Sunday, March 25, 2012

What's in a number

For lots of people out there bargains are sometimes "felt" rather than really "seen". Retailers use the simple trick all the time of charging $3.99 instead of $4 so that we feel like we're getting a good deal. "It was less than $4.00 I hear them say" and I think those retailers are pretty smart people.

For those and others something doesn't really hit home until it reaches a certain dollar figure. I found that out for myself as well as friend Thursday.

Gas prices are rising. In my neck of the woods I've seen as high as $3.79 per gallon for regular unleaded. Nothing special. I realize that there are lots of places out there that have seen much higher than that in recent years and even now but for me, that's the highest I've ever seen it.

I have an 11 gallon vehicle that I fill up roughly once a week. It normally runs me between $30-35. I will admit here that I sort of stopped paying attention to the exact amount. I just knew that it was still within my gas budget.

My friend and I were chatting Thursday after I had seen the $3.79 gas and she remarked that she had heard it would hit $5.00 a gallon in the summer. Now, I know I've heard that prediction before and it never came to pass so I nodded and then dismissed it. "Whatever. I'll cross that bridge when I get there."

But the number bug was planted and the $5.00 per gallon nagged at me all day. Finally, that evening, as I was doing some HR math* for another friend of mine we started talking about gas prices and since I already had the calculator I figured we could talk the price out and I could figure out why it was bothering me.

If gas were to hit $5 a gallon that means I would be paying roughly $55 a WEEK for gas. It was easy for me to dismiss $30 gas but $50 gas grabbed me. And him.

I fill up my car once a week so that means per month I would be spending $220 in gas. My husbands car is roughly the same which means we would be paying $440 a month in GAS to get to work. That's significant.

$50 had my attention. $440 certainly had grabbed me.

My house could manage it. It wouldn't kill us. But it would hurt. It would mean some other pretty tough choices around here. After school daycare might have to be reconsidered. That fancy cheese my husband likes for his sandwiches would be out. So would all soda consumption. And treats in general.

$20 more a week in gas doesn't seem like a lot when you say it. But $40 is something. $160 extra a month is really something.

And it got me thinking, what about those who can't afford $50.00 a week. What do they do? Where do they cut? And even if they can afford it with cuts their family would have to make and my family would have to make what does that do to our still battered and bruised economy?

And that's just my family and fuel for our cars. What about the rising prices of everything else? Food costs and clothing costs, electricity, entertainment, it all goes up.

I don't have an answers. But its certainly worth thinking about it and it's certainly food for thought.

And all because $50 grabs my attention far faster than $30.


stacy said...

Those numbers are really scary. Around where I live average is $4.25 a gallon. I walk to work...but my hubby got new job in the fall that is 30 mile each way commute. It's killing us. Can't imagine $5 a gallon.

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