"I'm going to sell my car for gas money," is a joke I have told on more than one occasion, because it is a joke that nets me a decent amount of guffaws -most people can relate. Today, as gas prices start eclipsing $4 a gallon and as I see my bank statements rack up charges of $60 a pop for my eco-friendly, fuel efficient Hyundai Sonata, I've been forced to change some of my habits in order to make up the difference in what I used to pay at the pump, versus what I'm paying. However, my routine changes actually hurt the economy in favor of my wallet, and yours may have done the same.
Changing My Driving Habits
I share a car with my spouse and my twin teenage daughters. Between driving back and forth to work each day (22 miles each way), we need to fill up our gas tank at least once per week. We need to fill up even more frequently in the event that I need to drive the girls to appointments or drop my husband off at work. On average, the $120 a month inflation has eaten a hole in other activities.
What We Cut
We cut our entertainment expenses to account for the uptick. We cannot afford the $50 at the movies or the $70 for dinner out when our priority is getting everyone where they need to be.
We cut other "luxury items". For instinct, instead of using the local dry cleaner, I found dry cleaning substitutes I can buy at the local grocery store.
And while it was not difficult to make up a $120 shortfall, that was not the last round of cuts I found myself making because of rising fuel costs.
The Domino Effect
When gas prices soar, so do the costs of other goods and services. I spend several cents to several dollars more on grocery items than I did just a few months ago. I have documented a monthly increase in my grocery bill of $100, compared to just three months ago -- and I do not buy expensive grocery items.
The costs at most local restaurants I frequent are also increasing; in part due to less foot traffic (thanks to tighter budgets), but also because of the increase in costs of gas prices.
Fewer local employers are hiring. My two college-bound teens have had a difficult time securing a part-time gig at the local Wal-Mart.
It Gets Worse
Every time I (or anyone else) give something up in favor of filling my gas tank, it causes a ripple in the local economy. With more and more people driving less and less, our local tourism suffered and local businesses have lost money. Many local merchants have already shut their doors, and even more are on the brink of doing the same.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look as though cheaper gas prices are nearby, especially on the edge of summer, when gas prices typically increase even more. For me, this is a sure sign to buckle up and dig in for the status quo. It appears as though gas prices remain in the driver's seat, and it looks like I am going for a long (and expensive) ride