Q:  Gasoline prices seem like they have a mind of their own these days.  Other than giving up my car, is there anything that I can realistically do to try to save on gas?

 A:  The rise in gasoline prices is really putting a hurting on the economy and the average American’s pocket book.  Years ago General Motors converted their factories that made large rear well drive cars into places that would make nothing but trucks because the SUV market was the next “big” thing.  Ask GM how many Denali’s they are selling now and they would probably tell you that they can’t give them away!

So what can you do to ease the pain at the pump?  Here are some tactics that can help you fill up less often and hopefully reduce the overall amount you pay for gasoline.

1. Ask yourself every time you plan to use your car, truck, SUV, or van, “Is this trip really necessary?” Every mile you drive your vehicle will cost you at least an average of 36 cents. If the trip is not necessary, think twice before using your vehicle.

2. Drive at a conservative speed on the highway. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most automobiles get about 20 percent more miles per gallon on the highway at 55 miles per hour than they do at 70 miles per hour.

3. Decrease the number of short trips you make. Short trips drastically reduce gas mileage. If an automobile gets 20 miles per gallon in general, it may get only 4 miles per gallon on a short trip of 5 miles or less. The U. S. Department of Energy says that trips of 5 miles or less make up 15 percent of all miles driven each year, but these trips burn 30 percent of the gasoline.

4. Cut down or combine the number of shopping trips you make. Try to plan your shopping so that you can run all of your errands in fewer trips.  Driving to run errands many times a week can become very expensive. So if possible, try to run necessary errands on your way to and from work or get them out of the way during your lunch break by walking to nearby stores, the library, and other places.

5. Don’t drive all the way across town to save five cents on an item. As pointed out above, ” it costs an average of at least 36 cents a mile to own and operate an automobile.” If you drive 10 miles, it will cost you $3.60 or more.

6. Turn off your engine if you stop for more than one minute (this does not apply if you are in traffic). Restarting the automobile will use less gasoline than idling for more than one minute. Also, don’t wait until you unbuckle your seat belt, turn off the lights, turn off the air-conditioner, and gather items from the seat to take with you, etc. before you turn off the engine when you finally arrive at your destination. When you turn off the ignition, your gasoline costs stop.

7. Run your automobile air-conditioner only when really necessary. Alternatively, use the economy vent. Running the air-conditioner results in more fuel consumption and fewer miles per gallon of gasoline.

8. If your automobile is equipped with a cruise control, use it when possible. It helps you get better gas mileage. Most automobile manufacturers recommend, however, that the cruise control not be used in heavy traffic or on wet roads for safety reasons.

9. Keep your vehicle in good working order.  Have your automobile tuned-up as recommended in your owner’s manual or as needed. A poorly tuned engine could consume three to nine percent more gasoline than a well-tuned one. The tune-up will pay for itself in gasoline savings and performance.  Likewise, check your tire pressure regularly and keep your wheels in good alignment. Tire pressure that is too low will increase rolling resistance and reduce gas mileage. You can lose about two percent in fuel economy for every pound of air pressure under the recommended pounds per square inch.

10. Shop around for the best price on gasoline. There could be as much as 20 cents or more per gallon difference in price at different places that sell gasoline.  Also, when you do find the best deal, don’t overfill your gas tank. The gasoline draining down the side of your automobile is expensive and may also damage the finish on your car.

11. Consider purchasing a shopping card offered by such places as Wal-Mart that gives you a three cents-per-gallon discount at their pump if you use the shopping card when paying for the gasoline.

12. Vacation near home this year. Most of us fail to see and enjoy the attractions in our own city or state. Instead, we tend to drive long distances for a vacation. People hundreds or thousands of miles away from us drive to see our attractions, and we drive to see their attractions even though we haven’t seen our own nor have they seen their own. Discover some exciting things close to home this year and save hundreds of dollars in transportation costs, including gasoline.

13.  Consider taking public transportation or biking to work.  This city has an incredible infrastructure in place that not all cities enjoy.  You can get from one side of the city to the other in about two hours via the CTA, RTA or Metra.  If you bike around this city during the summer, not only will you save on gasoline, but you can also shed a few extra pounds!  All in all, think outside of the box for gas savings because it will probably get a lot worse before it ever gets better.