“A hack I would love to have is car-pooling,” said Alexa Lopez. But she has not found a viable options near where she lives in Kissimmee, Fla. She has a long commute: 51 miles each day from her home to her job at a plumbing supply company in Melbourne. So to save money on gas, she has cut down on extracurricular driving, as well as some more essential activities.
Ms. Lopez, 30, used to make trips to the grocery store without thinking twice. Now, because of inflation and the high prices of getting herself to the store, she goes only every two weeks. Previously, she said, she would buy “anything and everything,” including snacks like chips for her son. But, she said, “I can’t really buy too much of those any more.”
She added, “I’m feeling like pretty much the average American right now: struggling.”
For the first time in years, some who had been doing relatively well are facing hard trade-offs. As the war in Ukraine and the pandemic continue to roil the economy, concerns are growing that the U.S. economy may be on the brink of a recession. People are moving to ease their commutes. Family visits are being minimized. Future savings are being funneled toward ballooning grocery prices. It has been a hard jolt.
Elizabeth Hjelvik, 26, a graduate student in materials science at the University of Colorado at Boulder, watches her budget closely. She recently started riding her bike to campus. She has also started working from home more often, using her parents’ Kroger fuel points to fill up the tank of her 2005 Honda and cutting back on spontaneous weekend trips.
Ms. Hjelvik recalled saying, as she and her partner were recently driving back from a trip to Fort Collins, Colo., about 50 miles away, “This drive is so beautiful, but it might be something we can’t do in the future.” Her family lives in New Mexico, within driving distance of Boulder. “Ideally we would be able to go see them more often, but it’s a lot of gas,” she said.
Kaitlyn Thomas, 25, a medical resident living in Horseheads, N.Y., said she sometimes Googles gas prices in nearby Pennsylvania. She also has a running note on her phone where she tracks what’s advertised at the stations she passes on her commute. Next week, she is moving to Sayre, Pa., to live within walking distance of work.