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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

$4.00, $4.19, $4.39 ... fuel prices going up!

WOW! Gas prices are over $4.00 a gallon now in my town, and I spent $4.19 a gallon driving to Chicago last week. It looks like we're in for high prices for awhile. Now is a great time to rethink how and when we use our vehicles, and if there are some changes we can make to keep our costs down.

Everyone has their "tricks" for saving fuel and some are more effective than others. According to Consumer Reports' studies, here are two myths related to fuel savings.

1. Opening the windows – even when going 65 miles per hour (mph) – does not reduce your gas mileage. However, using your air conditioner (at 65 mph) reduces your gas mileage by over three miles per gallon (mpg).

2. Driving with a dirty air filer does not affect gas mileage on new cars that use computers to control air and fuel ratio. (There are other reasons to have a clean air filter, though.)

What does work? One of the most effective things you can do to use less fuel is to slow down. Driving at 55 mph instead of 65 mph or more can save you five to ten mpg. Also, try to drive smoothly. Frequent bursts of acceleration and braking can reduce your mileage by two to three mpg.

As a society and as individuals we need to rethink how we use vehicles. Consider using your car for transportation as the exception rather than the common practice. Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Walk or bike to your destination. For shorter trips that don't require the use of a car, walking or biking can save on gasoline and provide exercise as a bonus.

2. Explore public transportation – and help your kids learn how to use it too.

3. Plan your trips. Instead of making several small trips, maximize your gas usage by mapping out your trip to include several stops along the way.

4. Increase the amount you carpool. Not just to work, but also to your child's soccer games or other events, and your social activities.

For more fuel saving tips, visit U of I Extension's Spend Smart Tips.

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