Gas is Driving Us Home

This time last year when we were setting our budget based off of Craig‘s new teaching position, we estimated $300/month for gasoline for two vehicles. This was more than enough and often we had $50 or more left over in that category (which quickly got absorbed into grocery money). When I got us caught up last week after taking a two-month break from balancing the checkbook, I noticed that we’d been spending $400/month on gasoline due to the increased prices.

I’ve never before considered rationing the amount of trips based on how much gas money we budgeted for the month, but it’s beginning to happen now. We cancelled a Florida vacation this summer simply because of the cost of driving there and back. When we filled up last week, our goal was to make it one whole week on those tanks – and we made it, but it was close. Even still, filling two cars up once a week every week is going to be more than $300/month – closer to the $400 a month we’ve been averaging lately.

Craig mentioned today that he heard a story that gasoline could reach $12 a gallon. Seriously? Do I just have my head in the sand here? Why in the world is gas predicted to reach that high? And if/when it does, what is our response?

For sure it means not driving as much anymore, but realistically what do we cut out? The girls won’t be going to the two-day school anymore, which will save four one hour drives each week (it took about 25 minutes to get there, 25 to get back, and I did this twice each time they went to school; if I was the lunch helper, I did it three times on that day). Craig is obligated to drive to work (that’s a non-negotiable), though we can maybe do better about trying to set up a carpool with nearby teachers.

I’m wondering if $12 gas (or let’s be honest, even $5 gas) will make things like the bus or Metrolink raise their prices, too. Yes, I considered parking the van in the garage and locking it in there for a while and taking the bus everywhere. My problem with that is that it would cost us 5 or 6 tickets every time which is almost as, if not more, cost-prohibitive than driving.

I can figure out that we need to say no to extras, but what about the things we consider non-extras? When do we say we can’t afford to drive to the grocery store, to the doctor, to church, to see friends? Will it come down to filling up the van one time each month and that’s it – when it’s out, it’s out?

I’m know I’m not the only one feeling this pinch. What are the rest of you considering regarding these projected (and real) increases at the pump?