Gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in recent memory. We fueled up for $2.01 a gallon two days before Christmas, and we have friends telling us that they saw it as low as $1.89! If the news reports are to be believed, this may not be the end of the decline either. The news also tells me that this sudden decrease in gas prices should tempt me to do the following:

  • Spend more money buying junk I don’t need because it cost me less to get to the store.
  • Spend more money by driving more for the holidays since it costs less per gallon to get there.
  • Spend more money by foregoing the fuel-efficient vehicles and opt for the gas-guzzling SUVs again since gas is so cheap now.
  • Spend more money by buying that big gas-guzzling SUV so I can fill it with more junk that I can bring to our family on our extra-long holiday road trip.

Yay!  Cheap gas prices will stimulate the economy because people will have more money to spend!  Whoopee!  Let’s celebrate!  Ugh…

If you feel a rant coming on, you’re right, because this kind of talk is pure nonsense.

We Never Spent Less

We’ve been duped as a society to think that the measure of how “good” life is, is how much we get to consume. So if some commodity, like gasoline in this case, gets a dramatic reduction in price, we somehow think that the only logical thing to do is to spend the difference on something else in order to maintain our “standard of life”. The only problem is that we never reduced our lifestyle when gas prices went up in the first place!

We complained when gas prices went from $2 to $3.50 but we never replaced our car, adjusted our driving habits, or reduced our consumption; now with gas prices going back down, we say it’s opportunity to spend MORE?  That’s like continuing to drive 70 mph after the limit drops from 65 to 45 mph, but then speeding up to 90 mph when the limit goes back to 65 mph.  It might be going with the flow of traffic, but that doesn’t make it any less sensible.

I Can’t Predict the Future

It’s amazing to me when I hear of people already talking as though low gas prices are going to be permanent. Perhaps it’ll stay low for a while, who knows? But can anyone accurately predict the future? Honestly, it was only a few months ago that gas cost well over $3.50 in many places. (Anyone remember gas nearly hitting $5 at various points in the not-too-distant past?) A tumble in price for a few months have rabid consumerists frothing at the mouth already? Seriously? How do we know that gas isn’t going to go back to $3.50 a gallon in the NEXT two months? Or $5 a gallon?

Forgetting the Past and Ignoring the Future

It is instances like these that reveal our tendency to forget our past all while ignoring the future. We have forgotten the pain of when gas prices have spiked before and we don’t particularly care that it might happen again in the future. In the classic, myopic “American way” we focus only on current spending and gratification. The ideology is propagated that our spending is “good for the economy”. I’ve failed to ever understand how sending my money out to die today by spending it is better for my personal finance than saving the dollars and deploying them as soldiers through investments in case I need it someday. Maybe it just helps us feel better that our consumerist tendency of wasting money is actually altruistic in a roundabout way. No thanks. I’ll keep my green soldiers working for me and will do my altruistic part by donating directly to causes I believe in.

The Crumb Saver Way

So how should the lower gas prices affect the Crumb Saver? Should we even care? Well, how about instead of being tempted to SPEND more, we can think about how we can SAVE more.  This is one of those rare opportunities in life where we can deflate our lifestyle without changing anything! Don’t let it slip away! In our home, our monthly gasoline bill has been around $125 so a 50% discount at the pump would represent approximately a $62 savings per month. Lest you think that $62/month is insignificant, remind yourself of the Power of the Crumbs and also that it’s equivalent to our ENTIRE monthly food budget!  We can save the equivalent of our entire monthly food budget by changing absolutely NOTHING in our lifestyle.

Need some ideas what to do with all that cash you’re saving at the pump?  Consider these options:

  • Save the extra toward your emergency fund.
  • Save the extra to pay off your credit card and student loans.
  • Save the extra to pay off your house early.
  • Save the extra to increase your retirement savings.
  • Save the extra to reach financial independence faster.

Lower prices at the pump should not change how we live our lives. Keep living simply and efficiently, and the break at the gas pump will just serve to increase our crumb stash. Above all, resist the urge to inflate our lifestyle just because of the psychological high associated with seeing gas prices tumble. Enjoy the cheaper gas but we don’t need to spend more, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

So what are YOU gonna do with all the extra crumbs from cheaper prices at the pump?