Gasoline prices were down again last week, with the average gallon of gasoline at the pump down to $2.01. That's 20% lower than in December, 2014.
Analysts at USAA Investment Solutions say that savings amounts to $60 extra in the household budget every month - or $720 for the entire year. That's a decent windfall for American families, and experts say the largess should be used to better their financial situations.
For example, USAA advises consumers to use the extra cash to start or add to your emergency fund. "Having some spare cash on hand for unexpected events is always a good idea," the company said in an email to TheStreet. "We recommend saving between three and six months' worth of monthly expenses in an emergency account - your gasoline savings can go toward that target."
You can also use the money to pay down some consumer debt. "Credit card balances, auto loans, personal loans and the like can really strain your budget. A survey in November by NerdWallet found that the average indebted household in the United States carries more than $15,000 in credit card debt," USAA adds. "At a typical interest rate of 18%, debt service alone on that balance can add up to nearly $3,000 a year."
Or, use the cash to help upgrade on gas guzzling vehicles. "Gas and oil prices won't always stay low, so plan for the future and buy a car with a better miles per gallon, for example," added Scott Chesrown, vice president of Strategy and Business Development at Vroom.com, an online vehicle buying and selling site.
Benjamin Surman, founder and chief executive officer at Firm Eighty Six, a Houston-based brand management firm, said he'd take the money and start looking for some good stocks. "I think the obvious and most logical thing to do with the extra money is to invest it back into the market," he said. "In my opinion, when you put away money into investments that you would have just spent before, you win on the front side and the backside."
In essence, consumers should look to grow their money instead of spending it willy-nilly on unnecessary stuff that will only provide short-term satisfaction.
Saving for college is another great way to leverage oil and gas savings. A solid investment for the children is a 529 Plan, says Elle Kaplan, CEO of LexION Capital Management.
"If you haven't already started saving for you children's education, this is a great way to start," she says. "I recommend it to families, because it will allow your investment to grow tax-free, and can also see other tax benefits when you withdraw it to pay for school. The best way to take advantage of these plans is to do your research - since every state has their own plan you can take advantage of any state-specific benefits."
It's not every month you get an extra $60 in your pocket. But don't be tempted to spend it. Instead, polish up your personal financial experience by using the money for savings, or to reduce debt, instead.