With the average gas price now at $3.99/gallon and the average monthly gasoline bill at $368, families are starting to have to consider how to handle driving and this family is really no different. But there are some things that are beyond our control, such as driving to work and getting to various activities. Today was one of those examples.
All three kids are in different sports – soccer, volleyball and baseball – and for the first time in years, the soccer field is within two miles of the house. Volleyball is at the high school, also near the house. Baseball however, is played by the local Little League at practice and game fields located all over Hell and half of Georgia and there are no fields within even a relatively close distance and there’s no option but to drive. Today’s situation arose as Eldest had a friend spend the night and our understanding was that the friend would come along to the game with us and we’d return her home afterwards. With a half hour drive to get to the field, we needed to leave at noon and at 11:55 AM, we found that the friend had to be home at noon. Despite Eldest’s insistence that we could just drop her off and then go to the game, it was necessary for me to leave first with Youngest for the game while Eldest and my wife took the friend home and then to the game separately. We were consequently forced to use two cars to get to a single event when one would have been sufficient with decent planning. This has now been hammered into Eldest’s head.
It’s ironic that Eldest has begun her driving career as I began mine – at a time of high gas prices. She was surprised to find that I filled up my tank the other day for $95 and it was reminiscent of my reaction when I found what my own father paid for a full tank in 1979. But she and her peers haven’t seemed to have caught on to some of the rules by which we played in the late 1970s. The first rule is that if someone is driving someplace, it’s appropriate for members of the party to help chip in for the gas. The second rule is that people don’t drive separately when carpooling is available. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to volunteer to drive and then pick up others. These simple rules are ones that she and her peers will have to take to heart.
So what else will we try to do to keep things under control and below $368 a month?
- Have more explicit conversations about details before making a final decision, such as the exact time a friend needs to be home. A few extra questions would have saved an extra car trip to the baseball game.
- Send the kids on bikes or walk more often to local, around-town errands or destinations. My mother recently gave me a pull cart with which to pull bags of groceries and this week, I’ll start using it to walk to the local grocery for food and milk.
- Decide whether certain trips even need to be made and if so, whether there’s alternative means. Carpooling, maybe even buses? Although to be honest, our area is not terribly well served by public transportation.
- Once Eldest actually has a regular paying job, decide whether she’ll become responsible for the gas for the car. At this point, she’s wrapped up in schoolwork and volunteering and doesn’t have the money for $95 in a gas tank.
Gas prices have gone up and down through the past thirty years. But with the question of peak oil and the stagnant American family income, I’m doubtful that it’s going to be coming down again anytime soon so we’ll have to think through the scenarios and adjust accordingly.