In March I offered some financial advice to Michelle, a Mint user who was struggling with debt, a lack of retirement savings and a bit of family financial drama amongst her siblings.
Michelle was anticipating a cash bonus from her company and wasn’t sure if she should save the money or use it to relieve her debt.
I recommended a two-prong approach where she uses the cash to play savings catch-up in her retirement account and knock down some of her debt, which, at the time, included a $3,000 credit card balance and $52,000 in student loans.
Six months later, I’ve checked in with the 38-year-old real estate developer, to see if any of my advice was helpful and if she’s experienced any shifts in her financial life.
We spoke via email:
Farnoosh: Have your finances have improved over the last 6 months since we last spoke? If so, what has been the biggest improvement?
Michelle:Yes. I’ve aggressively been contributing to my 401(k) – about 50% of my pay – and had hoped to reach the annual maximum of $18,000 by June, but looks like it will be more like October. I also received a $40,000 distribution from a project that I closed.
F: What aspects of your financial life still challenge you?
M:Investing for sure. I never know if I’m hoarding too much cash. I am truly traumatized from the financial downturn. I just joined an online investment platform, but it was also overwhelming. Currently I have $45,000 in a regular savings account that earns 1.5%.
Another challenge is not knowing whether to just bite the bullet and pay off my student loans or to continue to pay them monthly. I hate that I’m still paying loans 16 years after I graduated and it’s a source of frustration [and embarrassment] for me. I owe $36,000. Often times I have an inner monologue about the pros and cons of just paying them off but then my trauma from 2008 kicks in…and I decide to keep my $45,000 nest egg safely where I can check the balance daily.
F: I recommended allocating $45,000 towards retirement. Was that helpful? What are some ways you’ve managed to save?
M:Yes, I recall you saying you recommended having a total of $100,000 towards retirement for a person my age. Currently, I have $51,000 in my 401(k), $35,000 in a traditional IRA and $17,000 in my Ellevest brokerage account, so I’ve broken the $100,000 goal.
I did add a car note to my balance sheet. My old car suffered a total loss (major electrical failure due to a sunroof leak!) and the insurance gave me a check for $9,000. I used it all towards the new vehicle (a certified used 2014 Acura) and I’m financing $18,000.
F: Your dad’s home was a source of financial stress, it seemed. Were you able to talk with your siblings and arrive at a better place with that?
M:My dad actually has passed since we last spoke. He passed in February and so his will went to probate. My siblings and I have decided not to make any decisions about the house for at least one year. Yes, this is kicking the can further down the street however, they recognize that I maintain the house and pay the real estate taxes and so they are not pressuring me to move or to sell.
The new deed has been recorded and the property is under all our names and so everyone seems ok with knowing that I can’t do anything regarding a sale or refinance unilaterally.
So, for now, I live rent free other than paying utilities, miscellaneous maintenance on the house and real estate taxes quarterly. This, too, is helping me save aggressively.
Also, the new car note has replaced the hospice nurse contribution so I’m not feeling that my budget is overburdened with the new car.
I think ultimately I will buy out at least two of my siblings and stay in the house. Verbally they have expressed being okay with this.
Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org (please note “Mint Blog” in the subject line).
Farnoosh Torabi is America’s leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, she’s become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.
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If you have a lot of debt or different types of debt, then a debt consolidation loan might sound like a good idea. However, if you have low credit, you may not have many options.
The good news is, you can still get a debt consolidation loan, even with bad credit. In this article, you will learn about the ins and outs of a debt consolidation loan, the pros and cons of getting one, and what your alternatives are if you aren’t ready to get a debt consolidation loan.
In This Article
What is a Debt Consolidation Loan?
A debt consolidation loan is a new loan that you take out to cover the balance of your other loans. A debt consolidation loan is a single, larger piece of debt, usually with better payoff terms than your original, smaller debts. When you receive a consolidation loan, your other loan balances are paid off. This allows you to make one monthly payment rather than multiple.
For example, if you had one student loan for each semester of your four-year college degree, then you’d have taken out eight loans. This can be cumbersome to manage, so you could take out a debt consolidation loan to pay off all your eight loans and only make one monthly payment instead.
Get A Debt Consolidation Loan with Bad or Average Credit
If you have poor or average credit, then it might be difficult for you to get approved for a consolidation loan or to get a loan with favorable terms. A bad or average credit score is typically anything under 670. You will need to take steps to get a debt consolidation loan for bad credit.
Step 1: Understand Your Credit Score
The first step toward getting a personal loan or a consolidation loan is to understand your financial standing. Your credit score is one of the main factors that a lender will evaluate when deciding to give you a debt consolidation loan. Therefore, take the time to look up your credit score and what events have caused your score. Sometimes, years of bad habits contribute to a low score.
Continue to monitor your score over time. You can learn what contributes to a good score as well as what causes your score to decline, and act accordingly.
Step 2: Shop Around for a Debt Consolidation Loan
If you have a poor credit score, you might be inclined to take the first loan offered to you. However, you may have multiple options for lenders to work with, so be sure to shop around for a good interest rate and term. You might want to investigate online lenders as well as brick and mortar lenders such as your local credit union.
Be sure to carefully review all the fees associated with taking out a personal loan. This might include an origination fee or a penalty for paying back your loan early. Understanding your fees can save you hundreds of dollars over the life of your loan.
Step 3: Consider a Secured Loan
Most personal loans used for debt consolidation are unsecured loans. This means that they do not require collateral. However, if you’re having a tough time getting approved for a loan, you might want to consider a secured loan.
Forms of collateral include a vehicle, home, or another asset. The collateral must be worth the amount of the loan if you default on the loan. Even if you can qualify for an unsecured loan, you may want to compare the interest rates of a secured loan to see if you can get a better rate.
Step 4: Improve Your Credit Score
Finally, if you can’t get a loan right away, you may want to take some time to evaluate your credit score and see where your areas of opportunity lie. If you have small glitches on your score that caused it to decrease significantly, then you might be able to raise your score quickly.
For example, one missed payment or forgotten bill can cause your score to plummet. If this is the case, you may be able to pay off that small bill and raise your credit score quickly.
How to Qualify for a Debt Consolidation Loan
To get a debt consolidation loan, you must be 18 years or older and a legal U.S. resident. You must also have a bank account and not be in bankruptcy or foreclosure. These are the basics of qualifying for a debt consolidation loan.
In addition to these basics, you’ll want to try to improve your financial standing as much as possible. Borrowers with good or excellent credit and a low debt-to-income ratio typically have no problem getting a debt consolidation loan. However, if you have bad credit, you will want to work to improve your credit score and decrease your debt-to-income ratio.
If you have bad credit and are considering a debt consolidation loan, you might already be in a financial rut. This can make it difficult to improve your financial standing. If this is the case, you can search for lenders that specialize in helping people with bad or average credit and be sure to shop around for the best rates and terms that you can get.
Personal Loans for Debt Consolidation
If you have poor credit and need a personal loan, you may want to check out these providers. They will offer high-interest loans to people with poor credit.
Fiona is an online marketplace that connects potential borrowers with multiple lenders. Borrowers simply fill out a quick application, and they are matched with the lenders most likely to approve them. This saves time and money, as you can be matched with a lender without needing to visit a bunch of sites.
Fiona is ideal for borrowers with a 580 credit score or higher, and that doesn’t want to have to waste time filling out a bunch of applications. A nice feature of Fiona is their initial application requires just a soft credit check, so making a quick application won’t hurt your credit score.
Since Fiona is a marketplace and not a direct lender, the terms of offers and the number of offers borrowers receive may vary. Some borrowers report being bombarded with offers, which we feel is potentially a benefit as multiple offers help ensure you get the best deal.
Lending Point will typically lend up to $25,000 with an interest rate of 15.89% to 35.99% APR and a 36-month term. You can check your rate for free on their website. If you qualify, you can receive your personal loan in as little as 24 hours. LendingPoint takes your credit score, job history, and income into consideration when you apply for a loan.
SoFi will lend up to $100,000 with an interest rate of up to 17% on a 24-month term. There are no origination fees or early payment penalties and no overdraft fees. You can apply online for free and will typically receive your funds in a few days.
Upstart will lend up to $50,000 with an interest rate of 7% to 35.99% on a 36 or 60-month term. Funds are provided as early as the day after approval, but they have a high origination fee of 8%.
OneMain will lend up to $20,000 with an interest rate of between 18% and 35.99% on a 24 to 60-month term. They do have small origination fees and late payment fees, but they typically range up to $30 per payment. You can apply for a loan online and have it funded as early as a day after you apply. The company also has almost 1,500 branches across the country for those who prefer to apply for a loan in-person.
Should I Get A Debt Consolidation Loan?
If you’re in a pinch and need to consolidate your loans to make them more manageable, then your best option may be to get a personal loan or a debt consolidation loan.
There are plenty of benefits of a debt consolidation loan. Some of them are:
Simplified finances. When you consolidate your debt, you will pay off multiple debts and only have one loan. This means you’ll make one monthly payment instead of multiple to keep track of.
Lower interest rates. If you have a bunch of credit cards or other high-interest debt, the interest rates might vary and be high. Personal loans typically have lower interest rates depending on your credit score, the loan amount, and term length.
Fixed repayment schedule. Instead of having multiple payments each month that vary by amount, interest rate, and term, you will have a fixed schedule each month.
Boost your credit. By eliminating the risk of forgetting to make payments or letting your loans get away from you, paying a set amount on a consolidated loan can help you to boost your credit score.
Debt consolidation isn’t for everyone. Be sure that you understand the risks you take on as well. Some of the things to watch out for include:
You need to change your behavior with money. A debt consolidation loan won’t fix your bad habits with money. Often taking out a consolidation loan leads to more debt, because many people don’t fix the underlying overspending behaviors, or start a cash saving for emergencies. Not fixing your money behaviors leads to that same old cycle and could cause you to take on more new debt.
Upfront costs. Some personal loans have upfront fees, including an origination fee, closing costs, or annual fees. If you pay a lot of fees over time, it might not be beneficial to consolidate your loans.
Higher interest rates. If you have poor credit, you will not get a favorable interest rate on your consolidated loan. Therefore, you may have a higher interest rate on your consolidated loan than on your existing loans. If this is the case, it likely will not make sense to consolidate.
The Bottom Line
Having poor credit does not mean that you can’t get a debt consolidation loan. However, it might be more difficult for you to get a loan right away or to get one at a favorable rate. If you decide to apply for a debt consolidation loan, be sure to shop around for the best rates and do your best to improve your credit.
This post originally appeared on Your Money Geek
Michael has worked in the financial services industry for nearly 20 years.He lives in rural PA with his wife, two children, and too many animals.Michael shares his experience, unique insights, and profiles inspirational success stories atYour Money Geek.
Whether you have credit card debt, car loans, student debt, or all of the above, owing money is no walk in the park. While it seems easy to get into debt, getting out of it is a lot harder.
Interest compounding on top of your principal can make payments extraordinarily high. Paying off debt can often take years if you’re only making the minimum monthly payments. Plus, high debt levels can limit your access to additional credit, whether it’s buying a house or getting a new car.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic solution that erases your financial problems. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do so. By reevaluating your spending habits and your current financial obligations, you can create a strategic plan that can help you successfully get out of debt — and fast.
Want to know how to get out of debt fast? Follow these steps.
1. Stop spending.
It doesn’t matter how you got into debt, whether you racked up too much on your credit cards or had a debilitating illness that kept you from working for a while.
Regardless of how it happened, you have to stop spending money so that you can get your finances back on track. That may sound like an easy thing to do, but it really requires a mindset shift.
It doesn’t mean simply stopping major purchases or skipping vacation this year. To truly get out of major debt, you have to funnel every extra penny you have towards paying off those balances.
No more takeout because you’re too tired to cook, and no more snack runs at the gas station. Small expenditures lead to recurring debt just as much as large ones do, so get both under control and start paying everything off.
2. Prevent future debt.
Before you conquer your current debt, make sure you don’t add any more to what you currently owe. If you’re having trouble stopping your spending, try to remove the temptation completely. Hide or cut up your credit cards if you have to. Also, remove your credit card information from any websites you frequently shop at.
Even if you can control your day-to-day urge to spend, you still need to prepare for unexpected expenses, like a trip to the mechanic or a doctor’s bill. Set aside an emergency fund of at least $1,000 to give yourself a buffer when you have a last-minute bill to take care of. Otherwise, you’ll keep tacking on new debt just as you pay off your old debt.
3. Scale down your budget.
There’s nothing more eye-opening than going through all of your bank and credit card statements and seeing what you actually spend your money on. In fact, you’ll probably be shocked to see how quickly small purchases add up over a month.
Comb through your last month’s statements and pull out everything that was an essential payment or purchase, like your rent or mortgage, your utilities, etc. From there, look to see where you can cut back.
If it helps, set up autopay for your bills on payday, then use an envelope of cash for your gas and groceries. Once you run out of money, you need to start digging in the pantry and getting creative in the kitchen.
4. Pick which card to pay off first.
When you’re trying to pay down your debt fast, pick one to focus your main efforts on. There are several different ways to choose, so pick the strategy that feels best for you.
One popular way, called the Debt Snowball Method, is to pay off the card with the smallest balance. This helps you give yourself an easy win and feel motivated to keep moving forward. If you’re more motivated by saving money, pick the card with the highest interest rate so you end up paying less in the long run.
Any extra money you have goes towards that one monthly payment you choose, rather than spreading extra payments equally across all of your outstanding debts. Set yourself up for success by picking a payoff strategy that will make you feel good about your progress, not bad about your debts.
5. Keep making payments on your other debt.
Just because you put extra cash towards one credit card doesn’t mean you should neglect your minimum payments on the others. The point of getting out of debt is to free up cash and strengthen your credit. If you miss monthly payments, you’re likely to incur late fees and even go into delinquency on your account.
Once an account is 30 days late or more, your credit score starts to take a nosedive. Be sure to preserve your credit score while paying off debt by making each minimum payment every month.
6. Lower your interest rates.
Another way to get out of debt faster is to save money on interest. For credit cards, call your company and try to negotiate a lower interest rate. It helps if you’re a long-time customer with a history of timely payments.
7. Transfer your balances.
You can also consider transferring your credit card balance to another credit card with a lower interest rate or even no interest for a set period. If you qualify, you might consider consolidating your debt with a single personal loan. Oftentimes, the interest rates on debt consolidation loans are much lower than those of credit cards.
See also: Best Personal Loans for Bad Credit
If you have other types of debt, like student loan debt, a mortgage, or a car loan, you can apply to refinance them and get a lower rate. Even if you’re focused on making extra payments on credit card debt, you can use the monthly savings from other expenses to put more towards those higher balances.
See also: Best Student Loan Lenders for Refinancing
Best Mortgage Refinance Lenders
Best Auto Refinance Lenders
9. Find savings elsewhere in your budget.
Since you’ve cut back on your expenses and the amount of interest you’re paying, it’s time to find more ways to save. Take a look at other expenses you pay, even if they don’t seem negotiable at first. Car insurance, homeowners insurance, cell phone, cable, and internet — all of these services are negotiable. Shop around with different companies and look for the best offer.
Even if you don’t want to switch, you can use your research as leverage when you call your current servicer and ask for a better deal. For instance, if your cable contract is up for renewal (and you decide to keep it), look at all the offers from other companies. Call your company and tell them you’re considering switching. Chances are, they’ll meet or beat that pricing just to keep you as a customer.
10. Declutter and sell your belongings.
When you’re working on getting out of debt, it’s also helpful to get rid of the physical baggage surrounding you. This can help clear emotional clutter and bring in some extra money to put towards those balances. You can have an actual yard sale at your house or even hold an online yard sale. Consider posting items on eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook classified groups.
Price your items competitively to help move them faster. While you probably think your stuff is worth a lot because you paid for it (and still might be paying for it), most people are only willing to spend a fraction of the original price when buying second hand.
11. Get a side hustle to earn more.
When you’re ready to find even more money to put towards your debt, consider getting a side hustle or a part-time job to supplement your current income. Pay down your car loan by driving for Uber or put more towards your student loans by tutoring. You can freelance, babysit, pet sit, or start an Etsy shop showcasing a unique talent.
There are endless opportunities to offer your services to earn extra cash. It doesn’t have to be incredibly specialized, and it definitely doesn’t have to require any startup capital. Play to your strengths and your network of connections so you can start earning more and paying down your debt as quickly as possible.
12. Funnel extra money towards debt.
Whether it’s a tax return or birthday money, remember that the ultimate reward is experiencing financial security. That’s way better than treating yourself to a mani/pedi that only lasts a week or two.
So, every time you get unexpected money that doesn’t go towards your usual budget, you know exactly what to do: make a higher payment on your debt. You’ll be pleased to see how quickly those balances start to diminish.
13. Appreciate life’s simple pleasures.
Much of our accumulated debt is driven by an urge for more stuff — and the bigger, the better. Get out of the mindset of “treating” yourself for good behavior with an expensive one-time shopping spree or splurge item. That’s not really fixing the debt problem because you’ll always feel like you’re being deprived of something. Instead, appreciate what you do have.
Time and relationships hold much more value than anything you can charge. Once you realize that, you’ll find that the real secret behind eliminating debt is knowing that you already have everything you need.
memorandum from the White House, this extension intends to “provide such deferments to borrowers as necessary to continue the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until December 31, 2020.”
What does this mean for borrowers? The extension of this order means that those with federally owned student loans (not private student loans) can continue skipping payments for the duration of 2020. Interest won’t accrue on federal student loans during this time, and penalties won’t come into effect for those who choose to defer loan payments.
How Does This Help Student Loan Borrowers?
Although unemployment numbers have improved since the summer, the initial pause on federal student loan payments was of massive help for borrowers struggling with job loss or a loss in pay. After all, getting a break from student loan payments made room for funds to go toward other household needs and bills. Keep in mind that the average student loan payment is approximately $393 for all borrowers, but that many with advanced degrees pay significantly more than that every month.
When the Presidential action was released, it was unclear whether borrowers pursuing PSLF will still receive credit for non-payment months. However, a U.S. Department of Education press release clarified that PSLF borrowers would, in fact, receive credit toward loan forgiveness as if they’d made on-time payments.
Just keep in mind that this order does not apply to consumers with private student loans. Only federal student loans qualify for this protection, although some private student loan companies are offering their own separate deferment options to consumers who can show financial hardship.
Pros and Cons of Making Payments During Automatic Deferment
One interesting detail from this order is buried in the fine print:
“All persons who wish to continue making student loan payments shall be allowed to do so, notwithstanding the deferments provided pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.”
In summary, you can continue making payments on your federal student loans during the deferment period if you want to. Whether you should, depends on your goals and your situation.
Benefits of Making Loan Payments
If you haven’t faced a loss in income, then you might be tempted to continue making payments on your student loans. The benefits of doing so include:
Paying down your student loan debt faster. The Department of Education says that, through the end of 2020, “the full amount of your payments will be applied to principal once all the interest that accrued prior to March 13 is paid.” This means that every cent thrown toward your loans right now applies to your loan balance, quickly reducing your student debt on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
Saving money on interest. Because of the way interest accrues on student loans and other debts, reducing your balance will automatically save you money on interest over the long haul. The more you pay toward your student loans now, the more money you save.
Disadvantages of Making Loan Payments
There are a few potential downsides to making student loan payments when they’re not required. Plus, borrowers with certain types of student loans should not be making payments right now.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind.
You may need the money later on. Even if your income is fine right now, the financial fallout from the pandemic is far from over. If you choose to make student loan payments through the end of the year and lose your job in a few months, you might wish you had saved that extra cash instead.
Those pursuing PSLF shouldn’t make payments. If you’re pursuing PSLF, then this deferment period is counted toward the 120 on-time payments you need for loan forgiveness. If you continued making payments through the end of the year, you would be throwing money down the drain.
Most borrowers on income-driven repayment plans have little incentive to make payments. If you’re on an income-driven repayment plan like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Income Based Repayment (IBR), then your loan payment is only a percentage of your discretionary income, and your loans will be forgiven after 20-25 years of on-time payments. Borrowers who aim to have their loans forgiven after 20-25 years anyway should skip payments through the end of the year and set aside their cash for a rainy day instead.
The Bottom Line
Individuals who want to pay off their loans quickly would be smart to pay as much as they can, but only if they can afford it. It also makes sense to be cautious about any extra income you have for the time being. After all, more economic pain may be on the way, and it’s possible you could face a loss in income later in the year.
Without any interest accruing on federally owned student loans during this historic forbearance, however, you could always put your student loan payments into a high-yield savings account until the end of the year. At that point, you can assess your financial situation and make a large, lump sum payment toward your loans if you want.
This strategy creates a greater safety net for the remainder of 2020 while also paying down debt faster with a large payment before the end of December. Run the numbers and make sure you have a plan (and a back-up plan) in place.
Making the decision to move isn’t easy, it comes with months of planning, finding your dream home, unexpected bumps in the road, and sometimes a lot of stress. It’s not uncommon to experience anxiety during this major life-changing event, but if you’re moving with your furry friends, then there might be some extra steps to ensure things don’t get too strenuous. As you sign on the dotted line and begin packing up your things to move, you should start considering what you can do to make fido feel comfortable before, during, and after the move.
Identifying Anxiety in Your Pup
Dogs, just like their parents, can suffer from anxiety for a variety of reasons. Separation, loud noises (like thunder or fireworks), or new environments. However, unlike us, they can’t verbally express their anxiety or concerns so it’s up to the dog moms and dads out there to keep a watchful eye for red flags that indicate stress. The ASPCAsays you should pay attention to constant licking, chewing on furniture or toys, hiding, a tucked tail, pacing, or using the bathroom in places or times they normally wouldn’t as these could all be indicators of anxiety. If you’re noticing any of these new behaviors, then it’s probably due to their sensing change coming. In order to keep our furry friends happy, we need to make accommodations to their usual routine to slowly adjust them to the transition.
Ease the Transition
The first step to helping fido stay calm is to ease the transition. If your move requires a long road trip, it’ll be important to allow your pet some time to adjust to being in a crate if they’re not already familiar with one. Introduce them slowly by taking 15-20 minutes out of your day to help them get acquainted, doing this a few weeks out from your move would be ideal. Add in blankets and use treats to make them feel comfortable. If you have larger dogs that don’t necessarily require a crate to travel in or are pretty good travelers, then be sure to keep them comfortable wherever they may be during this time.
Pet tip: Start placing their meals inside their crates so they begin associating positive interactions with the crate. However, sometimes crates can stress out your pup even more. If you sense your pet is really uncomfortable or not adjusting well to being in a crate, consider letting them ride with you in the car.
Feel It Out
Slowly allow your pets to feel out the space around them, some may be eager to explore their new surroundings while others may prefer to sniff out their unfamiliar home. Introducing them to the home one room at a time is the best way to go about controlling their exposure to the potentially overwhelming new environment.
Pet tip: The ASPCA recommends having a “home base” when you first move in with your pet. This allows them to grow familiar to one specific area in the home and slowly expanding their comfort as you live there longer.
Make it Feel Like Home
Keep previous toys, beds, and other pet gear with you during your move. If man’s best friend is surrounded with things they’ve grown to be comfortable with and that already have their scent, then they’ll feel much more comfortable regardless of where you are in your move.
Pet tip: CBD oil has grown increasingly more common in the past few years. Studies are currently being conducted to determine how it can help pets with anxiety, pain, and even epilepsy. However, it’s always important to discuss new treatments, homeopathic or not, with your veterinarian prior to use per the recommendation of the ASPCA.
Have you moved with your furry friends before? Drop the tips you learned along the way in our comment section below! If you’re in the market for a new home or looking to start the process of selling yours, Homes.com offers step-by-step guides on how to buy, sell, or rent.
As Homes.com’s content marketing assistant, Sydney gets to combine one of her favorite pastimes with her job– keeping up with pop culture. Outside of work, she enjoys stepping away from her phone and computer and spending time with her friends, whether it’s just hanging out or traveling. Trying new foods, going snowboarding, and long road trips are some of her other favorite things to do, but what does she loves the most? When people read Homes.com’s blog articles, of course!
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Gasoline can get expensive, but most of us have to drive at some point or another. Driving around to find the cheapest gas in town is one way to cut a big chunk out of your monthly gas bill. But there are many tips and tricks that can reduce what you pay at the pump. Here are seven strategies that can help you save money on gas and reduce your environmental footprint.
See what the average budget looks like for someone in your neighborhood.
1. Service Your Vehicle Regularly
Properly maintaining your vehicle can improve its fuel economy. You’ll need to replace dirty filters as often as possible and use the right motor oil whenever you top up. Using the wrong oil could waste gas by making your engine work harder. If you aren’t sure which grade of motor oil your car needs, you can check your owner’s manual.
It’s also important to keep your tires properly inflated. Tire pressure should always remain at the level recommended by your car’s manufacturer. And you’ll need to make sure your tires are aligned. When it comes to gas mileage, a simple tune-up can go a long way.
2. Use A/C Wisely
In some cases, you can waste gas by cranking up the A/C. But it all depends on where you’re driving. If you’re driving fast because you’re on the highway, for example, having the windows open can increase drag and reduce fuel economy. So using A/C when you’re speeding down the freeway won’t prevent you from trying to save money on gas.
In most cars, the A/C turns on when you try to defrost the windshield. Using a less powerful setting is one way to avoid wasting energy.
3. Find Cheap Places to Fuel Up
Generally to find cheap gas, you’ll need to stay away from wealthier neighborhoods and check out stations in the suburbs if you’re driving through a major city. Apps like GasBuddy, AAA TripTik Mobile and Waze can help you find low gas prices in your area.
If you’re trying to spend less money on gas, waiting until your gas tank is empty and filling up a little at a time throughout the week isn’t a good idea. In fact, doing that could damage your car. It’s best to wait until you have a quarter tank of gas and fill it up all the way.
Related Article: States With the Worst Drivers
4. Earn Rewards for Buying Gas
If you drive a lot, it may make sense for you to get a credit card that rewards you with cash back or points for buying gas. Depending on the kind of credit card you qualify for, you could earn gas rewards of up to 5%.
5. Travel Lightly
Carrying around a heavy load can add unnecessary drag. That’s why it’s a good idea to clean out your trunk and remove anything from your roof that you don’t need. By removing excess weight, you’ll be able to maximize your vehicle’s fuel economy.
6. Drive Slower
Cars often use more gas when drivers speed up. Exceeding your car’s optimal speed can reduce your gas mileage. In many cars, it’s best to drive at around 50 mph if you want to save fuel.
When you need to accelerate, it’s best to tap the gas pedal lightly. Speeding up too quickly or hitting the brakes too hard can reduce your miles per gallon.
Related Article: How to Trade in a Car
7. Drive More Efficiently
In addition to monitoring your speed, you can drive more efficiently by paying attention to details. For example, it’s a good idea to turn off the engine if your car has been idle for a while. Avoiding potholes and sudden stops can also make a difference when you’re trying to save money.
Using cruise control while you’re driving long distances may also help you use less gas. If you want to go the extra mile, consider buying a more fuel-efficient car. Spending a bit more on a new ride might make sense if you want better gas mileage.
Sometimes you have to get creative when you want to cut costs. By making some adjustments to the way you drive and maintain your car, you can save big bucks on gasoline.
And if you can capitalize on the best times to buy gas, you probably should. Usually, it’s best to get gas either early in the morning or late at night.
Liz Smith Liz Smith is a graduate of New York University and has been passionate about helping people make better financial decisions since her college days. Liz has been writing for SmartAsset for more than four years. Her areas of expertise include retirement, credit cards and savings. She also focuses on all money issues for millennials. Liz’s articles have been featured across the web, including on AOL Finance, Business Insider and WNBC. The biggest personal finance mistake she sees people making: not contributing to retirement early in their careers.