How many untold thousands are you saving on gas?

This article on lower gas prices at the NY Times has got me scratching my head.

One woman says that when gas prices were high, she was working 10 hours of OT per week “to make ends meet”:

When gasoline topped $4 a gallon this summer, Celeste Vazquez of Cleveland started working 10 hours of overtime every week to make ends meet. But lately, with prices falling below $2 a gallon at many stations here, she has been able to cut her hours.

I did a quick calculation. If Celeste was making minimum wage, which is currently $6.55 per hour, and was spending $4.50 on gas then, and is spending $1.50 on gas now, to fill up a 24-mpg car, that 10 hours of overtime would have enabled her to drive 785 miles per week, without dipping into her standard 40-hour-per-week paycheck. That is madness. Who drives 785 miles per week, aside from truckers?

If she were driving a 15-mpg truck, she would have had to have been driving 485 miles per week to necessitate 10 hours of minimum wage OT. 485 still seems like a lot to me. Do these people live in their cars 7 days a week?

Another couple splurges on a $12 breakfast, because of all the dough they’re saving on gas.

But they have no plans to spend tens of thousands of dollars to furnish and landscape their new house.

“I’d love to do those big projects,” said Mr. Ritchie, 49, who farms 16 acres of cherries, peaches, nectarines and figs in northwest Ohio. “But I just know that gas prices will go right back up.”

“Tens of thousands” means, at the low end, $20,000. How much driving would one have to do for the number “20,000” to even factor into one’s gas budget? You would have to drive 1,300 miles per week—185 miles every single day, for a whole year—in a 10 mpg vehicle—in order for a $4.50 to $1.50 price drop to come out to a $20,000 difference.

All the same, I thank the NY Times for this reality check. It costs me now about $14 less to fill up than it did two months ago, and I was fixin’ to use that to put a downpayment on a house . . .


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