Gas prices put wallet on empty

Katie Greenwald

Grocery store, Internet offer perks

Kathleen Schmitt, freshmen interior design major, pumps petrol into her Chevy Lumina at El Dorado’s Citgo off of South Water Street. Prices have recently been on the rise and are straining students’ wallets.

Credit: Andrew popik

“I remember when we got gas for 20 cents a gallon when I was a young man,” said Vince Miller, 88, of Akron.

That was back in 1937.

Twenty cents may seem like a small price to pay nowadays with gas prices hovering around $2 a gallon, but 20 cents back then is equivalent $2.62 today, adjusted for inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index.

Looking at it that way, gas prices have actually gone down.

But since 2004 gas prices have increased.

This time last year, the average price of gas was nearly 20 cents lower than it is today.

Crude oil prices held at more than $53 a barrel Monday, up from less than $40 this time last year. Because crude oil accounts for half the cost of gasoline, prices at the pump are expected to rise, and rise high, according to AAA.

The automobile association predicts gas prices will soon pass the average national price of $2.06 a gallon, which was set in May 2004. The association said prices usually rise in spring, and because they are so close to the average high price now, there is little chance that prices won’t pass the national average during peak driving season.

In fact, as of Sunday, gas prices in Kent were at the average national high. Even though some store employees from Citgo expected them to rise again, they fell to about $1.98 as of yesterday.

“They’re ridiculously high,” said Anthony Simic, an employee at the Citgo gas station on South Water Street.

It’s impossible to tell what prices will be tomorrow, he said, but no matter how high they rise, the gas station only receives about 5 cents per gallon of gas sold.

That may not take the burden off consumers, but this might.

Free tanks of gas are up for grabs at Giant Eagle after customers buy groceries.

“Fuelperks!” is a rewards program at the grocery store that allows customers to accumulate 10 cents per gallon off gas for every $50 spent at the store, when they use an Advantage discount card.

After spending $1,000, one tank of gas is free, if gas costs two dollars.

“I don’t see it ending any time soon,” said Tom Heydorn, co-manager at the East Main Street Giant Eagle. “It drives sales too well.”

For the frugally minded who don’t spend quite so much on groceries, offers some advice on how to get the most out of a tank of gas:

n Stay up to date with oil changes and tune-ups. A well-maintained engine conserves more gas than a poorly maintained one.

n Don’t let the car warm-up too long. Fuel could be wasted. Check the owner’s manual for the correct start-up procedure.

n Don’t fill the gas tank to the top. Extra gas will spill and be wasted.

n Keep the car cleaned out. Extra weight uses more gas.

n Tighten the gas cap. Gas vapor evaporates quickly.

Simic said Wednesdays are usually the best days to fill-up on gas because prices tend to be lower in the middle of the week than any other time in the week.

That piece of advice may help Jason Connell, a freshman business major.

“They keep going up and up and up,” he said.

“They make me apprehensive to go out and drive anywhere I don’t have to be.”

Contact student finances reporter Katie Greenwald at [email protected].