Your car payments and auto insurance payments may stay the same each month but gas prices can fluctuate wildly during the same period. Gas prices differ by state, by city, by season and by gas station, just to name a few variables, but consumers who shop wisely can trim their monthly car expenses.
These easy tips can help you find the best gas prices and save money:
Figure out what you’re currently spending on gas
The first step to finding cheap gas is to track what you’re currently paying to create a baseline. For example, if you traditionally get gas at the same station because it’s convenient, your habit may be costing you extra money.
Start looking at gas prices when you drive by different stations so you can see the variations. Notice whether the prices change on weekends versus weekdays, and which brands have higher costs than others.
Download a gas app
Many people like to use gas apps on their phones, especially when on vacation in unfamiliar areas. The apps may let you plug in your zip code, or it can automatically find your location using GPS tracking. These apps show gas stations nearby and their prices, as entered by other app users. Some will also show the average gas prices for the state or city. To find the best gas app, check your phone’s app store and look at reviews.
Try different locations
Gas stations often charge more if they’re in a prime location, like close to a freeway exit or at a major intersection. People will pay more for that convenience, especially if they don’t know the area. If you can wait, it’s easier to find cheap gas farther away from a main drag.
Only get premium gas if your car needs it
You may think getting premium gas will improve engine performance, but that’s not necessarily the case for all cars. In fact, some higher performance cars actually do just fine with regular gas. Learn more about whether premium gas is right for your car, so you aren’t wasting money with no return.
Pay with cash
Some stations offer a discount for cash versus paying with a credit card. Over time, this can add up. It can be worthwhile to keep extra cash on hand for gas purchases to pay the best gas prices.
Use a station loyalty credit card
Some gas stations offer loyalty credit cards, giving you a discount on gas prices when using that card. If you tend to shop for gas at the same station frequently, it might be worthwhile to use a loyalty card. Consider if you have to pay a yearly fee for the card and the interest rate if you don’t pay your credit card off in full each month.
Shopping smartly for gas can help you spend less on your car. Finding the right auto insurance policy can also save you money – especially if you qualify for a car insurance discount.
Car batteries are an essential part of an automobile. From getting your car started to charging your phone on-the-go, batteries provide the zap your vehicle needs to keep rolling. That’s why it’s so important to know when to start considering a car battery change, as well as what you can do to extend its lifespan.
The Average Car Battery Life
On average, car batteries last between 2 and 5 years. One of the most important factors that affects how long a car battery will last is the weather. A running engine under the hood is already producing high levels of heat. Throw in a scorching hot day and you have a severe drain on your car battery, which can lead to an increased chance of a dead battery if you don’t take proper summer driving precautions.
Within 24 hours of driving in hot weather, a car battery will begin to discharge. That’s why the average car battery life in hotter regions is about 2 and a half years, compared to almost 4 and a half years in colder regions. So when estimating how long your car battery life will last, consider the climate you will do most of your driving in.
Regardless of the temperature you drive in, properly taking care of your car battery can help keep it running. Check out the 7 tips below on extending the life of your car battery:
1. Limit Short Rides
Quick car rides prevent your car’s battery from fully charging. Maintain your car’s battery power by driving it frequently and for longer periods. If you don’t use your car often, consider investing in a portable car battery charger. These portable chargers can jump start your battery without another vehicle in case you’re ever stranded.
2. Keep Your Battery Tightly Fastened
A battery that’s not securely fastened could end up vibrating, potentially resulting in internal damage and short circuits. Have your battery terminal checked regularly, especially if you frequently drive on bumpy roads, to ensure it is tightly and properly positioned in the mounting bracket.
3. Turn Off All the Lights When You Exit
Accidentally keeping your headlights and car door lights on can put a heavy toll on your vehicle’s battery. To keep yourself from forgetting, here are some tips – post a note on your dashboard, attach a sticker reminder on your car remote or park in a direction where you must walk past your headlights to get to your destination.
4. Control the Corrosion
Battery terminals corrode over time, but keeping them clean from buildup is a great way to extend the life of your car battery. Scrub the terminals with a toothbrush dipped in a baking soda and water mixture. Then, using a spray bottle with cold water, rinse the mixture off and follow up with a thorough drying with a clean cloth.
5. Test Your Battery Often
Knowing the condition of your car battery matters when you want to maximize its life. Test your battery’s output voltage level with a car battery tester to keep track of how well you’re maintaining it and if you’re due for a new one.
6. Don’t Use Electronics When Idle
Turn off functions like the radio or air conditioner when your engine isn’t running to put less wear and tear on your battery power. Extended periods of idling also can wear a battery down.
7. Care for Your Car as a Whole
Your car is comprised of many parts working together. The battery is just one, so properly maintaining your car is vital for extending its life and the life of your battery.
No matter how well you maintain your car battery, you can’t always foresee when it may die. Learn more about roadside assistance and how it can help you in the event of an emergency.
The congratulatory calls and engagement parties have waned. Now what? It’s time to get down to serious wedding planning. Fun? Yes! Overwhelming? Oh, yes. But don’t fret. We’ve compiled this pre-wedding timeline and wedding planning checklist for soon-to-be brides and grooms.
16-9 months before your wedding day
1. Create a file or binder to keep wedding information organized and together
Favors and Gifts 2-3%
Wedding Rings 2-3%
When planning your budget, it’s a good idea to avoid piling up bills that you’ll be paying back for years to come.
3. Set a date and reserve a venue for the ceremony and reception
Research listings and compare features, cost, size, etc. Arrange visits and bring a list of questions to ask venue planners. Also, consider wedding insurance for protection in case of a cancellation or damage to the venue.
4. Create the guest list
5. Choose your wedding party
6. Hire a wedding planner to help with details
7. Have the engagement ring appraised
You will most likely be able to have your ring appraised for free at the jewelry store where the ring was purchased. In the event your ring is lost or damaged, it’s a good idea to keep the appraisal and receipts in a safe place.
8. Insure the engagement ring for protection
Research your options when it comes to insuring your ring. You can contact your agent for more details on the steps you should take.
9. Choose an officiant for the ceremony
8 months before your wedding day
10. Select a photographer and videographer
11. Decide on entertainment
When choosing between a band or DJ, consider the following:
12. Choose a caterer
Schedule a tasting of what you want to serve and find out exactly what’s included, such as plates, silverware, table linens, etc.
13. Plan attire for the bride, groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl and ring bearer
Schedule fittings and keep track of dates. Don’t forget jewelry, bag, shoes, bridal veil and other accessories.
14. Reserve a block of hotel rooms for out-of-town guests
15. Register for gifts with at least three retailers
Print out a wedding registry checklist to avoid missing any essentials.
16. Look into coverage options for any new gifts you receive
Check your homeowners or renters policy to find out if new gifts are already covered. If not, look into different property insurance options that could insure your new items.
7-6 months before your wedding day
17. Design invitations
18. Plan your honeymoon
Planning your honeymoon well in advance can help avoid any last minute problems and can save you money. It’s also a good idea to get travel insurance so you’re protected if an incident affects your trip.
19. Send save-the-date cards
20. Reserve things like portable restrooms and outdoor lighting if needed
21. Book a florist
22. Create a music playlist, including a list of no-play songs
23. Arrange transportation for guests
5-4 months before your wedding day
24. Finalize the menu
25. Choose a wedding cake
Schedule a tasting with bakeries so you can try different types of cakes, ask questions and review the bakery’s portfolio.
26. Address wedding invitations
Consider hiring a calligrapher to make your invitations more elegant and consistent.
3 months before your wedding day
27. Map out the ceremony with your officiant
28. Choose wedding favors for your guests
29. Create a list of who will be toasting at the reception
Be sure to allot time for speeches in your day-of schedule.
30. Purchase bride and groom wedding bands
2 months before your wedding day
31. Confirm times with all vendors
Send your day-of schedule to vendors and confirm appointments for hair and makeup.
32. Buy gifts for your wedding party
33. Send invitations
1 month before your wedding day
34. Get your marriage license
35. Separate RSVPs as you receive them by “attending” and “not attending”
The RSVP date should be 2-3 three weeks before your wedding in order to give the caterer a head count and set your seating chart a week ahead of time.
36. Schedule the timing for all day-of activities, such as the cake cutting and the first dance
A wedding planner or coordinator can help.
37. Put together gift bags for out-of-town guests
Week of the wedding
38. Assign seating for the reception
Create a seating chart at least a week before the big day. A site like seatingarrangement.com can help with the task.
39. Confirm honeymoon details
40. Deliver gift bags to guests at the hotel
41. Put tips and final payments for vendors into separate envelopes
42. Pack for your honeymoon
Check out our tips for efficient packing, and our guide to following TSA carry-on rules so your honeymoon isn’t derailed at the airport.
43. Breathe and enjoy as all your planning comes together!
We may not yet have the robot butlers that science fiction promised would be serving us by now. But we’re at the dawn of a new age: the “Internet of Things,” in which everyday mechanical objects – street lights, cars, office buildings and home appliances – will communicate and cooperate in ways we’re just beginning to discover.
Imagine your home filled with devices that tell you when they need to be fixed, update their own warranties, and even order their own replacement parts. Check out some of the most promising smart home appliances.
Smart smoke alarms
The smoke alarm may be the gateway device to the Internet of Things. Current models offer simple and fairly inexpensive ways to upgrade the defense of your home. If you’ve ever been startled awake by the irritating “chirp” of a dying smoke alarm battery, you may justify spending $35-$99 for an upgrade that sends a more gentle low-battery alert to your smart phone.
One example is the Roost, a $15 smart lithium battery with a 5-year lifespan that snaps into your smoke alarm’s 9-volt battery slot. When it detects smoke, it dials your smart phone. The $99 Leeo plugs into an electrical outlet. When it “hears” your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to go off, it calls you or an emergency contact list. And the Birdi, not quite on the market yet, can monitor air quality and warn of impending natural disasters.
The U.S. Department of Energy advises that careful regulation of your thermostat – turning it down when you’re asleep and away, for example – can cut about 15% from your utility bill. But rather than you constantly tweaking the settings, smart thermostats, while costing more than $200, can quickly pay for themselves in utility savings and keep you comfortable.
Consider the Nest, which senses when you’re home and when you’re not, and sets the temperature accordingly. After you’ve adjusted the temperature a few times, it “learns” what you like and mimics your preferences.
Or the Ecobee3, which adjusts the temperature of your home depending on how many people inside. A big dinner party? Ecobee3 lowers the temperature to compensate for all those bodies. A screen even displays energy savings.
Smart smoke alarms and thermostats are key components of a larger smart-appliance network that also includes lights, security and locks--the Wink system communicates with hardware from 27 different brands and lets you program them from your phone or a wall-mounted control center.
Smart room cleaners
Robot vacuums, like 2002’s Roomba, were among the first smart appliances to gain wide acceptance. Now, simple apps allow cleaning cycles to be altered and specific areas to be cleaned.
The new-gen Roomba floor cleaner – the $900 Roomba 980 – is wi-fi equipped, so you can operate it from wherever you are with its home app for iOS and Android. At $200, the Neato XV features 2 high-performance filters that minimize dust and allergens, and a blade and brush system specifically for pet hair.
Smart washing machines
Smart washing machines can even diagnose their own ailments or malfunctions. And if the smart power grid comes online as predicted, washers and similar smart appliances can save money by operating only when it’s most economical.
Whirlpool’s Smart Front Load Washer and the LG “Smart ThinQ” Washer both have smart phone integration that can alert you to updates, repairs, warranty issues and other inefficiencies. Whirlpool’s “6th Sense Live” technology also determines the washer’s energy usage. The LG, with various smart systems like “Smart Diagnosis,” lets you monitor your load remotely, set the washer to run when utility rates are lowest and troubleshoot problems.
Smart ovens and grills
Smart technology is making cooking simpler, more efficient and safer.
The Dacor Discover IQ 48-inch Dual-Fuel Range has a wireless tablet that lets you view recipes and cooking tutorials. Later, when your food is ready, the range goes to warming mode and alerts your mobile device. A smaller, countertop stove, like the June Oven, weighs your food, recommends a cooking program and uses a high-def camera to stream your food cooking to a mobile device. The outdoors Lynx Smart Grill can actually learn your cooking preferences and call your smart phone when it’s time to flip the burgers.
Smart appliances don’t do you much good if they’re damaged or stolen. Homeowners insurance and renters insurance from Nationwide will help keep your home and everything in it covered.
SPI Reflections Blog
Our blog is about educating our customers and the public about important insurance information that we feel is meaningful.