Whether you're planning a road trip this summer or just want to pare down your expenses, don't overlook the many ways you can save money at the pump. While one option is buying gas on the weekend -- a GasBuddy.com analysis from 2010 to 2014 found that in the weekend is the cheapest time to buy gas in most states -- it can be challenging to organize your busy week around filling up at the most opportune time. However, the eight strategies below can help you save money on gas any day of the week.
1. Don't wait until you absolutely need gas. If you wait until the arrow is nearly pointing at "empty," you'll be stuck going to whatever gas station is closest -- not cheapest. Get into a routine of filling up the tank when it's still a quarter full so that you can choose which gas station to go to. Figure out what gas stations in your area regularly have the cheapest gas, and head to them. If you have a warehouse club membership, which offers good deals on gas, you might want to make a habit of only filling up at the club's station each week.
2. Map out your route with your smartphone. Smartphone apps such as Waze provide real-time data and take accidents, road closures or other travel delays into account, so you aren't wasting gas idling or following detours that take you too far out of the way. Download and learn how to use these apps so you can take an alternative route when needed.
3. Stick to the maintenance schedule. Taking your car in for maintenance checks is essential for engine performance but can also help you save on gas in the long run. If your tires are deflated or don't have tread, you may be spending more on gas than necessary. The maintenance check might include replacing air filters, topping off coolant and getting an oil change, all of which are essential for improving gas mileage.
4. Earn gas cards at your grocery store. Some grocery stores offer gas cards as a reward for buying a certain amount of groceries on a single visit. Some even allow you to earn gas rewards points on every purchase, so you and family members using the same account could earn free gas within a few trips. Consolidate your grocery shopping trips to save money on gas running to and from the store, and to earn higher value rewards cards for larger purchases. Just make sure you aren't buying things you won't actually eat or use just to earn "free" gas -- you could end up paying more in the long run.
6. Stay cool without the air conditioning. Cranking up the A/C will put a dent in your gas budget, so think of alternative ways to stay cool this season. Opening the windows for most of your trip, wearing lightweight clothing and drinking hot beverages (yes, hot beverages -- it actually works!) could help you stay cooler on longer trips. You can also drive during the cooler parts of the day, and park the car in a shady spot (or use a sunshade) to keep the inside of the car as cool as possible. At the very least, minimize air conditioning to save just a little more on gas expenses.
7. Use a gas app. Since you won't always be able to fill up at your favorite gas station during a long road trip, tap into technology and learn about gas prices within a few miles of your current location. Using free gas-saving apps like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas prices in your area can make it that much easier to locate the closest gas station and keep tabs on current prices.
8. Use a cash back credit card. If you are able to pay off your credit card bill on time and in full every month, a credit card that gives you cash back at the pump might be a good tool to help you save. Some cards offer as much as 5 percent cash back at gas stations. Do some research, and see if this might be a good option for you.
Sabah Karimi is a columnist for the blog Wise Bread, where you can find consumer tips like how to select the best balance transfer credit cards.