Dollar Drain Part II: Cost of gasoline forces drivers to pinch their pennies
Bridget Ornell figures that there is a right way to fight high gas prices.
“I try to plan to take as many right turns as I can when I drive. At a left turn, you’re always waiting. It can be 10 minutes and you waste gas,” said Ornell, a Weymouth resident.
Ornell was one of many South Shore people who told the Patriot Ledger recently that 1) Yes, the high price of gas is a problem, 2) They aren’t confident that prices will drop anytime soon, and 3) In the meantime, they are taking whatever steps they can think of to counter it.
Combine that with rising food prices, utility and cable TV costs that keep going up, health care expenses that seem to know no limit and a thousand other things that take an extra dime or dollar - or a lot more - out of your pocket. For many people, the net result is a sense of being beleaguered by pressures and forces that we can’t control and hardly understand - the dollar decline, increased imports, exported jobs and accelerating inflation that is outstripping wage increases.
Energy cost - heating your home in winter, driving to the Cape or Maine in July - seem in some way more controllable. We know we get a lot of fuel from abroad, and we are paying more for it, but there are things you can do about it short of hoofing it or riding a bike.
Ornell, who is 73, said buying gas these days “is another bigger bill every month, and it’s been going up for at least the last couple of years.”
So, she’s been trying to cut her expenses by planning driving routes whenever she can, doing everything she can in one round trip - and shooting for those right on red signs that can save gas over the long haul.
“You didn’t give it much thought before; wasted gas,” she said.
Rising gas prices are affecting not only people’s wallets but their daily routines.
Shawn Murphy of Hingham figures that his household budget is being whacked for about $500 a month for gas for the two cars in his family.
“Rather than filling the tank all the way, I just started putting in like $40 exactly, just to keep better track of it,” said Murphy, who is 40.
Murphy is also trying to work from his house when he can, which helps conserve gas.
“There’s not much you can do. I think prices creep up over time, and people just sort of get used to it,” he said.
George Williamson of Plymouth sees high gas prices “as the old supply and demand thing. As long as we demand it, they’re going to give it to us at their prices.”
Jamie Otis of Hingham said he takes gas-saving steps such as planning his day’s travel efficiently and keeping an eye out for relatively cheap gas.
“You are kind of helpless. You’re at their mercy. They (people in government) talk a good game, say we have to get off this addiction to oil, but I don’t see them really making any major steps toward getting us off of that,” Otis said.
Otis, who is 36, feels that many people wouldn’t mind paying higher gas prices if they thought that their money was going to something worthwhile.
“If they raised gas prices and used it to go toward a national health care system, that would be fantastic. I’d be willing to pay six bucks a gallon if that was the case,” he said.
William Keyes of Milton, who is 59, is taking the same steps as many others to save on gas.
He tries to drive his pickup truck less often, using his wife’s Nissan Sentra instead because of its better gas mileage.
He shops around for gas prices, and tops off the tank when he sees a relatively low price on the pumps.
But while many people are feeling powerless against rising gas prices, Keyes feels that a solution is just a sustained jolt of willpower away.
“I don’t feel helpless, or hopeless, about it. I truly believe it’s going to come around,” Keyes said. “It will take a mixture of new government, honest politicians, people sitting down and saying ‘Hey, look, let’s think about the people for a change.’”
“People can do it,” he said, “if we stick together.”