Thursday, September 18, 2008

An economic deep breath...

This has not been a good week on the economic front. Have you noticed? From the effect of Hurricane Ike on gas prices to the tumble of major institutions on Wall Street, I'm amazed all of us are not stuffing our savings under a mattress and hiding under the covers until this passes.

And it will. At least some of it. In the meantime, just about all the average American can do is take a deep breath, make some(further)adjustments and hold on for the ride.

Last Saturday, while Ike was still battering Texas, gas prices were shooting back up. I stopped to fill up at a station across the river in Maryland en route to my cousin's. The station was so busy bumping up prices that none of the pumps were actually functioning. As a result, almost every one of the many waiting cars simply pulled out and left. I found gas two blocks away -- ten cents a gallon cheaper. I call that Karmic justice. I wanted to go back and dance a little jig at that other station, but that would have been a waste of gas.

Unfortunately we've become a nation attached to our cars. We've bought bigger and bigger vehicles and moved further and further away from work. These days that's a costly combination, making it very tough on families already operating on a tight budget. Even though my car is relatively fuel efficient and I work at home, I find myself stopping for a minute to think about whether I really need to make that weekly 45-mile drive to Fredericksburg to pick up a few things from Target or Wal-Mart and satisfy my addiction to Starbucks iced cafe mocha.

What have you found yourself giving up this summer? What adjustments are you making to your routine? I saw a news article the other day suggesting that some of the less expensive restaurants are still doing okay. People are still eating out, if they can do it cost-effectively. What about you? Are you taking your lunch to work? Eating out less as a family, or simply changing the places you choose to eat to a less costly alternative? Consolidating errands? Already planning to spend less for the holidays?

If you have tips that have conserved gas or helped your family budget in these difficult times, let us know about them by clicking on comments below. Or send an email directly to me at and I'll post it for you.

Meantime, take that deep breath and try not to panic.

Sherryl Woods

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