Budget buster: Gas prices still carving up family's dollar

Published 10:27 pm Wednesday, July 2, 2008

By By Lydia Grimes and Kerry Whipple Bean
Roberta Evans' family won't be taking a vacation this year, and she won't be able to attend her family reunion, either.
High gas prices - and a longer commute to work - are eating up a big portion of the household budget.
The Evans family isn't alone. With gas in the Brewton area nearing the national average of $4 per gallon, families are looking for ways to cut back as the cost of gasoline takes up more of the budget every month.
Based on U.S. Census averages, a household in Brewton with two working adults could spend up to $230 per month just on commutes to work. That figure factors in the average 15 mile one-way commute in a vehicle averaging 20 miles per gallon, with an average local gas price of $3.85 per gallon.
That figure equals about 9.2 percent of the average household budget. The U.S. Census for 2000 - the latest figures available - showed the average household income in Brewton is about $30,000.
Nationwide, consumers are spending an average of 4 percent of their household income on gasoline, according to a survey by the Oil Price Information Service.
But gas isn't the only cost going up.
Grocery costs are up 1.8 percent in the first six months of 2008, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation's calculation of the market basket, the average price for 20 basic grocery items including milk, eggs, cheese and meat. In south Alabama last month, the market basket cost $54.41, for a monthly total of $217.64 for groceries.
That total is about 8.6 percent of the average household income in Brewton.
Even as grocery prices and the cost of other goods and services go up, many families in Brewton are cutting back.
Chris Hosford of East Brewton said the cost of gasoline has changed his life completely.
April Tolbert and her husband, Clinton, said they have cut back on car trips.