Filling the tank for a recent road trip to see my parents made me wince. I’ve certainly grown used to high gas prices, but as they steadily creep up, I can’t help but think about the prices we’ll face this summer — the season of road trips for our family. If recent predictions are to be believed, we may be spending something like $5 per gallon by this summer.
Of course, the rise in gas prices means that something has to give. Here are some ways Americans might end up dealing with $5 a gallon prices:
1. Give up some luxuries. For my family, this is the most likely scenario for dealing with high gas prices this summer. We don’t have to drive a great deal for our daily commutes, so the price of traveling to visit family and friends is where we’ll most feel the pinch. Rather than give up those road trips, we’ll cut back on something else, like dinners out, visits to the local water park, or movie nights.
For those individuals who do have long commutes that they can’t give up, finding a way to reduce other costs could make a huge difference. Prior to the anticipated hike, take a close look at your monthly budget and see where some fat can be trimmed. It’s better to be prepared for the eventuality than find yourself scrambling for extra money to get to and from work.
2. Upgrade your car. While it would make no sense to buy a more fuel-efficient car if you’re trying to lower the cost of your commute, it is possible to make minor tweaks to your car that will make it burn less fuel. For instance, making sure your tires are properly inflated, not using your A/C, keeping the engine tuned, and making sure you’re using the appropriate oil for your car will all give you more bang for your buck. If you’ve never taken these precautions for your car, now is the time to start.
3. Drive less. For those who are lucky enough to live in a large city, using the public transit system can make a huge difference in your bottom line. In fact, a recent University of Texas study found that due to gas price hikes, Americans will use public transportation even in very car-centric cities that do not necessarily have the most usable public transit systems. Even if you still need your car for things like trips to the grocery store and other errands that are difficult to complete on foot or by bus, committing to using some public transportation can help ease the burden of high gas prices.
Alternatively, if there’s no way to use public transit to get to your job, starting or joining a carpool can help to make your daily commute less expensive.
4. Give up the car entirely. For some people, choosing between driving and doing the things you love most is an easy decision. It’s possible to live car free in many parts of the country, and giving up your wheels means that the fluctuations in gas prices mean nothing to you. For most Americans, this seems like a fairly drastic response — we certainly take our right to drive pretty seriously — but if faced with the choice between groceries or gas—or even between your favorite luxuries or gas—does it make sense to keep driving? Going car-free does require more planning, creativity, and flexibility, but it also means more financial freedom.
The Bottom Line
While the projections about gas prices are only educated guesses, it still pays to plan ahead for how your budget or your schedule will account for higher prices. What will you be willing to give up in order to make room for gas at $5 per gallon?