Gas Prices Tightening Family Budgets Just In Time For Summer
JONATHAN FAHEY 05/27/11 05:17 PM ET via HuffPost
NEW YORK — There’s less money this summer for hotel rooms, surfboards and bathing suits. It’s all going into the gas tank.
High prices at the pump are putting a squeeze on the family budget as the traditional summer driving season begins. For every $10 the typical household earns before taxes, almost a full dollar now goes toward gas, a 40 percent bigger bite than normal.
Households spent an average of $369 on gas last month. In April 2009, they spent just $201. Families now spend more filling up than they spend on cars, clothes or recreation. Last year, they spent less on gasoline than each of those things.
Jeffrey Wayman of Cape Charles, Va., spent Friday riding his motorcycle to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a day trip with his wife. They decided to eat snacks in a gas station parking lot rather than buy lunch because rising fuel prices have eaten so much into their budget over the past year that they can’t ride as frequently as they would like.
“We used to do it a lot more, but not as much now,” he said. “You have to cut back when you have a $480 gas bill a month.”
Alex Martinez, a senior at Arcadia High School outside Los Angeles, said his family’s trips to San Francisco, which they usually take once or more a year, are on hold. As he stopped at a gas station to put $5 of fuel in his car – not much more than a gallon – he said the high prices are crimping social life for him and his friends.
“We’re always worrying, `How are we going to get home. We’ve got less than half a gallon left,’” Martinez said. “We definitely can’t go out as much, and we can’t go as far.”
As Memorial Day weekend opens, the nationwide average for a gallon of unleaded is $3.81. Though prices have drifted lower in recent days, analysts expect average price for 2011 to come in higher than the previous record, $3.25 in 2008. A year ago, gas cost $2.76.
The squeeze is happening at a time when most people aren’t getting raises, even as the economy recovers.