Heather Dewey

8 Ways to Save Money on Gas

Gas prices have been on the rise for months, and it’s widely known that this has not been kind to wallets everywhere. If you’re looking for some ways to pay less for gas, we’ve compiled a few ways to help.

Rewards Programs
Major grocery chains like Pick N’ Save (Kroger) offer reward programs that can help you save at the pump. Members can earn fuel points for money spent on groceries and general merchandise. Example: Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market customers are eligible to save up to $1 per gallon of fuel for every 1,000 points redeemed at participating BP gas stations.

Become a Member 
Take advantage of warehouse club memberships. In most areas, warehouse clubs also sell gasoline, including Sam’s Club and Costco, and the costs generally beat local competitors by anywhere from 5 cents to 25 cents per gallon. Although a membership at a warehouse club can cost you anywhere from $45 to $60 per year, you can make this back in savings from the reduced gas prices – and also have access to many other benefits of cost savings with this membership.

Stay Light
The more weight you carry, the more energy and fuel is needed to move your vehicle. So keep your emergency kit, but remove any of the other unnecessary items in your car that you don’t need daily.

Gas Trackers and Price Comparison Tools
There are several websites and phone apps that allow you to quickly check gas prices at stations near you. They use your current location and list gas station locations nearby in order of price, so you can choose the lowest priced station at which to refill. (Remember not to drive out of your way to get to the lowest price!) Here are a few of these price comparison tools to look into to get you started: GasBuddy, Upside, Gas Guru, Waze, Dash, and MapQuest. Organizations like AAA and even some local news stations also allow you to check gas prices in your area on their websites.

Map Your Drive and Combine Errands
Obviously the best way to spend less on gas is to use less gas. Planning a route ahead of time and avoiding backtracking will make your next journey fuel-efficient. Instead of running out every time you need something, schedule time once a week to complete all your errands at once. Having a mile and a minute off a frequent route you take once a week can save an hour and several hundred dollars over the course of a year.

Set That Cruise Button
If you do a lot of highway driving, it pays to use your cruise control button.  Not only does it help to reduce the wear and tear of the engine and transmission systems, setting the cruise control and staying at a steady speed has been shown to save on fuel usage (plus you can make sure you don’t go over the speed limit).  Accelerating slowly and coasting more are not only safer ways to drive, but they can be cost-efficient driving habits as well.

Check Your Tire Pressure
Confirm your tire pressure is set according to your car’s manufacturer recommendation. Studies show that under-inflated tires result in more fuel being burned per mile as opposed to when the tires are properly inflated.

Proper Maintenance
If you have been putting off your scheduled maintenance, now is the time to schedule an appointment. Poor car maintenance can drop fuel efficiency.  Along this line, make sure you are using your manufacturer’s recommended grade of oil. The wrong grade of motor oil can cost you 4 to 9 cents per gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

If you do try a few of the ways above, check to see how much lower you have gotten your monthly gas budget! It’s nice and motivating to see that dollar amount drop.

5 Ways to Boost Your Financial Health (Amidst COVID-19)

Financial decisions can feel complex and hard even under normal circumstances. If the current  market volatility has you questioning what are the “right” actions you should take now, you are not  alone. Here are five concrete ways for you to jumpstart your financial wellness in the wake of the  novel coronavirus. 

Don’t touch your face or your 401k 

Time for some facts. Markets fluctuate over time, and returns often come with risks. While  COVID-19 is certainly adding unprecedented volatility to the stock market, it is critical to take a  long-term view when it comes to investing. 
Chances are that when you set up your 401k or IRA you picked a diverse asset portfolio, and  selected a monthly contribution that you were comfortable with. Trust that you picked the right  option, and stay the course. When considering your retirement, ​the strategy you had in place in  February should be your continued strategy for the months ahead.​ Take a deep breath and trust  that the market will bounce back. 
When it comes to investing in your retirement, the best thing to do is invest regularly and aim to  have a monthly contribution of 10-15% of your total income.  
Have more questions about saving for retirement, and finding a plan that’s right for you? Check out our digital financial resources. ​ 

Build Emergency Savings 

Unexpected moments like these are precisely why an emergency fund of 3-6 months take-home  pay is so critical. If you have an emergency fund to tap into, great job! If you are among the ​40% of  Americans who would find an unexpected $400 expense challenging to pay​, know that you are not  alone, and there is always time to build your savings. 
To start, dive into your finances from the previous month. Take a hard look at non-essential  spending. Eliminating even small expenses, especially monthly membership fees, can quickly add  up over time. After you have cancelled or paused any non-essential recurring payments, create a  budget tracker to identify where and how you spent your money. How much were you spending  on dining out? Ridesharing? Online shopping? Once you have that breakdown, you can more  accurately set goals around what you need to start, stop, and continue doing in order to build your emergency savings.  

If you’re new to the world of budgeting, the ​50 / 30 / 20 rule​ is a great place to start. Set a goal of  how much money you want to contribute to your emergency savings each month, and don’t forget  to celebrate when you meet (or exceed!) your goal. 
For additional help with how to approach emergency savings, explore our online resources.

Refinance a Loan 

March 2020 marked a period of extreme market volatility, to say the least. To stabilize and protect  the economy, the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to record lows. These decade-low  interest rates could save you money if you choose to refinance your mortgage, private student  loans, or other debts. Keep in mind that federal and private student loans are different, and you  could be losing benefits by adjusting your federal loan. 
Traditional advice is to refinance when rates are 1-2% below your current rate. Make sure to keep  an eye on your closing costs, so you make a decision that takes all costs into consideration. 

Time Your Taxes 

For any procrastinators that have put off doing their taxes, good news – U.S. taxpayers have a  three-month extension on the deadline to file their federal tax return due to the novel coronavirus  pandemic. Tax Day has been pushed from April 15th to July 15th, 2020. Most states have matched  the July 15th deadline, but ​check here​ to determine your state’s filing deadline. 
If you are among the many Americans who typically receive a tax refund — that is, you paid more  taxes to your state or federal government (through payroll withholding, for example) than your  actual tax liability, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is advising that you file your taxes earlier so  that you can get your money sooner. 
Click here to learn more about taxes with this short, interactive overview. ​

Make a Plan and Regain Control 

You can only control what you can control. The good news is that your financial decisions and  behaviors are 100% under your control.  
Use this time at home to reset any riskier financial behaviors. This is a great time to start building  healthy financial habits, while the lure of expensive purchases like events, sporting games, travel,  fancy restaurants, etc. are off the table. Find your money zen – what spending habits make you  happy? What do you spend money on that you have no memory of a month later? Which purchases  sit on a shelf collecting dust or cluttering your space?  

Take the time to build a budget and stick to it. Set up regular monthly investments. Build your  emergency savings fund. Use this time as a bootcamp to become a top-notch steward of your  financial present and future. You’ve got this. 
To continue upskilling your financial capability, visit our financial education center, ​for our full suite of educational content.

This blog content was created in partnership with EVERFI. ​ Bank Five Nine is a member of EVERFI’s Financial Capability Network, and we are proud to deliver critical financial education to our communities.

Preparing Financially for a Baby

With a baby comes one of life’s biggest joys, but they also comes with a lot of new expenses. In the US, the average cost of raising a child through the age of 17 is $233,610.  This figure is based on the most recent ‘Expenditures on Children by Families’ report completed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Beyond the purchase of items such as a crib, diapers and car seat; here are some additional financial items to think about to help you prepare for the arrival of your new family member.

The first month of your baby’s life may be the priciest, because it includes maternity care, the cost of delivery, postnatal care, and a hospital stay.  The numbers can vary depending on where you live, if you are giving birth or adopting, and your insurance policy.

Understand your maternity/paternity leave

It’s important to familiarize yourself and understand your workplace’s maternity and paternity leave policies. You’ll want to look into how much leave is offered and how much of your salary will you be paid during that time.

Review Insurance Policies

Health Insurance: Having a baby is expensive, even when you have health insurance, so you’ll want to check your policy to see what is covered and what is out of pocket. Keep in mind that the cost of routine birthing care is variable based on your insurance coverage so you will want to review your policy to find out what your out-of-pocket costs are for prenatal care, tests, hospital stay, and postpartum.

Make sure you know what it costs to add an additional dependent to your health insurance policy, and how you long you have from child’s birth date to add them. (It’s recommended to do it sooner rather than later). Plan on around 6 wellness visits for evaluations, immunizations, etc., and possibly a few additional visits for illnesses for your baby in the first year. If possible, make you stay in-network while choosing your child’s pediatrician, as well as avoid going outside of your network of hospitals to avoid paying additional costs.

Life Insurance: This is also a good time to review or modify your life insurance policies. Assuming you already have life insurance, you may want to review or consider adding policies for medical, dental, and disability.  During this time you may want to add your child as a beneficiary on your policy (same for your 401(k) and IRAs as well). Keep in mind that you’ll need to make adjustments elsewhere, such as a will or trust, to ensure when, and how, your child will have access to the money.

Adjust your current budget to accommodate your new baby

Babies come with a lot of expenses, including instant and longer term ones. A great tool for approximating first year costs is the cost calculator at BabyCenter.com. This tool takes into account one time and ongoing items, such as a car seats, diapers, clothing, daycare etc.  This tool can be very helpful when accounting for these items while creating your monthly and yearly budget.

Your exact expenses during your child’s life will depend on choices like school, childcare and lifestyle. While you are budgeting, try to look ahead to be able to plan for both your short and long-term financial goals.

Additional tip: If you are planning to have a baby shower, be practical about your baby registry. If you can wait, don’t go baby shopping till after. You will most likely get a lot of items at your shower, and you can put the money you would have otherwise spent on these items towards filling in the gaps of what you still need and your financial saving goals.

Other ways to save:

  • Babies grow fast! Buying clothes secondhand can save you a good amount of money
  • Buying in bulk, using cash-back apps and ‘couponing’ can cut your budget  
  • Prepare your own baby food at home to help with food costs when baby starts getting introduced to food other than formula or breast milk.  Here is a Step-By-Step Guide to Making Baby Food by verywellfamily.com

18 and beyond:

Savings Account: Consider starting to save for long-term expenses as your baby grows. Set up a savings account for your baby (check out our Good Savers Account that is specific for children). Putting away a specific percentage of your paycheck each month can help you build up this savings.

Continuing education: Starting early in your child’s life allows you to leverage time to build up nice savings for your child’s post-high school education.  If your child decides to go to college, the current average cost of a full-time undergraduate, per year according to Education Data (2019-2020), is roughly estimated at $30,500.

Parents who choose to help pay for college can take advantage of savings plans like the 529 College Savings Plans. A 529 plan is a state sponsored plan that allows families to save specifically for college costs.  As long as the money is used to pay for college expenses, the withdrawals are free of federal taxes. If you start a 529 plan, and your child decides not to go to college, the money may be used for another child or withdrawn, subject to tax and penalties. A bonus of these plans is that family and friends can contribute to your child’s 529 plan for easy gift ideas for birthdays and holidays. 

Overall, planning for a child is an exciting time. By preparing for these financial items in addition to dreaming of what their eye color is going to be, it will allow you more time to enjoy your new addition to your family.