Budgeting for Gasoline

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As of Sunday, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $3.93 in the United States.  Holy moly.  In some places it’s even higher than that.  With rising prices, budgeting in fuel for travel for day to day or vacations is a headache.  I’d like to open up a discussion on how YOU budget for this nasty expense.

What I Do

Generally, I follow my larger budget rule:  budget liberally, spend conservatively.  I calculate how many miles I have to commute for the month, then half it and use that for the everyday travel I have to do for errands, etc.  Then I multiply 1.5 times my commuting miles by whatever the gas prices are now plus twenty cents.  After I figure that out, I add fifty dollars, just to be safe.

Then the month wears on.  A considerable part of my budget is tied up in gas.  Unexpected things come up.  And I borrow from my gas fund.

So what I’m telling you is that my way doesn’t really work.  If I stuck to it, it would, but the fact of the matter is I don’t have the income to support my driving habits.  So here’s some other ideas that may be more helpful than my own practice.

What You Could Do Instead

Scratch off


  • Use GasBuddy to find the lowest price for gasoline in your locale.
  • Use your gas rewards points from shopping at your local grocery store.  (I do this.  It only helps so much.)
  • CARPOOL!  Not only does that save you on gas, but you get to ride in the HOV lane and laugh at all the stupid people sitting in traffic.
  • Use public transportation.  Especially if you live in a city where this is a viable option for your travel needs.  (Cough, cough, not Pittsburgh.)
  • One of my classmates shared with me an interesting way she saves for gasoline.  She plays scratch off lottery tickets for fun, and when she wins she doesn’t cash them.  Instead, she sticks them in her car so that when her wallet’s empty along with her gas tank, she has some emergency money conveniently stored.  It’s really like a savings account that bears no interest.  I thought it was a great solution to a difficult problem.  If you do this, make sure you don’t blow a whole lot of money trying to win gas money.  Money for the lottery should come out of the “entertainment” part of your budget.  When you win, lock the winning tickets in your glove box so no one steals them or is tempted to break into your car.  I’d still budget for gas, but this is such a creative way to have that money there for emergencies.
How do you budget for gas?  (Or petrol, for my British friends?)


14 thoughts on “Budgeting for Gasoline

  1. shopping2saving

    I give myself a budget of $100 but with the high expense of gas these days I’ve been going a little over. It’s so hard to not drive or not buy gas when it’s such a “necessity” in my life. I try to limit driving on the weekends.

    1. femmefrugality

      I do the same thing! I’ll think…I don’t need to spend money on that right now. Then later in the week I have to and wish I had just buckled down and did it earlier.

  2. Modest Money

    With the rising prices of gas I’m glad I don’t need to stick to a strict gas budget. It seems you would have to keep increasing the amount you budget to reflect the current cost of gas.

    As for your friends strategy with scratch and win lottery tickets, it doesn’t sound like much of a way to save on gas. Unless you are particularly lucky, you will spend much more than you win. At least it’s entertaining though.

    1. femmefrugality

      You’re right…it’s not. She would just play for fun anyways. I should have specified in the post…instead of just getting cash, which she said burns a hole in her pocket, she holds onto the tickets in her car for later. So she’s not saving money on gas. But she is saving money because if she just initially cashed them in she would spend the money on something else random and probably unnecessary.

  3. nicoleandmaggie

    I drive a small car with good gas mileage and fill it up once every two weeks at under $30 fill-up. For longer trips we take DH’s Civic Hybrid which also has pretty good mileage.

  4. femmefrugality

    That’s so great. When I purchased my car it had good mileage for the time….it’s seven years old now, though. Next time I purchase I’d prefer something even more fuel efficient. Do you guys like the Hybrid? Is it everything they advertise it to be?

    1. nicoleandmaggie

      Well, the civic hybrid is the most luxurious car I’ve ever driven in regularly… I grew up with low end Fords and Hyundais, so it seems super amazing to me. The car is 5-6 years old (my Hyundai Accent is 7! Crazy!).

      Uh, we got a class action lawsuit settlement recently about how it wasn’t actually everything it was advertised to be, but we haven’t had any major problems with it. (The battery did die ~4 years out but they replaced it for free.) It’s a nice drive. It breaks much better than my Accent. It has a bigger tank than my car, and we can still get to the city and back (and driving around) without having to fill up (we fill up at the half tank usually).

  5. Miss Caitlin S.

    great tips here- i’ve been thinking about this so much lately as they say it will reach 5 bucks by summer. i really only drive to and from work and my boyfriend and i have debated carpooling if it really gets that high. i just hate spending money on things like that! great way to calculate a budget, thanks.

  6. Katie

    I give myself a budget of $50.00 a week. I try my hardest to stay under that amount but I with driving to work or school at least 4-5 times a week it’s hard to do. I don’t even want to think about gas getting to five bucks a gallon. Insanity!

  7. Daneilia @ Anchors Away

    Gas prices are ridiculous. I’m from Cali and I’m always complaining that I want to be home and when gas prices are up I’m thanking God we are in Texas because its way cheaper.

  8. MyMoneyDesign

    As a commuter to work, I unfortunately have no choice but to swallow the higher gas prices. Too bad for me. A few years ago, I did start a carpool with a fellow colleague. It helped!


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