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Don’t let gas prices wreck your budget


By Tracy Courage

U of A System

Division of Agriculture

With gas prices hitting new all-time highs in March, Arkansans are feeling the pinch at the pumps.

The average cost of a gallon of regular gas nationally was $4.27 on March 18, up from $2.88 a year prior, according to the American Automobile Association. Earlier this month, regular gas prices reached a recent high of $4.33 per gallon on March 11, with diesel prices hitting a high on March 12 at $5.13 per gallon.

As of March 18, Arkansans were paying an average of $3.84 for a gallon of regular gas, up from $2.69 a year ago. Average gas prices in southern Arkansas were higher than in other parts of the state with prices in Montgomery, Howard, Miller, Nevada, and Desha counties all averaging above $4 per gallon.

Geopolitical tensions and supply and demand are among the factors affecting the spike in gas prices nationwide, which are the highest they’ve been since 2008, according to AAA.

“Paying more at the pump can have a big impact on a household budget,” Laura Hendrix, associate professor of personal finance and family resource management for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said. “Hopefully, gas prices will return to normal, but until they do, there are several ways people can curb costs.”

Hendrix, an accredited financial counselor, offered these money-saving tips:

Drive less

Carpool. Walk or ride a bike. Use public transportation if it is available. Work remotely from home if possible. “Plan your trips,” Hendrix said. “You can reduce miles by combining errands so that you make stops along a planned route.”

Slow down

When it comes to fuel efficiency, slow and steady wins the race. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, driving 55 mph instead of 65 mph improves gas mileage by as much as 15 percent. Drivers can also improve gas mileage by not driving aggressively. Jackrabbit starts lessen fuel efficiency by as much as 5 percent. Steady driving uses less fuel, so use cruise control when appropriate. 

Maintain your car

To get the best mileage, stick to a maintenance schedule. Check and replace air filters regularly. Get regular oil changes. Use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil, and keep tires properly inflated and aligned.

 Lighten up

Remove excess weight in your vehicle to improve fuel efficiency. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce fuel economy by as much as 2 percent. Excess weight in the luggage rack on top creates wind resistance and lessens fuel efficiency. 

Use less air conditioning

Use air conditioning as little as possible. However, for some vehicles, running the air conditioner may be 

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