At a national average of $3.05 per gallon for regular unleaded, the price of gas has reached its highest level since the fall of 2008.

At that price, gasoline can weigh like an anvil on your monthly car expenses — and Bankrate would like to help you save some cash at your next fill-up. Here are five ways to save at the pump so you won’t go over budget every week when your car needs gas.

Maintain the correct tire pressure

Keeping the correct PSI, or pounds per square inch, in your car’s tires will give you better gas mileage, so check pressures once a month before you start driving in the morning and add air accordingly. If your car is equipped with a tire pressure monitor system — now standard equipment on all new cars — don’t dismiss any alarms as false. Pressure increases as you drive and tires warm up, so a low-pressure alarm when you start driving that goes away later means tire pressure is on the border of being too low and should be adjusted. Check your owner’s manual or the label on the inside of the driver’s door for the correct PSI rating. The number on the tire’s sidewall is the maximum PSI and should not be used.

Don’t let your car “warm up” before you drive it

Technology in cars built in the past 10 years allows your car to operate at very near its top efficiency the moment it starts. Letting a car idle, such as when you wait at the curb for a passenger or wait for the heater to kick in, is simply a waste of gas.

Don’t use a higher grade of gasoline than is recommended

Putting a higher octane gasoline in your car than the manufacturer recommends won’t improve your fuel economy, so it’s not worth the extra price you’ll pay per gallon. Check your owner’s manual or the label on the gas-tank door for the recommended octane for your car, and fill up with that. However, don’t use a lower octane than is recommended, because it may actually worsen your car’s fuel economy and could damage your engine.

Slow down

Slower speeds win the fuel-economy race and can save you a bundle. Avoid being a lead foot by accelerating from a stop and by driving over the speed limit on the highway. Jack-rabbit starts simply waste gas and only get you to the next traffic light faster, where your car will idle longer. Cars get better gas mileage driving at 65 mph than they do at higher speeds. Cruise control can help you maintain a steady speed, too, which will further improve fuel economy, especially on the highway.

Get the junk out of your car

The heavier your car is, the more energy it needs to move, so get all the excess gear out of your car when you’re not using it. Carrying around items you don’t need only worsens your car’s gas mileage unnecessarily. In addition, the less aerodynamic your car is, the worse its fuel economy. If you have a rooftop carrier or carry items such as bicycles or skis on your roof, remove these items when they’re not in use to improve your fuel economy.

Ask the adviser

If you have a car question, e-mail it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories.

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