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Rising gas prices force Americans to budget better

Published February 28th, 2013

The national average for gas prices was $1.78 in November 2008. However, as conflicts in the Middle East have caused prices to rise, it is the middle class that is hurting most.

Political Science Professor Davida Alperin shows the many notecards that she has used since 2005 to record the prices of gas.

Political Science Professor Davida Alperin shows the many notecards that she has used since 2005 to record the prices of gas. She records the price of gas every time she stops to fill up at the pump. (Alicia Carlson/Student Voice)

Political Science Professor Davida Alperin knows this far too well. In fact, she knows exactly how much she’s paid for gas dating back to 2005. Every time she fills at the pump, she’s made a record. In August 2005 she paid $2.69 per gallon, and by August of 2009 it had reached $3.62. Near the national average at the time, Alperin paid $1.71 in November 2008.

But in February 2013, that price has soared to $3.79 in the River Falls area. That is just a penny more than the national average.

As of Feb. 26, the national average for a gallon of gas was $3.78, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).  That is up significantly from a month ago, when the average was $3.34, but not far off from the average a year ago that lingered at $3.69. In Wisconsin the current average is $3.77 and in Minnesota it is $3.78. Wyoming had the lowest average at $3.26 and Hawaii was the highest at $4.35.

For the past 20 years, Alperin has been commuting to work. Currently, she commutes from St. Paul, a roughly 45 minute drive when the traffic isn’t bad. She is just one of the many faculty, staff and students who have had to reprioritize the family budget.

“During tough economic times it’s always been tight,” Alperin said. “But now, with higher gas prices it has been harder to save for the kids’ college and retirement.”
Alperin has two young children.

GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan said he believes these prices will remain high into the summer months. In a press release he said there are many reasons for higher pries, including unrest in the Middle East, but that also due to poor economic times, states have been implementing higher gas taxes to deal with budgetary problems.

This is alarming news for Luke Affolter, a senior, who travels 30 minutes a day to attend class at UW-River Falls from his parents’ home in Baldwin.

“It’s a lose-lose situation.  Either you spend more money finding a place to live closer to school, or you have to dish out a fortune to pay for gas,” Affolter said.

He added that on days where he is on the fence for coming to class that the cost of traveling often lingers in his head and can influence his decision to come or not.

However, Alperin said she has found ways to cut back on fuel costs. For the first six or so years she was able to carpool with other faculty from St. Paul to River Falls.

But now with her kids’ schedules, she said it is difficult to find rides that could leave at the varying times she does. But, she has found other money-saving ways, such as using coupons. She noted that Kwik Trip, for example, offers 5 cents off per gallon of gas, but that coupon, if used in Wisconsin, offers $1 total off, so she often uses it in Wisconsin instead of Minnesota.

Until the prices subside, Alperin said the real solution to rising fuel costs will be when “we as a nation decide to make the move to alternative energy options.”

But until then, the pain at the pump may continue to linger.

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