Apparently, gas prices have fallen over the last couple of months. You will forgive me if I do not jump up and down with excitement. After all, filling up the tank is still an expensive venture. Obviously I am not going to complain. Falling gas prices directly impacts me as a consumer because I have to spend money to fuel up my car just about every week. However, when I calculate out the cost, these minor drops do not save me a ton of money. I need a bigger decrease in price before I start getting excited.
Calculating the cost
Obviously gas prices change all the time so calculations will constantly be out of date. Recently, I paid $3.65 at my local warehouse store. I am willing to wait in line to get it there because that same day it was $4.39 at my local gas station. Welcome to Los Angeles. Oftentimes I will put in about 14 gallons, which at $3.65 is $51.10 as opposed to the $61.46 I would have paid at the corner station. If I fill up four times a month and the price stayed at $3.65, I would pay $204.40 in gas. Let's say that gas made a huge drop to $3.25 a gallon, which is probably unlikely. I would then be paying $182 and saving $22.40 a month over the previous price. Money is money, but $22 is not going to do a lot for me.
Gotta get around
Sure, I can do all the things that experts recommend. Keep the tires inflated. Consolidate trips. Minimize air conditioning (tough in Southern California). Make sure my engine is properly maintained. All good stuff. Still, I have to get to work and run errands. It is still tough to get a two-gallon box of milk home from the warehouse store while riding my mountain bike. We don't go on a lot of road trips and we drive cars that are reasonably fuel-efficient. Therefore, the ability to lower costs through behavioral patterns is minimal.
The bigger picture
Obviously this goes far beyond me and my little budget line item. I can shop around and use online resources to find the lowest price in my area. However, I get that this is more about the economy. Falling gas prices may mean that people move around more, shop and stimulate the economy. Even if gas prices keep dropping, I still feel compelled to minimize my driving. At some point the prices will go back up, and I will have to pay whatever price is offered whether I like it or not. I have no alternative.
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