in half. What would you let go first? Could you let go of it now? Maybe you get a manicure at that place near your old job once a month; maybe it's a scrapbooking habit that you honestly don't have time for; maybe it's a standing lunch date at a pricey restaurant with an old boss. What would happen if you let it go? You never know -- maybe it would be a relief for you and your wallet not to have that in your schedule.

14. Combine Working Out with Errands

I've done this "trick" since even before I had kids and felt the time crunch so dearly: I'll try to make my run's midpoint an errand. This is especially simple if you have something lightweight to do (deposit a check, mail a bill, buy stamps or bus tickets, drop off a computer file). If it's something a little bulkier -- in business school, I'd do my grocery shopping -- you may have to put it near the end of your run, walk or bike ride. (Ladies, my secret is the sports bra meant for bicycle racers; they have huge back pockets that can fit my wallet, a couple of rolls of film, and a cloth bag for carrying home my purchases. Men, you're on your own, but the bike people make jerseys, too.)

15. Never Buy Anything on Credit

If you give yourself the freedom to use your plastic, it will encourage you to say "yes" to those whims you and I both have, such as spending a little time trolling antique stores on Saturday, say, or trying out that new restaurant on opening day, or getting in line for a special "doorbuster" or day-of-release event. You'll be encouraged to hop in your car and go somewhere, when you could just as well be reading a book or cooking those farmer's market veggies in your crisper before they go bad.

16. Budget Both your Money and Time

When it comes to errands, I've been known to spend a whole day-that-could-otherwise have been spent so well: writing the next great American novel, or baking shortbread cookies for my kids. If I plan things ahead of time, I find I'd much rather play ball in the backyard than go shopping for baseball gear. And if I go all the way to that sporting goods store, shouldn't I also stop at the fabric depot a mile away? If I've come up with a strict plan for my expenditures of money and errand time, I'll be more likely to conserve both.

17. Say "no" to Big Box Stores

Category killers are, it's true, the best way to evaluate absolutely every product in a category; big stores like Walmart and Target entice you with their aisles full of everything under the sun (that's wrapped in plastic and marked with a bar code, that is). They're also typically located outside a central city area and are great for sucking up an afternoon (and a few hundred dollars more than you meant to spend). Keeping your selection limited and your shopping source nearby will save you gas money and the moolah you use for everything else, too.

There are as many ways to reduce your spending on gas as there are ways to use gas. The best advice I can give you is to be present in every decision you make. Don't grab your keys without at least first considering, just for a moment, if you really have to make that trip. Could you save it for another day when you'll be going that way, anyway? Could you do it over the phone or online? Could you walk, bike or take the bus? Are you just going out to get out of the house? (In that case, grab your walking shoes and your children/pet/significant other instead!) Could you ask my child/friend/spouse to catch a ride with someone else or find another way home?

While you won't see that every trip has a gas-free alternative, lots will, and if you're anything like me, you'll save guilt and stress as well as money and carbon emissions.


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Jennie

Oil is going down WHY isn't gas the other day it was 112.00 an today it is 107. an we still are paying over 3.84 a gal.

April 13 2011 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jennie

There is an E-Mail going around that reads Don't buy gas on April 15 that it will get into the oil comp. pockets. It was done in years past an it worked it helped gas to go down over .30 cents agsl an then some. So every one please do try it an see how it helps. All we can do is try. Here is what is going around.


Don't pump gas on April,15th 2011

KEEP SENDING THIS


Il do it! If running low, just get your gas the day before on April 14 or the day after on April 16. Every little bit helps.

In April 1997, there was a "gas out" conducted nationwide in protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

On April 15th 2011, all internet users are to not go to a gas station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $1.20 a liter in most places.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15th, it would take $2,292,000,000.00 (that's almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil companies pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on April 15th and let's try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day.

If you agree (which I can't see why you wouldn't) resend this to all your contact list. With it saying, "Don't pump gas on April 15th"

April 13 2011 at 9:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
freekybig53

Lets see ,the Liberals are bragging about oil being down to 106 dollars a barrel so why is the price of gas still high ?? Liberal lies again or what !!

April 13 2011 at 8:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
paulg821

drive ONLY where you need to go let the oil pile up its not the middle east causing the problems its the the greedy pigs on wall street driving up the prices leave them holding their you know whats!!!!!! drive as little as possibe!!

April 12 2011 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dang6510

HEADLINE: "17 Ways to Cut Gas Costs" >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
How about showing us 17-ways to cutting the heads of all Wall Streeting & market rigging, speculating scvms of this Earth!!!!

April 12 2011 at 6:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
presto45

Oil/gas prices arent coming down. The reason you ask? Its cause the government is pushing thier New World Order and they are behind the Oil Industry and yes that includes the President. The dollar is worth crap and they are just big talkers. Wake up people, they dont care bout us. Your best solution is to try n find ways to cut driving and or other things to get by!

April 12 2011 at 12:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
inasctg56

What have the dems done? Passed legislation in 2007 that took money away from big oil and steered it toward our auto industry for R&D with mandates for better mileage and now low and behold we have suv's that get 32 mpg as well as waiting lists for chevy volts (almost all US auto workers are back to work), electric batteries being built here (500 at just one plant that pays $14 to $18/hour), and charging stations being made in this country. They eliminated the tax incentives for corporations to go overseas, they eliminated the 5.25% tax rate for those overseas profits, they passed legislation for 100% write offs for improvements made in this country that has demand way up for machinery and equipment, they gave the IRS the resources to go after offshore accounts with over 14,000 coming forward, they passed banking legislation that addresses the problems of the 2002 banking legislation that allowed predatory lending and less govt oversite on wallstreet, they've created 1.3 million jobs in 13 months, manufacturing and export gains for 20 months, and more. What's the gop done? Cut jobs and wages while handing even more over to corporate tax cuts.



And more good news: Retail sales up again, and unemployment claims continue to decline. 1.3 million jobs in 13 months, 20 months of manufacturing and export gains, demand for machinery and equipment up. All those manufacturing paychecks are coming back into communities and creating demand for goods and services just like the economists said.

April 12 2011 at 12:37 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
cpantyhose1979

Nice tips, but when it comes to locations where public transportation is not accessible, you'll have to drive, that's how it is in Illinois. No jobs in Chicago, more jobs in the suburbs, you can take Metra, but you'll have to take a taxi, and since gas is going up the rates will go up.

I prefer using a debit card to pay for everything, especially important purchases on my car to keep it running until the day I can actually get a car with good gas mileage. Hard to carry $300 or more in cash to fix the car and if I lose my wallet or get robbed, that money is gone, and I'll never see it again.

Also if I get caught at a railroad crossing well known for slow freight trains in my city, I turn the car off now, no sense in keeping it idle, unless it's a hot, and humid day, or a cold day.

For the record, if you want gas prices to go down, not only go after the speculators, plus the oil companies too who are screwing us over, I say use a rope, trees, and hang those greedy a-holes.

Plus let go of our dependence on foreign oil, I really hate it when anything screwed up in other countries, we get screwed every time. Main point, WE NEED TO STOP BEING THE WORLD'S POLICE!!

April 11 2011 at 3:54 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
bigpajamas

How about Barak Hussain Obama lifting the driling ban in the Gulf. He gave Brazil 2 billion dollars so they can explore in the Gulf, but not us. Or he can make it VERY expensive for the speculators to do business. Make them pay a huge amount each time they speculate.

April 11 2011 at 1:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bigpajamas's comment
Norina

If he lifted the "ban" (there really isn't one) then it wouldn't matter anyway. There's just not enough anymore. You can drink the Gulf and ANWAR dry and then what? If you don't figure something else out now, you will have the same problems later and no more time for a solution. We invaded Iraq and Libya for their oil. It's time to stop spending trillions of dollars on a military non-solution. Either buy an electric car, switch to bio-diesel or otherwise "get off the pot." There is no more easily accessible oil. And that's that.

April 11 2011 at 11:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wongtpa

Do yourself a favor, vote Obama out of office!

April 11 2011 at 12:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply