28 April 2006


Gas is up to $3.17 per gallon around here. That’s 18 cents since last Sunday. Next time I fill up the ol’ Celica, it’s gonna cost me roughly $37, unless the price per gallon goes up some more between now (Friday night) and Sunday.

Personally, I’m trying to get my head around spending almost $40 per week, give or take, just to get to work and back. I don’t drive a gas guzzler – my Celica is an ’88 and gets about 360 miles to a tank. I also don’t drive anywhere I don’t have to. When I have errands to do, I do them along the route to and fro, rarely going more than a few miles out of my way.

Well, well. So where to cut back?

You know, I feel sorta silly, complaining about the cost of gasoline. After all, in Merrie Olde England, they’re paying approximately $12 per gallon for their petrol. Now that’s gotta hurt. Of course, the British weren’t stupid enough to tear out most of their rail lines and replace trains with SUVs, so they have a rather good public transportation system in their country, between trains and buses. One can get by without a car there, if necessary.

I know, in the Northeast of THIS country, trains and buses are still a viable alternative to a car. Atrios, who lives in Philadephia, has mentioned more than once in his blog that he’s car-less and glad for it. Smart man.
But out West, most of us don’t have that option, so more and more of our paychecks are going to be spent on getting us to work so we can earn the money to get to work. This is disconcerting.

Fortunately, with the days getting longer and longer, I can leave the lights off around here until later in the evening. That should help a little bit. And perhaps I’ll start showering every other morning and just sponge the hot-flash stink off my skin on the alternate days. That will save a little more. Of course, that means a bad-hair day every other day, like clockwork. I can do it, but it’s going to make me cranky.

Eating less is another option. Frankly, that won’t hurt me a bit, though smaller portions will take some getting used to. With summer coming on, we can limit our meals to mostly salads. A bag of fresh spinach is still, as I write this, less than $4. And if I break down and buy veggies that are not pre-packaged and prepare them myself, I’ll save a little more.

What worries me as much as what it will cost to drive to work and back is the way the higher price of gasoline will affect other prices. I just paid my electric bill for the month – the one that was a little more than twice as high as it was last month, and we didn’t use any more power than usual. This much larger energy bill may be the norm now. And since it will cost more to package and transport food to consumers, the prices at the grocery store are going to start going up, too, along with the price of just about everything else, since it’s all so closely tied in with the price of fuel.

Let me be clear. We Wrens are already fairly frugal. My personal luxuries are limited to my dial-up Internet connection (which I’ll not give up until I just can’t even scrape together the monthly payment for it) and roughly $50 a month spent on books, used audio-books and music from Amazon. That I can give up – I’ll just use the local library instead. But really, we simply don’t spend much mad-money – we don’t have it to start with.

We hardly ever eat out, not even fast food. I take leftovers to work for lunch. When Mr. Wren and I went down to the city last week for that nice dinner out and a movie, it was the first time we’d done such a thing for close to a year – and the movie itself was free, since I’m a journalist and this was a pre-screening. Still, the trip ate up over a quarter-tank of gas, and our dinner, while it was delicious, cost us about $32 each.


Yeah, I know, lots of people spend far more than we do to get by. But they probably make more, too. Editors of weekly newspapers do not make the big bucks, you know? And Mr. Wren has been out of work for more than a year. So we’re really in belt-tightening mode and have been for quite a while now.
It’s at moments like this, as I start bemoaning my plight in life and feeling sorry for myself, that I really have to stop and look at the other side – the glass-half-full side.

We live in a beautiful part of the country. We have gardens around our little house that are alive with birds and wildlife. Everything is leafing out and starting to flower. We love and care for each other, and laughter comes easily to us. We have all the usual luxuries – a TV, computers and the Internet, cell phones, coffee every morning. We have a decent roof over our heads and sleep cozy at night, and judging from our waistlines, we aren’t starving just yet. Sure, we have problems, but who doesn’t?

It could be much, much worse.

No comments: