5 ways to cheaper gas

By Andy Wise

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC TV) - According to AAA Auto Club of the South, there has been a 34-cent swing in the price of gas per gallon in Tennessee in the last 12 months.

That's insane.

Everyone's pointing fingers at something. Economic sanctions against Iran. The lack of both the political and entrepreneurial will to mine alternative fuel sources or drill, baby, drill right here in resource-rich North America. High gas prices are always the giant no one can knock down.

We as consumers can't control gas prices, but we can control how we shop them, compare them and track them.

According to the Yahoo! Finance blog -- and to the experiences of yours truly -- these are five ways to cheaper gas, at least as cheap as you're going to get it under the current weight of prices:

* GAS-TRACKING WEBSITES & SMART PHONE APPS. I've come to love the app GasBuddy. It is the best gas-tracking app out there and free to boot. Using GPS and push notifications, GasBuddy will allow you to track gas prices at the retailers right where you are and sort them by price or distance. You can also enter a specific location, & GasBuddy will find the array of prices within that location.

If you're traveling, GasBuddy's the kind of app where if your tank's getting low and you're thinking about taking that next exit, it can track prices and retailers two, three, four exits down to see if a better price is just a little further down the road.

GasPriceWatch.com (www.gaspricewatch.com) is also an excellent web resource for tracking gas prices.

* "YOUR WAY OR THE HIGHWAY." Generally speaking, gas prices are higher closer to the interstates and highways. It's supply and demand. Conventional wisdom dictates more travelers will seek gas off the exits, demand will be higher and so will the prices. So it's worth driving a little deeper into that town to see how prices drop. Also, gas prices tend to be higher in more affluent areas. Sorry, folks:  those stations are capitalizing on a community's ability to pay. That's why you're likely to find better gas prices in Frayser than you are in Germantown.

* BEST DAY TO FILL UP: WEDNESDAY. The experts say gas prices are typically higher on the weekends when everybody's out and about. Try tracking prices in the middle of the week. You might notice a dip to match the lower demand.

* COMBINE CREDIT CARD REWARDS WITH GROCERY GAS POINTS. If you carry a credit card that is generous with gas rewards -- 2, 3 percent or higher -- consider using that card in tandem with a grocery shoppers reward card that includes gas benefits. Just like stacking coupons on top of sales, you can stack the cash-back benefits of your credit card on top of the points you earn on your shoppers card toward lower prices per gallon at that grocery's pump stations.

* CONSIDER A WHOLESALE CLUB MEMBERSHIP. My wife and I are huge Costco fans. We buy all of our staple items there. But I tell you this:  if all we bought at Costco was gasoline, we would more than recoup our annual membership fee. Wholesale clubs used to offer low gas prices as a loss-leader to attract members, but now, cheaper gas at Costco and Sam's Club is as common as the clubs' cost benefits for buying in bulk. Costco's prices are regularly 15 to 20 cents cheaper than the area average.

We can also control our driving habits, which, believe it or not, can dramatically improve your gas mileage. Properly inflated tires, regular maintenance, keeping within the speed limit -- each has the potential for shaving cents off your gas budget.

One I truly believe in:  cruise control.

I'm not just talking about on long trips, either. I drive a 2012 Honda Civic, and I track my mpg. I have discovered that when I'm using cruise control to and from work -- locking it in at about five miles per hour above the speed limit when traffic isn't tight -- I am consistently gaining two to three miles per gallon.

My car holds an 11-gallon tank. You're talking as much as 33 extra miles.


Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.