With the average price of gas at more than $4 a gallon -- and not likely to stop rising any time soon -- "it's time for people to modify the way they drive," says Christie Hyde, a spokesperson for the American Automobile Association (AAA). The biggest impact on your wallet will come from cutting down your car time -- walk, use public transportation, and work from home when you can -- but when your wheels are the only option, little tweaks can go a long way. Here, experts and real women share some tips to beat the squeeze at the gas pump:
- Travel in packs. "My friends and I started carpooling for convenience and time, and now we are all saving real money," says Margaret Dempsey, 43, from Nanuet, NY. The mother of three regularly shuttles six or seven kids in her van to sporting events, church, the pool, or skateboarding club. And when she is booked on a catering job -- her part-time gig -- she and her coworkers meet at a commuter lot and pile into one car.
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- Go gentle on the pedal. Lisa Ellis, 45, from Philadelphia, stretches out her visits to the gas pump by coasting toward stopped traffic. "I look ahead to see the light turning red, take my foot off the gas pedal, and let the car's momentum carry me," she says. According to Hyde, aggressive driving--slamming your foot down hard on the gas or brakes--compromises your car's fuel efficiency, as does being a speed demon. "Simply dropping your speed from 70 mph to 60 mph can improve fuel economy by up to 23 percent," she says.
- Multitask your trips. Consolidate errands to make every car ride a multipurpose affair. "After putting the kids down, my husband or I used to get in the car just to get out of the house, the excuse being we needed gas or aspirin," says Merilee Mulvaney, 45, the mother of a 5-year-old and 4-year-old triplets in Kirkwood, MO. "But once gas prices hit $3.40, we made changes. Now I'll hit the pharmacy, the supermarket, Wal-Mart, and Target on the way home from work, then stay in for the night. We're definitely stretching out our tank."
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- Watch the energy (and money) drains. Avoid idling (Hyde recommends shutting off your engine any time you're sitting in a parking space for more than 90 seconds), keep your tires inflated (fuel efficiency drops by 2 or 3 percent when your tires aren't full), remove the junk from your trunk (a heavier car burns more gas), and roll up the windows and use air-conditioning on the highway (that's right--open windows actually create aerodynamic drag, burning extra gas).
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.