With gasoline pump prices above $4 a gallon, I was shocked to read that experts expect prices to rise even higher. I know this isn’t news to most of you. America is hurting. With food costs exploding and the mortgage crisis and our devalued homes—it’s not surprising that many of us are stressed. To add insult to injury, we workers are facing an anemic job market and read about large corporate layoffs weekly. You may even find that your paycheck no longer covers all your childcare costs or all your big monthly expenditures.
Paycheck Inferno at the Pump
According to compensation experts at Salary.com, American workers are spending between 4 percent and 12 percent of salary increases given the past three years on their commute. In fact, if gas prices rise to $5.00 per gallon, the average worker earning a little over $40,000 a year would spend up to $2,384 per year—almost 6 percent of their salary! Of course, those with longer commute times or living in metropolitan areas with the highest gas prices may actually be spending more.
“If I didn’t need health insurance or my pension, I’d be crazy to stay in this job,” says Georgene Wade, a French teacher in Tampa, Florida. Georgene commutes daily from Crystal Beach, which is costing her more than $250 a month.
So What Can You Do?
Perhaps now is the time to take drastic measures. Here are some strategies to ease the strain and stretch your paycheck:
- Take mass transit.
CNN reported that train usage is up by as much as 15 percent in some cities. Bus and subway use are up as well.
If you don’t live in a city with good public transit, reach out to your fellow neighbors or workers and create a car pool. I know, sometimes the last person you want to spend more time with at the end of the day is a co-worker—but at these gas prices, it may be worth it.
- Trade in your gas guzzler.
Buy a hybrid, electric, or diesel car. If you live far from work and colleagues who could carpool with you—and there is no mass transit to assist—it may be worth it to get a car with better gas mileage.
- Ride a bike.
If you’re close enough to the office, biking can be a great way to boost endorphins, fight stress, and lower your expenses. My husband rides his bike twice a week to the office and loves it!
- Propose a telecommuting plan.
If your job is one that you can do from a home office, now may be the time to propose telecommuting one or two days a week. Figure out what your commuting costs are averaging you—as well as what they will cost with even higher gas prices. To calculate the costs of your commute, go to Commuter Page.
- Propose a flexible work week.
If your job is such that it can’t be done from home, propose a flex day. This may mean that you’ll work longer hours four days a week in order to have the fifth off. When approaching the boss, stress the years of experience and your unique skills. For more help in preparing your pitch to your boss for a flexible position, check out WorkOptions.com. Pat Katepoo began this company to help professional moms transition full-time jobs into part-time, job-share, or flex-week situations. Your company will have turnover costs and training costs if you leave. In the end, financially, you may both be better off with a more flexible position.
Let us know if you have any more suggestions that are working for you!