15 Ways to Save Money on Gasoline (Part 2)

I started the 15 Ways to Save Money on Gasoline last week. Here are eight more ways to save money on gasoline submitted by Chrystal Turner from Sea of Savings:

8. Take it easy.

Rapid braking, punching the accelerator and other forms of forceful driving can cut fuel efficiency by as much as one-third at highway speeds and five percent in the city. Driving more carefully can save you up to $1 per gallon.

9. Carpool, if possible.

While this won’t work for everyone, if you can split the costs of gasoline with someone else, you’ll definitely save a bundle. Plus, if you share driving responsibilities, it will allow you to read, write or accomplish other work instead of always driving.

10. Lighten up.

Reducing the weight in your car by 100 pounds can increase your fuel efficiency by up to two percent, the EPA says, or up to $0.07 per gallon. Don’t haul anything unnecessary.

11. Don’t idle.

Idling wastes gas. The bigger the engine, the more gas wasted.

Consider going inside to order your lunch rather than waiting in a long drive-through line. Using cruise control and the overdrive gear at highway speeds will also help improve your gas mileage.

12. Get regular tune-ups.

A car that isn’t running well wastes gas. A tune-up and other repairs can improve your gas mileage by about four percent, or $0.15 per gallon, according to the EPA.

Fixing a serious problem can improve mileage by an enormous 40 percent. The repairs might be expensive, but at today’s gas prices, it will be cheaper in the long run to do the repairs.

13. Clean it up.

A clogged air filter can decrease your gas mileage by up to 10 percent, or $0.37 per gallon. And using the proper grade of motor oil can save one to two percent, or $0.04 to $0.07 per gallon.

14. Check your tires.

Properly inflated tires improve gas mileage by up to three percent.

15. Buy where it’s least expensive.

Finally, make sure you’re getting the best gas prices in your area by checking GasBuddy.com.

Chrystal Turner is a mom of one little energetic 4 year old, wife, work at home mom and blogger. Her blog, Sea of Savings, features the latest coupons and freebies, and routinely features work-at-home jobs and tips for working at home.

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Reader Tip: How I Lowered Our Electric Bill and Created Teachable Moments

I loved this idea from Jody who blogs at Because I’m Me:

For a long time, I’ve been on my kids to turn the lights off, unplug things we’re not using, close the doors, take shorter showers, etc. They were tired of hearing it and weren’t listening.

One day a light bulb went on in the brain and I presented my children with the following offer: Each month the electric bill was below $190 they’d get the dollar amount the bill was below $190 (i.e.: if the bill were $180 they’d get $10). That money would go towards a party, be it candy, ice cream, cake, pizza, chips, whatever they could buy with that money. I never buy food like that, so it would be a real treat for them.

The first month the bill was still up there around $200, an encouraging improvement but not what they needed.

By the second month, the bill was only $162. Yup, almost $65 less than usual! Not too shabby. And it gave them $28 to blow on junk food. I never expected them to get it as low as that!

In addition to a lower electric bill, my children were able to learn valuable lessons. For example, how to budget that $28 to get the best bang for their buck while pleasing all six kids.

They opted to purchase store brand soda, inexpensive ice cream, lots of buy one, get one free items, use coupons, and to pass on some items that were just too expensive. When all was said and done they managed to have enough junk food for one fine party and many days of treats afterward, and they contributed $10 to a dinner of Chinese take-out!

Last week one of my sons said he wished we’d get an electric bill every day so he could keep track of the amount of the bill throughout the month. I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity for a “teachable moment”, so out came the electric bill, an explanation of how to read the meter and a brief “field trip” to the side of the house where the meter is. Now he can check every day, do the multiplication and addition and see if we’re staying on track.

We are now four months into this deal and the interest has not waned!

Jody Sanders is a single Mom of 6 kids in south Florida. She home schools four of her kids, runs a home daycare and loves to sew. She can be found at Because I’m Me.

photo credit

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Reader Tip: Fruit Juice Alternative

Fruit juice alternative

Tip from Alyssa:

As a health-conscious mom of four small kids, I really wanted to avoid serving my kids fruit juice on a regular basis. Not only was it expensive, I was concerned about the effect on my kids’ teeth (dental work is a real budget-killer!) and overall health from consuming so much fructose (read: sugar) for relatively little nutrition in return.

However, there are times I really need them to drink more fluids, like when they have fevers, when it’s hot outside or when I notice my oldest son having a hard time focusing. I have tried watering down fruit juice, which works most of the time, but it was hard to keep on hand for just those times when they don’t want to drink a large amount of plain water.

My Affordable Solution?

Tea!

Supermarkets typically run boxes of herbal fruit tea on sale two for $4 in my area. I use two bags per liter of cold herbal fruit tea, putting each liter at $0.10. Pretty cheap to me! Bonus: The dry tea is easy to keep on hand. If there are weeks we don’t need flavored drinks, it’s just fine waiting in our cupboard!

How We Make Our Tea:

  1. Boil two cups of water in a small pan, tea kettle or microwave.
  2. Place two tea bags of your choice, in a heat-safe (preferably glass) container.
  3. Pour boiling water over the tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags.
  4. Pour steeped tea into a one-liter/quart pitcher and fill with cold water.

To make a gallon to keep on hand in the refrigerator, I find that six bags are plenty to make adequate tea. This even increases your savings!

About Sweetening

My kids will drink most of the fruit teas unsweetened, but if it’s a hard sell, then you might try sweetening it.

  • Stevia is a natural herb which can be used for sweetening. Stevia extract comes in bottles, powder and packets from brands such as Truvia, Stevia in the Raw or Purevia. Be careful! A little stevia goes a long way so just use a drop or pinch and sweeten to taste. If you add too much, it will be sickening sweet and have a funny aftertaste.
  • Sugar (honey, turbinado, sucanat cane, etc.) To dissolve the sugar in your tea, stir in while it is still hot or take a little of your plain hot water and dissolve your sugar in a separate measuring cup. This will make your own sugar syrup that you can blend in with your tea to taste. (Isn’t this defeating the purpose? Well, in a way, no. You will be in control of how much you put in, and if you’re conscientious, then it will most likely be far less than average fruit juices.)

Alyssa is a happy (if not slightly insane at times) navy wife, and homeschooling mom to four kids, ages 6, 5, 2 and 5 months. She dreams of starting a blog one day, then quickly jerks back to reality where the mountain of laundry beckons, someone needs their shoes tied (again), and someone else begs her to turn the house upside down to find his toy hippo he hasn’t seen in three days.

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Reader Tip: How We Save $20 in 15 Minutes

The following tip was submitted by Melanie G. from Buffalo, NY:

My husband and I are both employed full-time out of the house. We don’t have any kids yet, but we are planning for that day and already
have savings mechanisms in place so we can make the transition easier from spending for two to spending for more!

One of the easiest and quickest ways we have found to save money is by bringing our own lunches to work. On days that we don’t, we easily spend $10 each on lunches that probably aren’t very nutritious and don’t really even provide leftovers for another meal.

Our solution to this problem is to take 15 minutes (or less) every night after dinner to pack our lunches for the following day. Even on nights that we are just so tired or can’t think of what we would like to eat the next day, we realize that it is totally worth the effort to take the time right then to save us $20 the next day. If we didn’t do this, we could easily spend $400 per month on lunches out during the week, money we would much rather put towards becoming debt free!

One easy meal solution for us is to make twice as much dinner as we need, then take leftovers for lunch the next day. Another oldie-but-goodie standby is to make sandwiches. I always make sure to have bread and deli meats available. -Melanie

What are your favorite quick and easy sack lunch ideas?

photo by Kusine

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A simple way we just reduced our expenses by $15 per month

After seven and a half years of marriage, we are officially landline-less! It’s something we’ve been hoping to be able to try for the last few years, but once we finally were able to afford a cell phone plan in our budget, we found it was less expensive to have an internet, cell phone and landline bundle than separate plans.

We’ve repeatedly priced all our options, and it has always continued to be less expensive to have a package deal, than to drop the landline.

Recently, however, our phone company finally started offering lower-priced a la carte options. So just this week, we ditched the landline — and will be saving $15 per month to do so.

Not only is this a simple way to save money, but I’m also thinking it’s going to save time, too, because I’m pretty sure we’re going to have a lot fewer sales calls.

Though, at times, I’d almost be willing to pay $15 per month just to avoid the terribly obnoxious middle-of-dinner debt consolidation sales calls. However, come to think of it, I’m going to kind of miss getting to answer their “How much debt do you have?” question. The response, “We don’t have debt” always completely threw them off-script and it was quite amusing to hear them fumble around trying to figure out what to say next. More often than not, there was silence and then a click on the other end. :)

photo by Tim Manteau

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How to Start Your Own Produce Co-op

After reading the post and comments about Bountiful Baskets, Deja wrote and asked if she could share how they set up their own produce co-op very similar to Bountiful Baskets. Her article is packed with great information if you’re looking for a way to save money on produce. -Crystal

Guest post by Deja Armstrong

Several years ago, a friend of mine came up with the realization that we were spending lots of money buying fresh produce for our families. We live in Texas and don’t have Aldi.

My friend decided to see if we could save money by buying fruits and veggies by the case and splitting them among several families. Our co-op was born out of this idea and it’s been 3 ½ years of great savings.

Here’s how you can start your own co-op:

1. Contact the Produce Manager (in person) at your favorite grocery store.

Tell him or her that you know 15 to 20 families who are are interested in regularly purchasing about $300 to $450 of produce each week. Say that you’d like to work with him or her to come up with a volume discount for making a consistent large purchase.

Like the rest of us, Produce Managers are responsible for their productivity and sales, so knowing that they can boost their weekly numbers by several hundred dollars should be appealing to them.

Now, you can’t go in and ask for a unilateral 20% discount, but you can try to get a good deal for you and your friends. Generally, my store gives me a 15-20% discount on my entire purchase. Sometimes, though, the savings are much more.

2. Come up with a cost per family to participate and spread the word.

In our co-op, we have “Shares.” Single Shares are $15 and Double Shares are $28. I give a Double Share a discount because they often are easier to sort. I tell people that a veggie-loving family of four to six will eat through a double share in less than a week. Smaller families or those trying out our co-op opt for the Single Shares.

Once you have your cost, then you start telling everyone you know about what you’re trying to do and get their commitment to try it. For our group, we do not place an order with less than 18 shares. In my experience, my Produce Manager is more generous with the discounts when I’m spending over $350.

The last time I calculated, a $15 Single Share at market value was about $23. (I checked the price of produce at the store I bought my cases and Walmart.) That savings is bigger with a Double Share. In that instance, you’re getting about $46 worth of produce for $28.

3. Find out what fruits and veggies your friends like and loathe.

People won’t order each week if you buy strange things. At first, we got cauliflower every week and quickly found out that people didn’t like it that much. Now I get it every few months. If you’re a spreadsheet person, make one. I just write it down in my notebook.

We tend to get the basics. Each week I order romaine, loose carrots, bananas and apples. These generally are well below market value prices, so I always get them.

Then, we add items like broccoli crowns, green beans, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, corn, tomatoes, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, asparagus, avocados, celery, oranges, pears, peaches, nectarines, kiwi, mangoes, strawberries and grapes — “normal” foods. While I may like artichokes, I don’t assume everyone else does, so I try to stick with mainstream fruits and veggies.

I also buy seasonal fruit and vegetables because the prices are even lower.

4. Research case quantities and weights.

Ask your Produce Manager how many items or pounds are in cases of the things you are considering. For me, romaine comes in cases of 18, carrots are 25-pound bags, strawberries in flats of eight and apples are in 40-pound cases. These are important things to know, so that you know how many cases you’ll need to purchase in order to meet the needs of your group.

5. Prepare an order based on how much money you have.

When I’m ready to place my order I have written down how many Single and Double Shares I have and how much money I have to spend. I come up with the list of items I’d like to buy and write down the pre-arranged prices for certain items and my “hopeful” prices.

I call my Produce Manager and we work through my list. Sometimes we negotiate. Other times I’m told “This is the best price I can give you.” I take it or leave it, based on what I have to spend. I try to buy five to six different fruits and five to six different vegetables.

I also keep track of each week’s order, so I don’t order the same items consecutively. I keep all my co-op information in a notebook. You can come up with a spreadsheet or print out a chart if you’d like. Notebook paper works for me.

What does a Produce Day look like?

On Produce Day, I go to the grocery store and pick up my produce. My husband takes the back seat out of our minivan so I can get it all in there. I meet up with the manager and we go over the order. It usually is sitting in the cooler on a cart for me. Once we double-check everything, I go to the check out to pay while a member of the produce department loads my van.

We unload and begin to sort into laundry baskets. (Each co-op member is responsible to have two laundry baskets marked with their name to use for their co-op purchases. They pick up their full basket each week and drop off their empty basket from the previous week.) We determine how many items go in each basket based on how many shares we have. Many items have the actual case count printed on the end of the case, or the Produce Manager has told me how many items are in the case.

Often, I end up with leftovers after evenly dividing everything. If I have 18 Single Shares and six Double Shares, and nine apples, the Double Shares get the first six, and the rest go into an “extra basket.” The extra basket gets the random carrots or whatever that doesn’t evenly divide. It’s first come, first served for people to take whatever they want from the extra basket. Also, my cantaloupe or asparagus-loathing folks can put theirs in the basket, and take a handful of whatever they want to make up for it.

I have a 30-minute window for people to pick up their baskets. When they come, they bring their empty basket and sit it on my front porch, and then pick up their full basket. Often, they will also pay for the next week, so they only make one trip to my house.

My total time investment is about two to four hours each week. The bulk of that is on produce pick-up day. It might take a bit more time upfront getting things organized, but once it’s running, your time investment is much less.

What do I get out of running this co-op?

First, I take a free Single Share of produce for every 10 Shares sold. I do purchase Shares to help us meet our 18-Share minimum, if necessary. However, usually two to four hours of work gets me $40-$50 in free produce for my family. Since I do all the work, folks in my co-op don’t mind me taking free produce.

When calculating how many shares I have, I add my shares to the total, but don’t add the money. So I’m buying 30 shares of produce, with 28 shares of money.

The co-op also gives my children a chance to practice their math skills while sorting. And it gives them a excellent opportunity to serve others by lugging cases of produce into the dining room, sorting hundreds of apples, opening the doors, playing with littles while mom visits and carrying baskets out to vehicles. While we know many people in our co-op, there are many others who have joined by word-of-mouth. That has given us a tremendous opportunity to minster to others.

Deja Armstrong has been married for 16 years and is a homeschooling mom to 5. She spends about $400 per month on groceries. She’s values family and is about to launch a Titus 2 blog for women in her church.

Photo credits: ValsPhotos; Colin; tifotter

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