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Getting strangled at the pump
Americans find different ways to cope with gasoline prices that are skyrocketing without relief.
October 5, 2005: 12:36 PM EDT
By Rob Kelley, CNN/Money Staff Writer
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - For the past month, Americans have coped with gasoline prices not seen since the 1970s. It's made the behemoths of the road -- so popular during the past decade -- look like extravagances, and made hybrids into the next cars du jour.

CNN/Money asked Americans how they were handling the price spikes -- at the pump and in their home budgets.

The vehicles

"I recently switched vehicles with my 16-year-old son. I am now driving his 1992 Honda Accord for the 40-mile round-trip trek to work. He is very happy to be driving my 2002 GMC Sonoma truck. His school and job are within a 5-mile radius of our home. It was either switch vehicles or sell the truck. I recently paid my Exxon Mobil gas card bill: $457."

-- Jeff

"Last December, my husband and I purchased a used SUV for our family of five. We were ecstatic at first -- this was the lowest car payment we've ever had for a vehicle and all of the room for our kids was wonderful. Now gas is costing more than the car payment."

-- Stacy

"I bought a hybrid the weekend before Katrina hit, giving up my Ford Taurus. I did it mostly because I live in Atlanta and I'm tired of the smog, and thought it would help. Now all of my friends think I have ESP and knew this would happen. My Honda Civic hybrid is very comfortable, looks great, and I'm averaging 45 MPG in the city -- what's not to love?"

-- Bill, Georgia

Reining in the spending

"We have stopped spending on things that aren't necessities, and we've been forced to halve our grocery bill. The kids no longer get fresh fruit or vegetables and no longer get turkey sandwiches. Now we buy only canned goods and the cheapest lunch meat possible. With the price of gas up, everything else is up... except for our wages."

-- Christine

"I've decided to quit smoking and start carpooling to balance out gas prices. I commute 40 miles per day, and can now share a ride with non-smokers."

-- Claire

"How we manage ever-increasing energy prices: No more frills and extras. More NetFlix and less movies. From two cars to one. Filling up with regular instead of premium despite requirement. Hubby car pools and telecommutes when possible. Cut down on dining out. Planning the use and route of the car. This reminds me of how I lived in Britain in the 60's."

-- Elizabeth

"The SUV is garaged for the time being and I am using our 'spare' vehicle which uses less gas. We have definitely curtailed our driving as well as our entertainment expenses. With the anticipated increase in heating fuel, many expenditures -- such as the dentist -- are on hold. Prices are rising -- our salaries are not."

-- Barbara, Colorado

"I have a cell phone and a home phone but because of high gas prices I recently cut my home phone -- no longer a necessity."

-- Perry

"No real change in our driving habits -- the only time we drive is to do the grocery shopping or run errands. On the positive side, we'll probably make less trips to the suburbs to see my mother-in-law."

-- Ian, Illinois

At work

"The school district I work for can't afford the normal field trips and all of our budgets had to be cut because of the cost of gas and predicted cost of heating the building. I also know parents who can't drive their children the 20 miles to get to doctor appointments, so their children are not getting the care they need."

-- Cynthia, Montana

"The primary way in which I've cut back on driving is telecommuting. I used to drive 50 miles each way to work, so that I had to fill up the gas tank six times every month. With my new work arrangement, I only fill up about once a month. I have also become a more rigorous adherent to the speed limit."

-- Toby, Minnesota

"It prompted me to shift from a standard five-day week to a four-day schedule with longer hours -- one less round trip each week."

-- Tom

"My wife and I moved to a townhouse within a short walk or bike ride to our office. In addition to not using the car, we get a little much-needed exercise every day."

-- Shane

"I was already looking for a new job before the gas prices hit, but I'm being much more careful about how far away the employer is from where I live. I'm also staying away from jobs that require a car to do certain job functions because I'd like to continue to take the bus to work."

-- Suzanne

At school

"I have started making my children ride the school bus, which they hadn't done before. I also cut back on groceries and my children carry snacks to school instead of buying from the snack bar. Even after these measures, I am still putting gas on the credit card."

-- Tanya


"My husband and I were driving to work 120 miles round-trip in a 4x4 truck and an SUV, but prices got so high that we sold our dream home and bought a smaller place within 10 miles of work. My children have had to relocate a school in another state."

-- Rae


Auto sales -- especially SUVs and trucks -- have plunged in recent months. Read more here.

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