Small changes in the price of gasoline may not seem like much.
However, every 10-cent increase at the pump costs consumers overall a combined $11 billion or more over the course of a year, according to Ryan Sweet, a senior director at Moody’s Analytics.
Gas prices are up nearly 50% from a year ago and rose sharply again in March, according to the latest reading on consumer prices.
The Consumer Price Index, which measures the prices Americans must pay for goods and services, is up 8.5% from a year ago — notching a fresh high. Gas prices alone jumped 18.3% for the month, boosted by the war in Ukraine and the pressure that is putting on supply.
Although the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline fell slightly to $4.08 after the White House announced several stopgap measures, it is still significantly higher than the $2.86 seen one year ago, according to data from AAA.
Paying more for gas hits households particularly hard, since buying fuel is not typically a discretionary expense. Now, the average driver spends 2% to 3% of their monthly income on gas, which has a direct impact on the bottom line.
Nearly 75% of U.S. drivers said they are already suffering financially due to the high cost, according to a separate report by DebtHammer.
How to save money on gas
To shield yourself from unpredictable prices at the pump, consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch has these tips:
- Track gas prices. Apps like GasBuddy, Gas Guru and AAA TripTik can track down the cheapest price per gallon between gas stations. Even if the difference doesn’t seem like much, it can add up to hundreds of dollars a year.
- Pay with cash. The price per gallon can be 10 cents to 15 cents more per gallon for credit card transactions. Pay with cash instead to get the lower price or use a gas rewards credit card to earn cash back on those charges. (CNBC’s Select has a full roundup of the best the best cards for fueling up based on your consumer habits.)
- Drive strategically. Carpooling to and from work and school or sports practice can dramatically reduce your time on the road. You can even find ride shares using sites like ZimRide, RideJoy or eRideShare.com, Woroch advised. Also, order online and look for free delivery to cut the cost of getting groceries, takeout and other daily essentials.
- Sign up for loyalty programs. In addition, loyalty programs, which many major gas station chains have, can help offset the price at the pump. Some grocery store chains may also offer cents-per-gallon rewards. For example, Kroger and Shop & Stop give fuel points for every $1 spent on groceries, which can be redeemed at participating gas stations.