How Are Gas Prices Affecting You?

As predicted a couple of months ago, gas prices are on the march towards $5.00 a gallon, and in many places they are already there.

It’s funny how things like this work – it was just a couple summers ago we were practically crippled by $4.00 a gallon gas. This time, it took prices reaching over $3.60/gallon for anyone in the mainstream media to even mention it.

I guess that’s how price increases go – we sort of become immune to their effect as we absorb the increased costs into our daily lives.

We drive less.
We don’t idle while waiting for the kids to get out of school.
We eat less, or eat out less as food prices increase.
We also tend to eat cheaper food, which unfortunately isn’t always the healthiest choice.

I drive a full-sized truck, so I’m very aware of increases in gas prices. Hard to believe just a couple years ago I could fill up my truck for less than $50. Soon it will take more than $100 to fill it up.

While I’ve considered downsizing, I’m hesitant to go out and buy a new(er) vehicle to save money on gas. From purely a financial perspective, this doesn’t make a lot of sense considering my truck is paid for.

For example, assume I bought something smaller and realized a $200 a month savings on gas. Assuming that new something costs $15,000, it would take over 6 years for that purchase decision to break even.

What I have considered doing is purchasing an older small car for my short, daily commute, and for running errands, etc. I would drive my truck a couple days a week to work and make any stops by the home improvement store on one of those days in case I needed to haul something home.

But what amount of “smaller, older car” makes sense for this purpose? After all, I still want it to be somewhat reliable since I need it to get to work and back. But I don’t want anything too fancy or the increased costs to insure it, maintain it and keep the tag current will eat into any fuel savings. You can see why this is such a dilemma.

For now, I’ve decided to look for ways to consolidate trips and improve fuel efficiency by changing my driving habits. I’m much more conscious of long periods of idling and rarely do I ever “take off” from a red light. I’d rather ride with the windows down than the AC blasting (unless it is the dead of summer, in which case I make an exception).

Sadly, I don’t see much easing in gas prices in our near future. In fact, I think it will continue to get much worse with prices easily reaching $5.00 this summer. Better to be proactive by making changes now rather than waiting for prices to go up another 30% and being forced into painful changes.

Comments

  1. Me and my driving personally ? Not bothering me – but I’m retired and don’t go many places and raise a lot of my own food. The price is not going to change my driving when I want to.

    My son the dairy farmer? Drastically affecting… cost of diesel and gas for the tractors and to go the various barns he has….pass thru costs of the higher hay, grain, cattle prices etc…. Not good at all…

    Guess it depends on your personal situation how badly it affects you.

  2. I’m somewhat in the same boat – I have an older smaller car (a VW Jetta) that’s SUPER fuel efficient (it’s a little turbodiesel). I also have a full size truck. What I’m doing is selling my truck, and then using the proceeds to buy a trailer for my car.

    The trailer is only $50/year to insure so that’s a huge savings right there. I’ve towed trailers with the car on longer highway trips quite a few times now without issue (as long as it isn’t anything too heavy). Most of what folks “need” a truck for is things like picking up a few bags of potting soil or lumber – the trailer can take care of all of that without having to maintain another engine, brakes, transmission and without having to pay full insurance for an expensive vehicle.

    Really I could do without buying the trailer at all as they’re quite cheap to rent (about $25/day) but I do want the convenience to just be able to use it whenever I want. :)

    • What a fantastic idea! I had not thought of this option. We have an old car and a truck sort of like the setup FrugalDad is looking at but I thought the truck was the only option as we need it to haul stuff. I wouldn’t get a trailer for our current car, but we would love to switch to Diesel in the future and then a trailer would be perfect!

  3. Considering I haven’t filled my car up with gas in 2012….I’ll probably be ok.

    I like the trailer idea.

  4. I have to car pool to work with 4 other people, and I hate it, mostly because one of them smokes the smelliest cigarettes on the planet and it gives me a headache, and she doesn’t even smoke in the car. The smoke just clings to her. The 5 of us work at the same company, and it’s 23 – 30 miles one way to work, depending on where we each live. We meet at a central location each day. We’d work closer to home, but there aren’t many decent paying jobs in our county. So we put up with the carpooling for now.

    Even with carpooling, I limit myself to one trip into town per week. No exceptions. No extra trips, no vacation, no nothing. The price of gas combined with the price of many food items doubling in our area as well has really put a crimp in my life.

  5. Keep those printing presses at the Federal Reserve turning, America. Surely printing money couldn’t cause inflation…

  6. I try to have at least one “no drive” day a week(don’t always succeed). Also combine trips as much as possible.

    Keeping your car well maintained can also help save on gas, and keep it running longer.

    • I like this idea but it doesn’t address the other commuting expense, paying monthly for a parking space. The one day a week “no drive” commute would save on fuel and vehicle wear and tear. I guess every little bit counts!

  7. One big disadvantage of going to a smaller car is the loss of safety. The bigger and heavier your car is, the less likely you are to be hurt in an accident (provided you always buckle your seat belt.)

  8. I drive a 2001 Honda Civic. I bought it new and paid it off after 2 years. It still runs great with basic maintenance and I plan on keeping it for at least 3 more years. I would have still purchased a very fuel efficient car even if the price of gas was 10 cents/gallon. I do notice the changes in gas prices, but I’m fairly insensitive to the price increases.

  9. I really hate throwing all that money to fuel each month but there really isn’t anything I can do about it. I need to be more conscious about my driving habits.

  10. I deliver newspapers for a living. I drive probably close to 1000 miles a week. We are considered self-employed but can’t set our own prices. Negotiation in newspaper contracting is all but a lost art (they say “you don’t like what you’re making, go somewhere else (do something else, more like, as newspapers are on the skids.) I fuel my car (which is barely big enough for my largest load of papers) approximately every other day. I do try to keep an eye out while I am driving for the cheapest prices but I do not go out ofmy way to get a few cents off a gallon (in my car at today’s prices, I think my break-even is about 3 miles for .05). If we go up to $5, I really don’t see how newspaper carriers are going to do it. Starting in May they are going to make us pick up at the office instead of the drop-site which is closer to our routes, so they can save on gas and vehicle costs. They will pay us a ‘gas subsidy’ which amounted to less than a tank of gas last month and in May might amount to maybe a tank. So a lot more of the costs are being dumped on the self-employed (but not really in the truest sense of the word) contractors that already only make about 20,000/year in an area where the median income is 84,500 and housing costs are outrageous. I would love to move to a cheaper area, but my ex lives here and we have joint custody. So I am stuck for at least another 3 years. I was thinking about getting a smaller car for the lighter days, but I still need what I own now (which has almost 350,000 on it with original engine and transmission) for the larger days and snow. (which, since it comes so infrequently here, our state doesn’t deal with well, but the news must still go out (we picked up in the middle of the blizzard of 2010). Anyway, thanks for letting me rant. It doesn’t change anything, but maybe it will help some people see what delivering papers has morphed into in the last few years! Gas prices hit the people who have to drive the most the worst.

  11. I’m very lucky. I live in a major city and walk or take public transportation. I’m walk to work every day. My husband and I have (1) car (a 2000 New Beetle), which he drives to his job right outside the city. His commute is approximately 20 minutes, one way. So, yes, we are spending more on gas. But because we only have one car and don’t use it that much; we’re not feeling pinched.

  12. I live in Texas and drive a full size truck as well. I have driven the same truck around 13 years now. Truck has been paid off for about 10 years and maintenance costs are low. I have about 100k miles on the truck – drive about 8k miles per year.

    From an financial standpoint, in order to justify a new fuel efficient car, I would need to get a car with over 150 mpg or gas prices would need to go above $10 per gallon

    Yes, higher gas prices have an impact on my budget, but in a way it’s good because it forces to be creative about our consumption patterns – although in some specific cases it may not be possible to reduce use.

  13. I am feeling pinched…I live 25 miles one way from work so although I live in a major city with access to public transportation I work an odd shift noon-8:30pm and do not feel safe riding it that late at night. So I have drastically reduced the number of trips which I take other than to work.

  14. We also have a a pickup truck and it costs us about $100.00 to fill it now. It’s the only vehicle we own and it has been paid off for about four years or so. We use it to pull our camper, but we did not go camping last year and I do not foresee it happening this year for many reasons, one being the price of gas and the fact that we get less MPG when pulling the camper than not, which increases our fuel costs.

    I work at home & have done so for 15+ years, but I do have to go into a couple offices during the week, so I do that on one day to consolidate stops. We have talked about selling the truck and getting something smaller, but my husband also uses it for scrap runs, side jobs with a friend (odd jobs, yard clean-ups, etc.), so it does come in very handy for that and that is why we still have it. If gas goes to $5.00 a gallon, we would have to revisit the question again.

  15. Myth-turning the a.c. off does not increase gas mileage. When you have a dependable paid for vehicle it does not in the short or middle run. Pay to purchase some vehicle that gives better gas mileage unless a huge # of miles are driven!

  16. Stop winging about the price of fuel as there are many other countries in the world where they pay a lot more than you do in the US.

    In most other countries smaller and more efficient vehicles have been the norm for many years to offset the rising fuel prices.

    Like taxes, the cost of fuel is going to keep rising and unfortunately if you are not preparing for the day when it doubles its present price then you are in for a rude awakening.

  17. I have been tremendously blessed getting a two new jobs. One, I work out of my apartment and the other is at my church. So whatever gas money I incur from doing things for the church, it is reimbursed. Incredible. My gas bill went from $250/month to around $75/month for those every now and then beach trips.

  18. I have a Plymouth neon which I hardly ever drive except in inclement because my daily vehicle for commuting, errands, etc. is a small 250cc motorcycle. I can completely fill up the tank for $10. Every time I do I have to chuckle to myself because it feels like I’m pulling one over on “the man.” Brand new 2011 only cost me 5k, plus about $250 for safety equipment (helmet, boots, gloves, jacket etc.). It’ll be completely paid off in 4 months. I feel like in the long run it was a really solid investment and that I am saving a lot of money compared to the quality of car I could buy at the same price. The only issue is that there is no denying that motorcycling is much more dangerous than driving a car.

  19. I’d like to buy a moped or a bicycle. (I have not owned a bike for years.) After surveying Google Maps, I’ve learned that my area is so built up, I can bike almost anywhere for necessities without getting on two-lane or four-lane highways (most of the time). I can bike on low-traffic neighborhood streets. Plus biking on sidewalks is legal here. It isn’t in all places.

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