$4 per gallon gas is back! And there’s a certain sentiment of discontent in the air. When verbalized, it often is along these lines:
“I can’t believe I have to f’ing pay $4 per gallon for gas. That’s ridiculous!”
Others have taken it as far as adding the rise in gas prices to the long list of things that President Obama has done to destroy our country:
“How can Obama allow this! His energy policy has created this!”
And when you don’t listen to the words, but the sound of the noises coming out of mouths, it sounds more like:
“chirp, chirp, chirp”
But seriously, who “likes” paying more for anything?
I certainly don’t like paying more for things. Especially stuff I used to pay less for. Particularly commoditized product. Do you? No? Didn’t think so. Glad the feeling is mutual.
I don’t know who is to blame for the recent spike in gas prices. Could it be:
- Speculative futures trading?
- Dwindling supply or increased demand?
- Obama’s energy policy?
- All of the above?
The thing is, we can’t control any of that stuff. But there are a few things we can control:
1. Our attitude:
Vehicles are an absolute luxury. They were a cool invention that turned out to be THE WORST thing that could have ever happened to this planet. The fact that we have all granted ourselves the grotesque right of driving around 1-2 tons of steel that spews out environment-killing by-products to pick up a soda at the convenience store or drive a 120 mile daily commute should be seen for what it is – unnatural and wasteful.
It is something that human beings were not able to do for millions of years.
The fact that it ONLY costs us $4 to drive 20-30 miles on fuel that was sucked out of the ground thousands of miles away from where you pump it in to your vehicle is a miracle. And $4 per gallon is much less than what just about every country outside of the Middle East pays (including Saudi Arabia #2 – Canada). How about showing a little gratitude for that?
You can control your attitude.
2. Decreasing Our Consumption by Vehicle Choice
Despite $4 per gallon, you don’t see every complainer driving Prius’s around.
If you want to earn the right to complain about gas prices, shouldn’t you at least be getting 40 mpg’s?
Switching to a more fuel efficient car is something that you can control.
3. Decrease Consumption by Vehicle Use
Younger generations aren’t driving as much. Many aren’t getting licenses in the first place. Many people choose to live close to work so they drive less or don’t drive at all. This is something we are all capable of. If you live 30 miles from work, you have no right to complain about gas prices.
With a little effort, you can:
- reduce your commute, take public transit, or ride a bike to work
- combine your errands and only drive when necessary
- drive more conservatively
These are all things you can control.
Take a Load Off
So while there are many things you CAN control in relation to your use of gasoline, the price you pay per gallon is not one of them. Knowing that and taking action on the things you can control will result in an immediate load off your shoulders.
I feel like all but the first bullet point are incredibly short sighted. Drive a Prius or other hybrid? Sure, that sounds great in theory but unfortunately dealerships and carmakers have set the MSRP of these vehicles so high it takes many years to at least break even with the fuel savings. This realy defeats the purpose outside of a very long term view. Now I am not advocating buying an Escalade and complaining about its pitiful MPG, but currently my Elantra is averaging 36 MPG and is quite substantially less expensive than a hybrid.
And the distance to work can be affected by many other factors. My significant other and I live at a midpoint between our two offices. She works in the northern part of the state and I in the southern part. We each drive about 35-40 miles to work. There is no other option; public transportation doesn’t reliably get to either place. Especially in this economy, changing or quiting my job because of gas prices is insan; what is my other option? Get a new girlfriend?
I think the biggest issue and cause for complaints is the disingenuous nature of the oil cartels and retailers. They constantly claim “reduced ouput” (which they voluntarily ramped down), instability in the middle east (when has it EVER been stable), weather (there is always a hurricane season), etc as reasons for price hikes. While many of these may be true, a lot of it is simply protecting and/or increasing their profits. It really comes down to the fact that things in general are getting more expensive while at the same time we are seeing the economy in the toilet and corporations becoming more profitable than ever. It is a very hard pill to swallow and is a drastic change from the way most of the country has been for the last 30-odd years.
*chirp chirp chirp*
36 MPG Elantra? Sounds pretty good to me.
So what are you arguing against and what is short sighted?
That you deserve the right to complain about high gas prices b/c you don’t want to move closer to your girlfriend or job?
That sounds like chirping to me. You’ve CHOSEN to live far away from your job and girlfriend, therefore, your complaining card has been confiscated and thrown in my neighbor’s wood chipper.
Now don’t you feel better?
My Elantra is great, the MPG is fantastic and I am happy about it. I was just saying that mandating a 40 mpg Hybrid as a license to complain about gas isn’t a great benchmark.
I think you missed the point I was making about my gf. We live together. If I choose to live closer to work, then she lives further away. The total commute distance will be the same. The other option is to not live together; that would then cause my rent and utility costs to double as well as adding distance for me to visit her.
It really boils down to the fact that there are tradeoffs. A lot of the changes that are made to reduce gas usage can significantly raise costs in another area, netting out to $0 savings or even negative value. If you are in a position to make these changes and not suffer any negative effects that is awesome! You should definitely do it. However not everyone is in the same situation or can be as flexible.
I completely agree with you, Steve. My boyfriend and I work 30 miles apart, and have chosen to live nearer his work. Regardless of where we chose to live, one or both of us would have a commute, and that we cannot change without finding new jobs or finding new significant others – neither of which is an option.
I also agree with your comments about the feasability of getting a car with better gas mileage. Every other article on this blog would advocate not getting a new car if the car you have is in perfectly good condition and paid off… so why would I want to swap that for a far more expensive car (with very expensive repairs http://www.mint.com/blog/consumer-iq/15-of-the-most-expensive-car-repairs-042012/), especially with the breakeven point so far off?
“How can Obama allow this! His energy policy has created this!”
Come on now, gas prices were just as bad under Bush. Let’s not let our political opinions blind the facts.
I didn’t say I agreed with this opinion, but I have been hearing it a lot.
I’d have to agree that these tips are rather short sighted. If people could truly afford cars with better gas mileage, more people would be switching. As for living closer to work, that is not always the affordable option either. I know in the city that I live in, it is nearly impossible for the average person to buy property here. So many people have to resort to living further away and having longer commutes. Oftentimes those people do not have a reasonable public transit option. People have every right to complain about high gas prices, even if some of those factors seem to be in their control when looking from the outside.
Meh, not buying it. Sounds like a bundle of excuses. 35 mpg+ can be had for under $3,000 used.
What good does complaining do?
So we’re all supposed to take a hit on selling our existing vehicles just for the sake of saving on gas? What about the point about not being able to afford to live closer to work?
In some cases people really can’t make changes to save themselves money on gas, in others they can. Personally finance is just that, personal. When I was in SJ, Ca and gas got to $4.00/gallon I switched to taking the bus but now that I am in Buffalo, NY, it just is not practical. We will be biking over the summer for at least part of it though. I do not think a hybrid is the way to go if you want to save money. I have checked the price difference in cost between a hybrid and regular car and even with gas being at $4, the increase cost of the hybrid is not worth it.
Oh, if anyone wants to see my math let me know.
I think we agree.
In every topic related to personal finance, there are cases where folks can’t make changes, no doubt.
In your case, it sounds like you have considered your options and made the choice to bike occasionally and drive the rest of the time. And you have made the choice that a hybrid wouldn’t pay off (I have seen them for under $9K recently, so you may be surprised!).
So, then it comes down to attitude:
1. Do you appreciate having the choices and have gratitude?
2. Do you play the high gas price victim role and complain, despite choosing options that would result in you using more gas?
Not judging. Up to you. Hopefully you choose #1!
Thank you, G.E. I’m getting tired of hearing people complain about it when they choose to drive half a mile for a soda when they could just as easily walk. I drive 16 miles round trip to work. I have a Corolla that gets 27/35. I like where I live and can’t afford to move closer to work, nor do I want to. I also don’t want to live farther away. I accept that I CHOOSE to pay those gas prices. I cut down driving when I can.
The constant whining about gas underscores the bigger issue in our country where people think they’re entitled to stuff for no reason. Once people recognize that they choose to do these things, they can assess whether or not they’ll continue to make that choice.
FTR, I’m not an old fogey, either. I’m 25.
Alyssa! You have restored my faith in generation Y!
I was beginning to lose it for a second there…
Great comment Alyssa! I agree with you and GE that driving is a luxury and we should try to use other options if possible. If you CHOOSE to have a one hour commute to work you know what you are getting into so stop complaining or look into getting a new job or moving. I also love your comment about driving a half mile to get a soda, people do this all the time. Talk about a waste of money and what about the health issues?? : )
Great article G.E.! What it boils down to are people’s personalities. I know and believe I can truly change my own situation. There are things I can control and things I can’t. But ultimately there is no use in complaining. I CAN change the car I drive. I CAN walk or bike more. I CAN move closer to work or change jobs. No excuses.
Nick, I don’t care how old you are, you are wiser than your years. And an upstanding individual. If we ever meet, I am buying the beer.
I think another point that you might want to address is that in the US people need to ask for i.e. vote for better public transit in places where it isn’t available.
I’m still surprised by the large number of fairly big cities that have non existent public transit.
E.g. public transit in Silicon Valley apart from San Francisco is pretty bad. And people just don’t seem to care. They continue to drive everywhere and not vote on public transit bills and moan about gas prices while doing this.
I don’t need to make it… you just did! I’m lucky to live in a city with a great bus system, but many are not. To those of you who are not, inspiring political action could be a highly rewarding endeavor.
Haha G.E. is just not having it today! You make a good point, I never complain about gas prices because I can cut back on driving, but in most cases I don’t. I am frugal in so many other areas that I allow myself the luxury of hopping in my car and going home for lunch sometimes, or driving to the nearest redbox for a movie. If things get so tight that I can’t afford to pay my bills, you will see how quickly I start carpooling.
I am already doing #2 & #3 so #1 is the key. There is nothing else I can do so I might at well accept it and not get steamed about it. Everyone else is paying the high gas prices as well so it is a luxury that we must make room for if we are to keep using it.
G.E. I love this article. All I ever hear is “chirp, chirp, chirp” these days.
I have coined a new term: complainers = “chirpers”
I think I might just keep using it….
The irony is that if everyone used their chirping energy to take action vs. chirp and stay the same, everyone would be paying less for gas because the demand would plummet.
Deleting comments of those with a different political viewpoint? Really?
Seeing that he has left a lot of comments up that challenge his argument leads me to believe that your comment had very little to do with the topic of personal finance, and as such was probably inappropriate for this blog. If you would like to talk about politics please do it on a blog about politics.
JC- Sorry, but I have no patience for off-topic political trolling about the validity of the automobile’s negative impact on the world’s environment. How can that even be debated? Not going to engage with that, but if you think tailpipe emissions are just fine and dandy, I’d encourage you to rig your mouth around a tailpipe of a Hummer as it drives around town for an hour to get a frozen pot pie and tell me how you feel afterwards. Or you could go dig up the 5 tons of steel and oil needed to produce your next 15 mpg beast. Please report back with your findings. Thank you, and good day, sir.
What bothers me is all the ignorance I hear spewing from the media as to why gas prices are so high. Study Austrian economics, and the federal reserve and you will find your answer. Federal Reserve Notes are totally fiat currency, backed by nothing. Ergo, there is no roof on how high gas prices can go. Gas prices, as well as fuel prices, are no longer considered part of inflation.
Print away, Bernanke…just keep on printing.
“Study Austrian economics”
Begone, foul methodology.
The concept that getting a new job “isn’t an option” really bothers me. It is absolutely an OPTION (unless you’re enslaved in which case I am terribly sorry). Is the the easiest, most practical, most intelligent option? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, you are free to choose your job. If the commute to your current job is horrendous and paying that much for gas is so awful that you feel the need to squawk about it then at least consider making a change. You are making the decision that the income/stability/enjoyment/whatever you get from your job is more valuable to you than the money you spend commuting. I’m not saying your decision is right or wrong but at least recognize that it is in your control.
Your observations are NOT short-sighted. The problem is that society is becoming increasingly out of touch with each new generation. I know many people aren’t going to like that statement, but it’s the truth. Ouch, right? It hasn’t always been the American Dream to have a mortgage on a house in the suburbs, a garage stockpiled with rations, the newest edition of everything, and a fancy car with a payment. Why is that now our accepted norm? Instead of telling you what I think, I instead suggest watching the ironically-titled, award-winning ‘Century of the Self’ – available on YouTube or topdocumentaryfilms (despite its intro, it’s not all about Freud, and is super-interesting.) ‘Urbanized’ is another good one, and is on Netflix.
My point is – we as a society, and as individuals within that society need to examine our choices and our priorities. We need to look at even the most simple of the things we do – let’s just say consume goods – and question what is truly necessary and what impact our purchase/support has globally. I mean, it’s mind-boggling to truly gain an understanding of the impact we really have with stuff we don’t even think about, like checkout lane impulse purchases. While I’m on my leftist, tree-hugging rant, I’ll also recommend all of the “Story of…” shorts on thestoryofstuff site. Note I’m not giving links – I’m not some kind of weirdo hacker! I’m just a weirdo ;)
And as far as “having” to live outside the urban areas? What if we stopped doing what we’re “supposed” to do? What if we didn’t have to have that job to pay for all the crap we have and the house we live in? (That statement will make more sense after watching Century of the Self.) What if the workforce started moving back in? What if it started the urban renewal ball rolling; started showing how much we care about the decline in quality of our schools not by running away, but instead by getting involved, by getting vocal? What if we started instilling this power in our children, and thus they in theirs? We do care about what kind of world and environment our kids and grandkids will live in, don’t we?
We have a whole lot of power to change our immediate lives, and to change things in the near and far future. We can make THEM do what WE want – just by refusing to accept the status quo.