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Have You Cut Your Expenses Due to Gas Prices?

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A recent Nielsen study revealed that almost two-thirds of consumers in the United States, many more than those surveyed just one year ago, have cut back their expenses, specifically due to escalating gas prices.

According to the study, which queried about 50,000 consumers during the first week of June, when regular gas averaged $3.98 per gallon, 78% of consumers are combining shopping trips, 52% are eating out less and 51% are staying at home more. Consumers are also clipping more coupons, doing more shopping at supercenters and buying less expensive brands, the survey found.

Over the past eight years, eerily coinciding with the time that those in the White House were individuals with very strong ties to oil companies and the energy industry, I’ve seen prices at the pump climb 300%. But unlike the majority surveyed, I can’t say that I’ve changed my spending pattern due to this incredible increase in price. I have changed a few habits to save money, like switching to generic brands for certain items, but I find I am spending significantly more in just about every category compared to my expenses in 2000.

I’ve never been much a coupon clipper. If a coupon happens to find its way to my line of sight, and it’s something I might need in the foreseeable future, I will clip it to my refrigerator door and I may remember to bring it with me on my next shopping trip. This hasn’t been changed by gas prices. I am not traveling less, either.

Have you changed any of your habits due to the increase in gas prices?

Gas prices have consumers cutting back – study, Associated Press, July 17, 2008.

Updated June 20, 2014 and originally published July 21, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Twiggers

I can honestly say that gas prices aren’t really affecting me. I drive very little (maybe 15 miles a day)….so I’m not really affected that much. Any changes i my spending habits (and there have been a lot this year) are due to my quest to get out of credit card debt!

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avatar Kate

Well, not so much really. But only because we’d pretty much battened down the hatches before the gas prices skyrocketed. We have a much bigger garden than last year, but that was planned out from the beginning of the year. I am planning to learn how to can this summer, but again, that’s a result of our bigger garden, which wasn’t a response to the gas prices. I was already grouping errands into one car trip, and carpooling to more distant destinations. We were pretty frugal to begin with, so there isn’t a whole lot more we can do, other than make sure we do what we do very consistently. We may decide not to do some optional travel this year. It was only going to be to visit family, no exotic vacations or anything like that. But that’s about it.

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avatar Jon

I think these surveys are stupid. Right now it’s cool to be frugal, so people are doing it simply because it’s the in thing to do. “Gas prices have risen so much, I switched from Starbucks to Dunkin Donuts coffee.” Let’s face face it, buying coffee from a restaurant is never a frugal idea no matter where you buy it. Why would it be unusual for people to do more shopping at supercenters? They have the exact same products at lower prices than the fancy grocery stores, why not shop there? It’s more common sense than a reaction to high gas prices. Maybe the reason more people are shopping at supercenters is because more are opening up. This is certainly true near me, where we only recently started to the see the supercenters coming online. While maybe I’m crazy, I have high performance sedan that only gets 25 MPG when I’m lucky, yet I only manage to use around 350 gallons a year. Even if gas goes up $2, that’s only $700, nearly all of which has been covered by my check from the government and still less than the price of a 47 inch LCD TV, which still seem to be selling like hotcakes. When we actually start to see flattening demand for flat screen TVs, that’s when we’ll know that gas prices really are hurting people… Why can’t surveys include a question like: “Have you purchased a new TV this year? How much did you spend?”

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avatar SomeGuy

Jon, actually there was a recent article (sorry, can’t remember where) saying that demand for big screen TVs had noticably fallen off. This was only within the past couple months.

As to the original question, no, gas prices have no affecting our other spending. To some extent, being able to go against the flow can be very profitable. For example, automobiles that get relatively poor fuel economy can be had below long-term market averages.

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avatar Kyle

I have cut back over the last year or so, but that was merely in a routine effort to free up money for investing. I drive less than 15 miles per day and get upwards of 35 mpg, so gas prices aren’t a big concern for me. They would probably have to more than double from their current level to catch my attention. At $8 or $9, I would probably start taking public transit or ride my bike more often.

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avatar Julie

We pre-emptively changed our driving habits, but only because we moved into a place that is walking distance to Jason’s office and I now work from home (the move increased our expenses – our mortgage payment almost doubled – so the net is that expenses went up). We use about one 9-gallon tank a month (we drive a Honda Fit), so gas prices aren’t really impacting us directly. We notice it more when we go grocery shopping – and in that regard, we shop at a nearby farmer’s market and try to purchase local produce and meat whenever we can.

We did buy a new big-screen TV this year, though. We spent less than $1500. :)

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avatar Yana

We haven’t changed our habits due to gas prices. Our habits were good before the prices rose. We have one car, I take my husband to work and do errands during the trip to or when picking him up from work. It’s 5 miles each way, and that is the majority of our gas usage.

We always aim to be more frugal in general, and a couple of years ago got rid of the interest expense incurred by paying for car insurance by the month. We now pay it by the year.

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avatar Eden

I am working to cut my expenses all of the time, but that has nothing to do with gas prices. I do that to save money and get out of debt. If I was so bad off financially that gas prices were going to break my budget, I could cut out cable TV, cell phones, subscriptions, and other unnecessary things to make up for it.

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avatar CJ

Last year we drove a ’96 Plymouth Voyager and a 2000 Audi A6 with a V8 engine. This year we only drive one of the 2 (whichever one is working better but preferably the Voyager). Now we are looking at trading both in for a little Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. I’ve done the math and between trade-ins, and the cost of gas and repairs, we might actually save money by buying a brand new vehicle.

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avatar Kat

Shelling out $50+ on a tank is a bit of shock. But overall, gas prices haven’t caused any swooping driving changes in my family. The one thing that causes apprehension is the rising costs of airfare; should we really take that trip to London this summer?

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avatar matty dread

my driving habits have not changed, but my watercraft and boating habits have changed. I’ve also analyzed expenses and cut them where they had gotten a little fat, but we do that on a regular basis anyway. my wife and I run a pretty lean ship at all times.

i live by a lake and have noticed that people have really cut back on boating. that is a pretty big luxury gas item. a guy at the pump the other day had to fill his wakeboard boat (60 gallon tank) with premium at $5.50 and it was costting him over $300. and boats are not fuel effecient at all.

i am still amazed at how people are buying smaller cars for minimal mileage improvements. have you seen the smart car? i looked at one of those and figured if I was going to risk my life by driving one of those, i should get about 100 mpg…nope, only 36!! A gas nissan altima gets 32. And a hybrid altima doesn’t get any better on the freeway..only in city driving. well, if you are in a city, can’t you bike or walk easier and cheaper than you can drive an altima to get the 35 city mpg?? anyhow, enough of my rant….

i know this will sound bad, but I would like to see gas at about $8 a gallon. would eliminate the waste (especially by those that can’t afford it) in this country and would move us towards alternatives.

one other note: I was riding my bike and some of my friends were as well to try to help out/cut costs, and what we noticed is that nothing in our society is set up to accomodate bikes or pedestrians. everything is designed for car traffic. in addition, cars are not looking for you on a bike, and it is really dangerous biking around at commute times and lunch times as people in cars are in a hurry. it will take years before our infrastructure is designed for pedestrian/bike traffic. car/bike accidents are WAY up where I live. you have to ask yourself if saving some money on gas is worth risking your life in a tiny car or on a bike…..and at this point the answer for me is no.

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avatar Andy

The price of a barrel of oil on November 2nd 2000 was $33.10 a barrel. On November 2nd 2006 it was $58.27. That is an increase of 76% in six years.

On July 18th oil closed at $128.88 . An increase of 121% in roughly 1 3/4 years.

Why do you suppose that oil men where only able to increase the price of a barrel of oil only 76% in 6 years. Yet the moment they lost control of Congress it more than doubled in far less time?

Speculators know very well that one party is far more resistant to drilling in this country. When that party took control of one part of our government the speculators bet that it was going to be far more difficult for oil companies to drill in the U.S.

With production falling world wide, a serious threat to domestic production in office and world consumption growing. Prices were ready to rally and that is exactly what they did. Add the subprime housing crisis and a weak dollar and the run was on.

When one side wants more drilling and the other wants none and both refuse to budge their position. The speculators were going to get very rich.

Hinting that a few individuals with ties to oil companies is scapegoating the issue. Congress holds just as much fault on the high price of gas as does the current presidential administration.

As for the price of gas affecting my life. I borrowed $140,000 on 0% credit cards earlier this year and put it in a couple of high yield on line savings accounts. The price of gas will have to go above $5.35 just equal what I am making in after tax interest from those accounts. All the high price of gas did was eat into some of the arbitrage money I was making.

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avatar Apex

“Over the past eight years, eerily coinciding with the time that those in the White House were individuals with very strong ties to oil companies and the energy industry, I’ve seen prices at the pump climb 300%.”

My Econ 101 text has a few nice and succint charts with two intersecting lines representing supply and demand which used to reflect a law about how pricing was determined. It appears according to this statement that this law has been repealed by some powerful and evil oil men. This is distressing to me as this law seems to have been important to the current economic system.

To that end I think this needs some serious and immediate attention. Specifically it would be very helpful if you could advance this issue by immediately investigating and reporting back on the following two critical issues:

1. What actions did the evil oil individuals take which repealed this law and thus helped the evil oil companies and in turn resulted in sky rocketing oil and gas prices?

2. What actions would the saintly oil hating individuals be able to take which could immediately reverse this lining of the evil oil companies pockets and reinstate this economic law, thus resulting in a return of the $1.40 gasoline that existed before the evil oil individuals implemented their evil plans?

A few things you may want to consider while investigating these issues.

1. World wide oil production had a large surge in the late 90s outstripping demand that resulted in oil cratering to $10 per barrel.

2. The evil Dick Chenny (then president of the evil Haliburton oil company) publicly stated that $10 oil was both unsustainable and damaging to the long term energy supply situation as it would stifle exploration because it was unprofitable for oil companies to explore and even expand production at those prices. He was then and later vilified and blamed as having somehow wanted to take money from hardworking individuals to give to evil oil companies because he dared to discuss some basic economics that people think somehow does not apply to the oil industry.

3. Global oil demand has been rising rapidly over the past 6 or so years especially with rapid industrialization of India and China. This demand caught up to production in the mid 2000′s

4. Global oil production peaked in late 2005 at about 85 million barrels per day even as worldwide demand has continued to expand far beyond current production levels. As of yet we have been unable to increase that level of production because some of the major world oil wells are getting old and less efficient and certain groups and political ideologies in a particular North American Super Power country are unwilling to allow any increase in any locally available production in that country.

Hopefully these facts will help you to flesh out the connections between the evil oil men and the evil oil companies that are maniacally engineering the economic fleeceing of the populace for their own magliomanic ends.

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avatar Doobie

Hey Flexo, CNN has a video on the 10-cents-less-for-cash gas price phenomenon in NJ you mentioned a while back. http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2008/07/19/acosta.gas.credit.card.cnn

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avatar KC

I really haven’t changed a thing. I’ve always combined trips when going out. We live close to where we work. We’ve never carried any consumer debt. We’ve always driven sedans that get decent gas mileage. Nothing really has changed in our lives.

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avatar Yana

Matty: Funny you should mention the Smart car. My husband and I saw one this morning, and he thought they got 55 mpg. My response was that I do not like economy cars if they have nothing else about them to like, and that car is ridiculously small. I don’t think it is smart to get one.

Before buying our Subaru Forester, we’d considered a Toyota Corolla. We later noticed that it is no longer so highly rated by Consumer Reports, and what I noticed about it is that the design does not lend itself to good visibility (especially when backing up), and the defroster does not work the way I think it ought to. The dealer said to turn on both the heat and the A/C in order to clear the windows. I don’t know exactly how long that would take, as I didn’t have the patience to find out, but it doesn’t sound right to have to do that. It also made me wonder just how well the A/C would work, an extremely important consideration in California. By contrast, the Subaru defrosts perfectly, and the A/C is very good. Better gas mileage with a defective car wouldn’t make me happy.

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avatar SingleGuyMoney

Luckily, I have not had to adjust my expenses. I have a company vehicle that I use during the week and only drive my personal vehicle on the weekend. I usually fill up once a month. Sometimes, I can make a tank of gas last a little over a month.

If I had to drive my own vehicle everyday, I would certainly have to adjust my expenses. The first expense to go would probably be cable.

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avatar Scott

Apex offered a much better commentary on your insidious political comment than I could, but surely you aren’t ignorant enough to genuinely think that the current administration has conspired to raise energy costs. If you want to make a political statement then do it; don’t hint at it by making misleading suggestions that try to associate groups that you dislike with negative ideas.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,435 (Platinum)

For those trying to turn this into a political discussion, I pointed out that the surge in gas prices I’ve experienced occurred over the past eight years. This is a fact and you’d be silly to dispute it. Also a fact is that the current administration has strong ties to oil companies and the energy industry. Again, it would be silly to dispute this fact. I also said that the increase coincided with the tenure of the administration. I did not say it was “caused by” the administration. I also didn’t say the price increase wasn’t a function of supply and demand. Draw your own conclusions, political or otherwise. :-)

We’re talking about personal expenses and spending habits here, not politics. Thanks!

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avatar Scott

In my own defense, you politicized the issue with your original statement. You did not explicitly state that the current administration caused a rise in gas prices, but you certainly implied it.

We *would* be merely talking about personal expenses if you hadn’t tried to use language to unfairly associate the administration with higher gas prices. If you don’t want a political discussion then don’t try to sneak political commentary into personal finance articles ;-)

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avatar Tom

To be honest, I haven’t really cut back on my expenses. Instead, since I live nearby some restaurants and grocery stores, my girlfriend and I will take our bikes to more places than usual. Not only do we get more exercise, I also save on gas. I just don’t want the winter to come because then I’ll be forcred to take the car :(

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avatar Chris Jordan

High gas and oil has been very beneficial for me. Drastic financial problems occurred at first< but cutting car driving was like getting pennies from heaven! I abandoned buying newer cars and drive about once a month, but use a human powered vehicle a lot more now, and with all the money Isave: I can afford high food prices, gym fees, health costs, and even enjoy a splurge or two! I much prefer recumbent trikes. VERY pleasant life adjustments!

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avatar Apex

“I pointed out that the surge in gas prices I’ve experienced occurred over the past eight years. This is a fact and you’d be silly to dispute it. ”

hmmm, call me silly.

http://www.ioga.com/Special/crudeoil_Hist.htm

Oil price history:

12/1998 $8.64
11/2000 $31.16 (election month)
01/2001 $28.66 (inauguration month)

oil prices tripled in the last 3 years of the previous administration prior to the election and inauguration of the current administration.

07/2001 $23.58 – 6 months in prices are down.
01/2002 $16.65 – 1 year in prices are cut in half.
07/2002 $23.69 – 18 months in prices are still down.
01/2003 $29.44 – 2 years in prices are basically unchanged.
07/2003 $27.39 – 2.5 years in prices are still slightly down.
01/2004 $30.87 – 3 years in prices are basically unchanged.
07/2004 $36.25 – 3.5 years in prices are up about 25%.
01/2005 $42.21 – 4 years in prices are up about 50%.
07/2005 $52.13 – 4.5 years in prices are up about 75%.
01/2006 $58.30 – 5 years in prices are about doubled.
07/2006 $66.28 – 5.5 years in prices are up about 125%.
01/2007 $46.53 – 6 years in prices are up about 65%.
07/2007 $65.96 – 6.5 years in prices are up about 125%.
01/2008 $84.70 – 7 years in prices are up about 175%.
06/2007 $126.33 – 7.5 years in prices are up about 300%.

So to recap.

Prices tripled under the last 2 years of the previous administration.
Prices got cut in half under the first year of the current administration.
prices were flat for the first 3 years of the current administration.
prices were up moderately in the first 4-5 years of the current administration.
and prices are jumping wildly in the last year of the current administration.

They sure are some tricky evil oil people. Lowering prices just to suck us in and then smack us with the big increases.

So why did you choose the time period of the last 8 years? Why not the last 10 years. Prices are up 12 fold in that time.

Why not the last 4 years, because thats when the increase you are talking about occurred because it wasn’t there for most of the first term of the current administration.

I guess 8 years was just a random number that you choose which happens not to correspond with the beginnings of an increase in price but does happen to correspond with another event which you apparently had no political reasons for choosing.

===> “I did not say it was “caused by” the administration. I also didn’t say the price increase wasn’t a function of supply and demand.”

Indeed. The only thing you did say is that one event was “eerily” coinciding with another. Now not having given any reason for including such eeriness, what should a rational non political thinking person conclude was the reason for including the eerie statement about the coinciding? If you believed the price changes were a simple function of supply demand would you have included a comment about eerie things that coincide? And if so to what end other than to confuse readers into thinking that you think the eerie coinciding is somehow responsible for the event that it is coinciding with? For example, you could have said eerily coinciding with the time frame since the xbox has been introduced. What should one conclude from that statement? I can think of two choices. 1. He thinks the xbox is responsible for increasing energy prices, or 2. He is making a random association which makes no sense.

Do you make a habit of including random associations in your posts that don’t relate to the topic you are talking about and don’t reflect your true feelings on the topic? That would be a bit odd and might lead to the kind of complete misunderstanding of your true viewpoint that you seem to now be implying has occurred here. Because according to your last comment you seem a bit bothered that people apparently misinterpreted your statement as a political commentary of your own beliefs or opinions about a cause and effect relationship between the current administration and oil prices instead of a supply demand relationship.

I am glad we cleared that up and understand now that what you really meant was the thing that you did not say about supply demand. Meanwhile what you did say about eerie coinciding was just a fact that happens not to relate to anything (even though we have shown by the price history that the “fact” is off by about 3-4 years of time window)

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avatar Sarah

I’ve cut my expenses, but not just because of gas prices. My salary has not kept up with inflation for YEARS. Last year, I started wondering where all the money was going when my spending habits were the same, and then it clicked.

I’m sure my salary will never reach the spending power it used to have. I think America is experiencing an “adjustment” right now, as we become a poorer nation. Here’s something to think about: The Indian outsourcing company, Wipro, which has displaced Americans in the IT industry due to cheap labor, is now hiring developers in America. What does THAT say about our economy:

http://www.informationweek.com/news/management/outsourcing/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=206904887&cid=tab_art_busandcareer

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avatar ruckerz

Well I might be the first to say the increase in gas prices are starting to affect finances. My wife is the primary user of the car ( I have a bus pass to work that costs pennies since it’s subsidized by my employer). The car is a 1999 Honda CRV (fully paid since I left college in ’04) that gets 26 mpg on the highway. It’s about 13 miles of highway to her work so it comes out to about a gallon a day or $4 a trip. The express bus is $3 per way to her work (takes an additional 20 minutes and her work does not subsidize this cost). Thus we spend about $40-$50 a week in fuel costs. Were this cost to increase to $60-$70 or close to $300 per mo, we might actually think of purchasing an additional car with increased mileage. (We are also thinking of having kids soon so an additional car might be needed anyway)

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,435 (Platinum)

Apex: Thanks for sharing the figures about crude oil. I mentioned I was looking at “prices at the pump” — the gasoline price per gallon I experienced as I filled up my tank every few days (as a major commuter). At the time of the election, gas cost about $0.99 for me in New Jersey. I filled up today this morning at $3.91 per gallon. This chart, a historical chart of the average gas price in NJ, is probably the closest to my experience. The chart goes back six years, and you can see the increase from $1.19 to $3.98 per gallon. Regardless of the ups and downs throughout the last eight years, that’s an overall 300% increase.

Sorry you were personally offended by the offhand political comment.

I’ll have to think about what my opinion is about the Xbox’s effect on energy prices. Intriguing suggestion. More people playing video games, particularly with fancy multimedia equipment like high definition televisions and powerful surround sound audio systems, must surely increase demand for energy. Let’s blame the video-game-playing kids. :-)

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,435 (Platinum)

Sarah: Interesting link, thanks for sharing. I’ve felt the effect of a slighty-rising salary losing spending power. I’m wondering how far the “adjustment” has to go before things turn around.

Everyone: Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it’s interesting to hear about changes people are (or aren’t) making to adjust to new gas prices. (Any off-topic commentary henceforth will be deleted.)

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avatar castocreations

hahahahaha Apex…best comments evAr! =D It drives me bonkers when people blame one person or another for oil/gas prices. There are SO many complex reasons for the price we pay now that it’s ridiculous and ignorant to try to blame (or hint at blame) one administration or party.

I HAVE changed my habits though. I’ve started “hypermiling” – but not drastically. I take my foot off the gas sooner on my way to a stop light. I coast when I can and I use cruise control at a constant speed. Although I still have to use my AC so the savings aren’t that great right now.

I also started clipping coupons like a fiend. I saved more than $50 recently on my grocery bill and that is a tank of gas for my Rav4. We also try to think about the trips we take but honestly we still drive about the same. Though I have postponed errands to be able to combine trips into one.

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avatar Jesse

I don’t have much of a commute (8 minutes each way) but I’m still looking at riding my bike or maybe picking up one of those scooters to get around on. Then I’d only be filling up once a month.

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