Rather than drag out the same old ideas, we decided to ask you, our DailyFinance readers, to give us your best suggestions for cutting your gas expenditures. To put it mildly, we weren't prepared for the tidal wave we unleashed: In a matter of days, we were hit with over 1,500 comments and e-mails. After reading through them, one thing become very clear: Necessity is the mother of invention, and our readers are really inventive. Admittedly, many of the suggestions we received were fairly traditional, but some were extremely creative. Over the next week or so, we will be exploring many of your ideas.
Cut Back on Trips
Not surprisingly, one of the most popular ways to save money was by reducing the amount of time spent behind the wheel.
While cutting back on trips can help save money, many readers took it a step further by completely rearranging their routes. "Robin" used the Internet to find the shortest way home: "I went on Google Maps; got the directions going to work...It saved me one mile in [my 21-mile round trip commute]." Another commenter noted that the shortest route isn't always the quickest one and advises readers to "Plan your route with right hand turns to avoid waiting for left hand turn signals."
Some readers took route rearranging to a much deeper level, noting that paying close attention to the terrain of the road makes it possible to use gravity to propel your car -- instead of gasoline. "Miffem" suggests "try going downhill as much as possible," but "Dennis" has it down to a science, which he calls "terrain driving": "In order to save gas as much as possible, it dawned on me to drive as slow as possible and whenever you come to a gradient in the road or a downward incline take your foot off the gas and let the car roll. You'd be surprised how far it takes the car."
Of course, when it comes to cutting gas expenditures, nothing beats walking. One commenter noted that moving to an "old neighborhood" that is close to all the necessities has made it possible to cut out most car trips. Another, Sonja, remembered her childhood, when "My dad and all of our neighbor men walked to work." She notes that the drop in housing prices means that many people "should be able to afford a home closer to their work."
As the government has been telling us for years, one great way to cut down on gas usage is by slowing down. One reader, "Bob," argued that slowing down from 75 to 55 mph translates into a 20% cut in gas expenditure. He notes that "20% equals to 80 cents per gallon these days." On the other hand, "Spinnaker" argues that there's only a 15% difference between 55 and 70 mph. In truth, the difference depends greatly upon the model of car, but the Oak Ridge National Laboratory reported in 2010 that the average car's fuel economy was 17.1% lower at 70 mph than at 55 mph.
Several commenters also noted that coasting, avoiding quick starts and abrupt stops, and slightly over-inflating your tires all cut down on gas usage. "Acpward69" claimed that "we cut gasoline consumption by 25%" by "just slow[ing] down and quit[ting] all those jack rabbit leaps from light to light."
Ultimately, whether you choose to drive more carefully or just slow down, move to a more convenient home or just plan a better route to work, one thing is clear: the first step for saving money on gas is using less of it. And, as DailyFinance's readers have shown, there are a lot of ways to cut your fuel consumption -- and your expenses.