Though analysts can't say for sure whether gasoline will top out at $4 a gallon, $5 a gallon, or somewhere in-between, one thing's for sure: prices are still climbing, and Americans are tightening their belts to make ends meet. Online coupon distributor CouponCabin surveyed thousands of drivers to find out where they're cutting back -- and the company is also offering a summer's worth of free gas to one lucky sweepstakes entrant.
According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline now sits at $3.821. That's up 30 cents from where it was a month ago, and it puts us one step closer to the highest average price on record: $4.114, recorded on July 17, 2008.
Worse, despite the fact that the U.S. now exports more gas than it imports, prices are projected to rise further, due to (a) the more expensive blend of gas that's used in warm months and (b) fears about Iran blocking oil shipments in the Strait of Hormuz.
Coping with the crunch
We already know that this spike in gas prices has caused auto shoppers to look more closely at fuel-efficient rides. But the folks at CouponCabin wanted to know how Americans are coping with the situation in their everyday lives.
Last week, the company partnered with Harris Interactive to survey 2,254 adults, asking them how they're restructuring their personal budgets to afford the increased cost of gas and how that cost has affected their everyday driving habits.
On the financial front, the biggest cutback was seen in out-of-home dining. In fact, a whopping 70% of respondents said that they planned to eat out less often as a result of high gas prices. (Investors: this could mean it's either a good time or a bad time to sink money into restaurant chains, depending on your point of view.)
Other cutbacks included: spending less on entertainment like movies and rock concerts (64%); canceling subscriptions to magazines and online sites like Netflix (22%); and canceling cable or other TV services (15%). At the bottom of the list? Cutting off internet service, which only 5% of respondents said they'd do. (That might not be surprising, since the poll was conducted online.)
As far as driving habits were concerned, 61% of survey participants said they'd be driving less overall. Since only 9% said they intended to carpool and 8% announced plans to use public transportation, we can assume that most of those travel cutbacks will be leisure-related, like road trips.
You said something about free gas?
To help ease pain at the pump, CouponCabin is hosting a sweepstakes, with a grand prize of free gasoline through the summer. To enter, visit CouponCabin.com/gas, and click the "Sign up and enter to win" button in the middle of the page. You can register using just an email address, or log in with one of the major social networks like Facebook or Twitter. There's no need to register multiple times -- the contest allows only one entry per person. According to the official rules, you have until 11:59pm Central Time on March 26 to enter.
The grand prize is a gift card for five months of free gas, "calculated as the average driver using 50 gallons of gasoline per month at an average of $6 per gallon for five months", which seems fair. Fifty second-prize winners will drive off with $50 gift cards in their pockets.
Of course, the odds of winning something like this are pretty astronomical, so you probably shouldn't give up those plans to scale back on the Mickey Ds just yet. If you don't win, how are you planning to get around? Got any great cost-saving tips for your fellow readers? Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.