Gas Discounts and Diets: More of Your Fuel-Saving Suggestions

Saving on gasIt has been more than two weeks since we asked our readers for their favorite methods for saving money on gas. Since then, gas prices have dropped from their April 29 highs, and analysts expect them to continue a steady, slow decline over the next few weeks.

However, while average prices are retreating from the $4 level, they aren't likely to drop too far, and advice on how to save at the pump will likely remain useful for the foreseeable future.

Our first collection of your gas-saving suggestions looked at methods that drivers can use to cut back on their gas expenditures, and our second piece covered methods for squeezing extra miles out of every tank. This time, we're going to look at discounts and other methods that drivers can use to actually pay less for each gallon of fuel.

Discounts in Aisle Two

As gas prices rose, many retailers began offering discounts to regular customers. "Dave," for example, noted that regional supermarket chain Price Chopper gives him 10 cents off a gallon for every $50 of groceries he buys. At the same time, his local Fastrac gas station saver card "gives me 7 cents [off per] gallon during the week and 10 cents off a gallon on Sunday."

Similarly, "Chetski6" proclaims the wonders of Kroger (KR), noting that it offers 10 cents off per gallon for each $100 dollars a month spent there on food. Since her family spends $400 on groceries monthly, that adds up to $6 on each 15-gallon fill-up.

Indeed, grocery store discounts on gas seem to be widespread, and quite popular with our readers. "Mesamark" in Southern California suggests using Ralph's supermarkets, while "Wjsnavarre" notes that Publix supermarkets (also owned by Kroger) sometimes offer a 20% discount on $50 gas cards.

However, when it comes to cutting expenses, "Katiecjmikey" may hold the record for piling on discounts. She writes that "One of our local grocery stores gives you a 10 cent/gallon discount on Shell gas if you use their customer card after you purchase $100 in groceries. We usually buy $100 worth of groceries in the first three weeks, then get our gas the last week of the month." Additionally, she adds in another discount: "They also give seniors a 10% discount the first Wednesday of the month, so that really helps. FYI, yesterday, I got gas for $3.57/gallon using this method."

Even if your area doesn't have a grocery store or gas station that offers discounts, there are other ways to pay less for gas. "Lpc13" suggests that readers try "off-brand" gas, noting that "it all comes out of the same refineries." Similarly, "Don," a limousine company owner, suggested that readers use Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas stations in their area. In addition to its great website, the company also offers convenient smartphone apps.

Ears to Ethanol

Some of our readers proclaimed the wonders of blended fuels, notably E85, which is a mix of gasoline and up to 85% fuel-grade ethanol. "Alpelltv" wrote that "I have learned my auto will run very well and maintain the same efficiency if I replace half my gas with E85 ... with E85 over $1.00 less per gallon here, I am saving 50 cents per gallon." Another reader, based in Byron Center, Mich., prefers to use E85 by itself, noting that "I have about a 25% savings by using e85. There is a loss in miles per gallon but an overall reduction in dollars spent."

While ethanol had its defenders, other readers had mixed feelings about fuel blends. "Denny," for example, argued that 100% gasoline increases mpg by 10% to 15% mpg compared to mixed gas/ethanol fuels. "Ethanol has lower heating value than 100% gas. Thus, it takes more to get the same distance," he wrote.

"Neal" was even more emphatic, writing that "I save at the pump by NOT BUYING ETHANOL," and claiming that "ethanol by itself is about 30% less efficient." He went on to argue that ethanol also has negative effects that extend far from the pump: "[E]thanol is produced from corn, which is a food for cattle ... the price of food stuffs go up as the production of ethanol goes up. More forests are destroyed for planting of corn when ethanol is used."

Put Your Car on a Diet

Some readers approach gas savings from a dietary perspective: By controlling their gas purchases, they control their driving. One reader, for example, noted that "I put 30 dollars in my vehicle per week. When it's gone I walk or ride a bicycle." John, on the other hand, took this idea to a frenzied extreme, exclaiming that he always stops pumping when he hits $25: "No matter what the price of gas is, if you just stop at $25, $35, or whatever all the time, the price of gas will never matter!!"

Other readers suggested that pumping patterns could have a major effect on gas consumption. "Lyleva" and "Dvdfrnzwbr" advocate keeping the tank half full, as the reduced weight translates into increased mileage. "Pete" explains it this way: "Gasoline weighs about 6.073 pounds per gallon. On a 14-gallon tank, seven gallons weighs about 42+ pounds. [Only filling the tank halfway] should increase gas mileage by 1 or 2 %."

Other readers argue that keeping the tank full is a better way to cut gas spending. "When gas prices are on the rise, I fill the tank every time I burn a quarter of a tank," writes "James," who claims that "the price always averages out lower."

"GH" echoes this, noting that "when the price at the pump is only going up, it saves to pump more often." "Sfchit" claims that "I definitely get more miles to the tank," although he also admits that part of this is a matter of perception: "the more you don't have to go to the pump the less depressing the current pricing is."

Sfchit's perspective resonated with many readers, who noted that the less they often they're confronted with rising gas prices, the happier they are. For example, "John" of Chantilly, Va., explains why he fills up after using only a quarter of a tank: "Sure, you are paying the same, but in your mind, it's not costing you your first born. I would rather fill my tank for fifteen dollars as opposed to fifty to one hundred."

"Monica" agrees, writing that "The $65 a tank for regular gas really hurts! So for some reason I can deal with half the cost at a time."

Whether you're reducing your pain at the pump through actual decreases in what you pay, or via tricks of perception, it's clear that both manipulated pumping and ethanol can reduce the financial and physical burden of high gas prices.

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Diane Carlson

As a small business owner and consumer, I've had to alter the way I'm doing a lot of things to try to manage fuel expenses. Right now, I'm reimbursing my employees for their gas, based of receipts mainly but I've also been looking into gas cards and fleet cards. I've found a pretty good article about the difference at Fleet Cards USA, which makes it sound like they'd be pretty efficient at helping control gas expenses. Wondering if anyone else has experience with these?

May 31 2011 at 1:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Publix is employee owned. Not by Krogers

May 20 2011 at 5:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Clean Compressed Natural Gas for cars would be great. Public transportation made available would be a boon for people like me that depend on friends to keep doctor appointments, go to grocery store, infrequently shop for clothes,etc. Public transportation in this BIG city stops their service about 9 miles from me and I don't live in the outpost of town.

May 20 2011 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here is something else to think about. The fuel pump is located in the gas tank, it is cooled by gasoline. If you run the tank to a low mark, you may be buying a new fuel pump. ($400.00 plus dollars, pump and lobor) I keep my tank 1/2 full and refill every Friday. That way I buy only about 6-8 gallons per week.

May 20 2011 at 1:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I worked for the L.A. County MTA/RTD a local bus company. We tried both methonol and ethanol. It both proved to be very bad on the engines and ultimatly the buses were changed over to Diesel. Engine life was approx. 6 months. You must remember these buses were on the street an average of 20 hours a day. Some might even be on the streets close to 24 hours. i.e. Bus 2000 pulls out of the yard at 6:00AM and is back in the yard at 7:00PM. It then gets assigned to a all night run and after being fueled pulls out at 7:30PM. It pulls back in at 8:00AM , refueled and out at 12noon. The buses were pushed so that is why 6 months was the average life on their engines. Average life on a Diesel or CNG is about 3 or 4 years maybe longer.

Using pure ethanol is very hard on an engine from what the agency experienced. It was also very expensive because they bought several hundred buses and they all had to be retro fitted.

May 20 2011 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I may have missed this suggestion on ways to reduce your cost of gasoline but one of the best ways is to lose the "junk in the trunk" and I don't mean make your backside smaller by going on a diet. I mean check out the trunk and back seat of your car or truck and take out all of the things that you really don't need. When I went through my wife's car, I found over 135 pounds of misc. junk that she just left in the trunk instead of putting it in the garage or in the house. Then I checked out my truck and found that I did not need to keep all of the off-road supplies, tools, and other misc. junk in the back of the truck. By taking out things and cutting the tools down to the basic necessaries, I took out a whopping 185 pounds out of my truck. By reducing the weight of the average male from my truck and the average female from my wife's car, we have cut back at least one fill-up per month per vehicle. When you consider she fills up with 12 to 15 gallons each week and I put about 17 to 20 gallons in five times a month, that is one heck of a savings. Try checking out your trunk and see how much you can save. And check the air in your tires once a week. A slow leak or soft tires can create more drag or need more energy to move your vehicle. Check out the manufacturer's recommended pounds of air in your tires and then add another pound or two depending on the size of your tires. My two car's manufacturers use a lower number to give you a softer ride but it lowers the number of miles per gallon. The change in these two simple areas has saved us big money each month. And finally, check out the car at the end of the month to make sure one or the other of you are not cheating and adding some of the unnecessary items back into the trunk. After a while, both of you will realize you really did not need some of those items in the trunk. Hey, don't knock it until you try it for at least three months! Laughing out loud when the gas card bills come in each month!

May 20 2011 at 1:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mike patty & jen

Nobody is cutting down forests in this country to plant corn! And after the ethonol plant is done with the corn, then it is a much better cattle feed than before, plus you can mix that used corn with corn stalks, wheat stubble, ect. Whith whats going on in the middle east I wish we produced all our own oil and give them the middle finger. It's all about supply and demand, if we tapped into our domestic resources the price would go down, and if we gave the EPA the boot then our car companys could produce cars that got better gas milage. What the government isnt telling you is that green house gasses is what plants(like corn and trees)use and makes them thrive. If the government would get out of the way and let the farmer do what he does best, than there would be more grain at the market place, but when the EPA is trying to regulate dust in the country, and steal water like what happined in California over a bait fish, and now Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska via Platte River Recovery trying to protect the whooping crane which in that one project will cost tax payers 1/2 to 1 BILLION dollars, then tell us we cant fill in a low spot in the field because they call it a wet land, even though it will never support a bird or fish or have cat tails in it, we must protect it. Our government, is destroying this country by demonizing our free market system. We cant drill in the gulf, but other countries are, whats up with that? Since when is it a crime to be succesful? Mr Obama thinks so, lets take their money and give it to the poor via taxes. If we let oil companies drill baby drill, than the supply would go up, and the price go down, which would affect the price of every single thing we buy, as it costs to get it from here to there. Then if we got rid of the unions, that would also help the price of goods and services go down, notice forign car companies dont have unions. Most of their dues go to electing those who in turn will give them even more power. I would never want some organization representing me at my job, if I'm not worth my salt, I should get canned. If all you folks want the price of gas to go down call your elected represenatives in Washington, on both sides of the isle. Tell them their fired unless they give our fearfull leader the message to let us extract the oil we need on our own turf, they saw what happined at the last election, they are starting to get the idea that maybe our oppinion does matter, and its high time that we get back to a government of for and by the people!!

May 20 2011 at 5:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

not buying gas one day a month will do nothing. u still have to fill up eventually

May 20 2011 at 3:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Protest! Every month don't buy gas on the 15th show them who's in control!

May 20 2011 at 1:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I save money on gas by not driving as much. I only go into town every 6 or 7 days except when I have a Dr appointment. When I'm in town I do everything I need to do. The rest of the time my wheels stay parked (I'm retired). I only fill up once every 4 to 6 weeks this way. My ex used to go into town a couple times a day. Much cheaper gas in those days but it cost more then per month than now.

May 20 2011 at 1:40 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply