Once again, gas prices are on the rise.  Experts say that they will continue the upward climb through the spring and likely into the summer travel season.  Families with children are especially hard to hit.  If you’re looking to cut back on your families’ transportation expenses, there are lots of strategies available that aren’t too hard to integrate into your daily routines.

According to the United States Department of  Energy, in 2010 the average American family spent over 16% of its household budget on transportation costs with gasoline expenses making up nearly a quarter of that expense.  With gas prices higher today than in 2010, the share of our money going towards gasoline has surely increased, and most of us are feeling the pinch at the pump.

Families with kids, especially non-driving teenagers, travel an average of 36 miles each day.  Statistics from the National Highway Transportation Administration show that about one-third of the trips are for family errands such as grocery shopping, and another third are for social and recreational events, including organized kids sport and other after-school activities.

The focus of conserving gas has historically been on commuters who travel to, and from work, however, families have many opportunities to cut their gas bills by looking at their driving habits.

Tips for Saving Money at the Pump

If you want to cut back on the amount of money you and your family spend on gas each week, it’s time to take a look at how you use your car, how you drive your car and how you spend your money. Here are some tips to get started.

1.  Bundle Trips – The next time you or someone in your family thinks, “I’ll just run out….” stop and think!  Back and forth from your home to stores around town will quickly eat up your gas.  With a little planning among family members, you can save on gas and get all your errands done. Pick up groceries on the way to get the kids from school, or have your husband stop on his way home.  If you are already going out somewhere, think of some other errand you can do while the car is already on the move.

2.  Drive More Efficiently – Many people don’t understand how to drive their cars efficiently. Rapid acceleration from stop signs and lights, speeding and heavy braking are all big gas wasters.  If you ease up a little on the gas pedal, you can see savings anywhere from 5% to 33% on gas usage.  Driving a little slower and steadier is not only good for the gas mileage but safer too!

3.  Find the Best Price – Use sites like dealvario.com to discover the best places to find gas at a lower price.  You can enter your zip or your street to see gas prices near you or view them for your metropolitan area. You can even search for the grade you are looking for regular, premium or diesel.  Some of these sites offer a wealth of information on gas, gas usage and gas trends. You can even win money on gaspricewatch.com for becoming a cheap gas “spotter.”

4.  Use Gas Rewards Cards – Credit cards and now even some store cards offer reduced prices on gas when you reach certain spending limits. While many families are now steering away from credit cards, store cards like those at Costco or Safeway can be a money saver.  Simply shop at Safeway and use your store card. You earn points towards money off gas.  You do have to purchase the gas at a Safeway gas station, which may not be convenient, but if you can plan it right, you can save up to $2 a gallon for just doing your regular shopping.

5.  Don’t Let Your Car Idle – As well as being bad for the environment, idling is also a big gas waster. While you are just sitting there not moving or leaving your car running while you go inside a store, your car is burning up anywhere from a quarter to a half gallon of gas per hour.  Some feel it is hard on a car to start it over and over, but generally, most of us are not doing that and leaving the car running is simply a habit.

6.  Find a Carpool – Carpools are not just for adults anymore. With kids participating in so many activities, parents really need to coordinate, so they do not end up driving all over the state for their children’s extracurricular activities.   It can be hard to coordinate schedules, but even if you save one or two trips, you’ll be cutting down the gas bill. Find some neighbors or parents from school who can share the driving and the gas cost.

How Much Does It Really Cost?

We are all well aware that gas prices have risen. But how much is it truly costing us?

Historically gasoline has taken up between 4% and 6% of the family household budget, but estimates for 2011 have been coming in at a whopping 8%.  Some are speculating that once all the data are reported, the typical American family will have spent over $4000 on gasoline for the year.

That’s a lot of money!  With some planning and a little cutting back, you can get some of that money back and use it for more important items needed or even for some special treats.  Start now and make 2013 the year of gas conservation for you and your family.