None of us who drives is unaware of the rapid increase in gas at the pump. We are also know that oil companies are reporting massive profits, again. Unless you can use a bus, a bike, or your own two feet, there is no way to avoid pouring more money into your gas tank. As I read about oil company windfalls I quietly seethe inside. My retirement lifestyle is better than the vast majority of the world's citizens. But there is a cost to me beyond the dollar amount. Big Oil and OPEC don't see the individual impact of their greed.
From the street level where my reality takes place, $4 a gallon gas affects me directly and noticeably. My radius of living has shrunk. My range of choices and experiences has tightened. Maybe that is a good thing. Maybe it will reinforce a lesson about sustainability and the true cost of lifestyle choices.
But, it chaps my britches when I hesitate before driving to spend time with my grand kids. The visits still happen, but I am more careful in planning them. Since the trip is close to 60 miles round trip my wife and I am less likely to make more than one trip every 7-10 days. My daughter's budget is so tight I don't like to ask her to drive to our house as often as the kids would prefer, either.
Also, now I always try to tie a visit to them into a side trip to see my Dad rather than making a separate trip to visit him. That is good for my gas use but requires a much bigger chunk of time.
There is a nice park, with a lake, picnic benches, and lots of shade trees that Betty and I like. But, being about 15 miles away I think twice before deciding to just go sit for a few hours, read a book and people-watch.
Running errands involves plotting a route as precisely as a military maneuver. A quick drive to the store for a forgotten item rarely happens. If it can wait then a trip to the library, Home Depot for paint, Costco for prescriptions and an overdue haircut become part of that trip.
I have added a commitment to my prison ministry volunteer efforts. I now work out of their offices, half a day, once a week, helping the staff with paperwork, scheduling, correspondence, and such. That is a 39 mile round trip. Originally I had been asked to help two days a week but at today's prices that is $45 a month extra in gas. We agreed that once a week would have to do.
If both cars never leave the garage for a full day, I silently celebrate. No miles driven means no gas consumed and no money handed over to others. Even so, the monthly budget for gas runs out before the month does. Public transportation isn't an option where I live and walking outside for at least half the year produces heat stroke in 20 minutes.
I know this sounds like whining. A car is a luxury to many. The cost of gas is something I can afford, though the extra $80 a month has to come from somewhere. The less driving I do the better off the earth is.
I just wish those who game the system for their own advantage would stop to consider the cost down here where most of us live. Each bump in the cost at the pump means one less trip to see family, visit a museum, or enjoy an afternoon by a lake. It means one less meal at a restaurant this month, one fewer movie, or a couple of books not bought. It isn't life and death. But, it has a very direct cost on my ability to enjoy a satisfying retirement.
How has your life been affected by more expensive gas? A lot, a little, not at all? Have you had to cut back or sacrifice in a meaningful way? Share your stories. It won't solve the problem, but we'll feel better knowing we are not in this alone.