NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- It costs John Kunkle about $75 to fill up the gas tank in his Dodge Ram. That's more than he can afford, so he's had to postpone fixing the brakes.
"It's really biting into my paycheck," says the 53-year-old who lives in Ellenton, Fla. "It's actually getting to where it's not very safe."
Nationwide, drivers spent $347 on gasoline in February, which is nearly 8.5% of median income, according to the Oil Price Information Service. That's nearly 30% more than they spent in February of 2010 -- and 74% more than two years ago, when they shelled out $200 on gas.
Still, gas prices remain shy of the record high reached in July 2008, when the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline hit $4.11 and fuel accounted for 10% of consumer's income.
This recent run-up in gas prices has taken a big bite out of consumers' disposable income, leaving most Americans forced to cutback in other areas of their spending where there is rarely any cushion.
"There are some things, that if the price goes up, you can simply just cannot buy it anymore," said Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist with Capital Economics. "Unfortunately a change in the price of gasoline is at the other end of the spectrum."
"People still need to drive to work, they still need to take their kids to school, they still need to do all the things they did before so people are still going to use the same amount of gas," he explained. "It's just going to cost them more and that means they have less money to spend on other goods and services."
For example, Cory Andrews, 37, can no longer afford to send his youngest daughter to preschool in Fort Myers, Fla.
"When it comes down to putting gas in your car, food on the table and paying rent, it's about making choices," says Andrews, who commutes 70 miles a day to his job as an athletic trainer.
Brenda Jones, 53, has opted out of an evening college course that she hoped would aid her in her nonprofit business. But the class cost $3,200 and was far from her home in Southampton, N.J.
|Overnight Avg Rate||Latest||Change||Last Week|
|30 yr fixed||3.75%||3.76%|
|15 yr fixed||2.97%||2.96%|
|30 yr refi||3.74%||3.77%|
|15 yr refi||2.98%||2.98%|
Today's featured rates:
Nike is opening up shop on Amazon.com and the company plans "big shifts" over the coming year. More
Not only do many women depend on insurance coverage for maternity care and contraception, it commonly falls to them to plan health care and coverage for the whole family. Yet as leaders in Washington discuss the future of American health care, women have not always been allowed in the room. More
Volkswagen will make the VW I.D. Buzz, an all-electric microbus, available for sale. More
In 1998, Ntsiki Biyela won a scholarship to study wine making. Now she's about to launch her own brand. More
Despite having more financial "skin in the game" than ever, many consumers don't make any attempt to compare prices for health care services, a newly released study found. More