(5 Minute Read) – Sometimes, you can do everything right, but your budget can be stretched thin because of circumstances beyond your control. There’s no better example of this right now than the rising prices we’re seeing at the gas pump. Analysts predict there is no immediate end in sight, which means you might be stretched a little thinner than you expected.
We haven’t seen gas prices this high—well, ever. The last time gas prices reached record highs was in 2008 during the Great Recession. Since the invasion of Ukraine, we’ve seen prices soar to once unimaginable levels. Combined with rising inflation, this surge in gas prices means many of us have less cash on hand.
While there’s not much we can do to offset rising costs, there are a few steps we can take to improve cash flow while things are more expensive. It all starts with knowing where you stand and how much additional expense you can take on.
1. Consider Pausing Subscriptions
While your DoorDash DashPass may make food deliveries more convenient, you may want to pause recurring subscriptions that you can live without. Even $10 here and there can add up to big savings—and those savings may come in handy while prices at the pump remain at record levels.
2. Anticipate a Domino Effect
Higher gas prices for you also mean higher gas prices for trucks and planes that move our goods. While some organizations are transparent about charging fuel surcharges, others simply increase their costs and pass them onto the consumer. Inflation is already a factor, and it could get worse with soaring fuel prices.
Margaret Kidd is a professor of supply chain and logistics technology at the University of Houston. She told KHOU-TV that gas prices can affect the price of everyday items.
“You have to think, you know, ‘where can I cut back?’ And perhaps that’s on consumer goods. Perhaps it’s at the grocery store. But the average American is really going to feel the pince of the increase in the cost of gas,” Kidd told KHOU-TV.
3. Travel Less
If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that we can do a lot more from home than we realized. Consider asking your employer if remote work is an option. Other ways to save include carpooling or taking public transportation. Some employers will offer subsidies for public transportation. Check with your company to see what fuel-saving options may be available to you.
You can also group your trips. Instead of running out for one or two items at the grocery store, plan ahead and combine all of your errands into one trip. What can you accomplish on your way home from work, instead of making a separate trip over the weekend?
4. Shop with Benefits
Some grocery stores offer discounts on fuel through their rewards systems. Those fuel points can add up and save you at the pump. Similarly, membership stores like Costco offer discounted fuel, just be prepared to wait in line. Don’t let your car idle, so as not to waste any of your precious gas. Be aware, some posted fuel prices are the cash price. You may be hit with a higher per-gallon price if you pay with a card.
5. Get More from Each Tank
The most control you have over rising gas prices is to get as much out of every drop as you can. Maximize your fuel efficiency by driving at consistent speeds, checking your tire pressure, avoid sudden acceleration and braking, and take heavy items out of your trunk to reduce weight. A tune-up is a good idea if you’ve been putting it off; keeping your car in good mechanical shape can go a long way when gas prices are this high.
6. Shop Around
There are a lot of apps that post the lowest gas prices near you. Check out apps and websites like Gas Buddy to find cheap gas along your commute. It may be that your regular station is charging 20 cents more than the one near work. It can pay to plan ahead.
7. Looking Ahead
While many of us are anxious to get out of the house and eager to make plans for summer vacation, it’s fair to assume inflation and gas prices will make things more expensive. Start planning—and saving—now for your next adventure. Whether it’s a road trip or a plane ticket, soaring gas prices are likely to impact the summer travel season.
Travel agents like Mollie Fitzgerald are seeing it already. She recommends booking plane tickets now if you can afford it. “If you book now, you will lock in the current prices before we see additional increases. With the constant changes in fuel prices, it’s hard to put an exact number on how much flights will be going up,” Fitzgerald told WPXI News.
While these are all steps we can take now to weather rising expenses, there are also a few things we can do to be better prepared for the unexpected. In fact, we wrote an entire blog post about it! Putting away a little extra money through automatic savings can help provide a safety net when money gets tight. You can set financial goals in the Unitus mobile app or through desktop digital banking. Let us be your savings accountability partner by providing tips, tools, and resources to help encourage you to stay on track.
If you’re experiencing financial stress – you don’t have to go it alone. As a Unitus member, you have free access to financial counseling to help you with your next steps. Whether it’s creating a budget or a plan to pay down debt, counselors are ready to help—without judgment! You can learn more by visiting our financial wellness page.
While unexpected expenses are never fun, we’re here to help you with the next steps on your financial journey.