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This post is about how to make the best of volatile fuel prices and put more money in your pocket each month.

I see it all the time. Fuel prices at the pump jump 30 cents in a day and people start their bellyaching. Facebook explodes with posts about how people are being taken advantage of, ripped off, and held hostage by a seemingly unwarranted surge in gas prices. Oil prices are very complex, and there are a lot of factors that affect the price at the pump.

Very interesting news article this morning in a UK newspaper. It helps explain a bit about how and why oil fluctuates so much. It would also help to read up on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and how it works. I’m here today to tell you how to minimize the impact to your personal finances.

First of all we must admit that the cost per gallon is only half the reason our monthly fuel bills are so high. We don’t have any control over the price at the pump, so let’s stop grumbling about it. Let’s talk about what you can control, and that is the amount of fuel you need to purchase each month, and how we can reduce this factor.

First of all, look at what you are driving. If it is a monster truck, or something that gets very poor fuel mileage you may want to consider buying something more efficient. We don’t need 4WD 365 days a year. If you get 10 mpg in your current vehicle, you can cut your annual fuel bill in half by just driving a vehicle that gets 20 mpg. You can cut it by 66% if you can get a car that gets 30 mpg! There are many cars out there that get 40+ mpg. You would only spend 25% of what you are now spending! That is like $4 gas suddenly dropping to only $1 per gallon! Quite a significant improvement.

Secondly, let’s look at our driving habits. Do you warm up your vehicle for 15-20 min every day before you get into it? This vehicle is getting 0 mpg while sitting in your driveway. A car only needs to run for a minute or two before you start to drive it. It will warm up rather quickly once you get moving and working the engine.

Hard acceleration and braking are wasting fuel too. Try to accelerate more smoothly and coast a while before slowing down. You don’t always need to go hard on the brakes after a rapid acceleration. You not only save fuel this way, but brakes and tires too!

Lastly, consider investing in energy companies. Open an E*Trade account and take some of that money you’re saving and buy some stock in Exxon (XOM), Chevron (CVX) or some other oil or natural gas giant. Instead of complaining about the mega profits these giants reap every year, why not join in the harvest! You certainly can’t beat ’em, so why not join ’em?

It all boils down to being responsible for yourself and your finances. Make smart buying decisions, conserve where you can, and invest in profitable companies. You personally have more control over your fuel budget than the oil giants. Stop expecting the world to change just for you. Adapt to the changes around you and take care of yourself!

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