If you missed the NPR feature with former Shell Oil president Jon Hofmeister, then you might not have heard his prediction that we could be facing $5 per gallon gas here in the U.S. The story was also featured on major news outlets like Fox News, CNN and NBC News.
I know, it’s enough to make your eyes glaze over. All of us can still remember how tough it was in 2008, when a gallon of gas hit $4 (at least, it did here in Michigan).
So what’s going to happen if the experts are right, and we really do see $5 per gallon gas?
The Impact of High Gas Prices
The scary news is that just about everything we need to survive will go up in price as a result of high gas prices. This includes our food supply, which depends on enormous amounts of diesel to fuel tractors, as well as fuel to haul our bread, canned goods and fruit all over the country.
Travel will be more expensive, and the prices of all the goods and services we use daily will likely go up as well.
The good news is that we can take action to prepare for the possibility of rising gas prices in the years to come. And even if the experts are wrong and we don’t hit $5 per gallon gas, we’ll still be better prepared for emergencies, and we’ll know how to save money on gas.
How to Prepare For Rising Gas Costs
1. Switch to a High MPG Car
Cars are slowly increasing their miles per gallon and fuel economy. If you’re thinking about buying a car, invest in one of the most fuel efficient cars. You could also trade your guzzler in for a nice little used car, or even go down to a one car family to save money. The amount of money you can save with a more fuel efficient car or by getting rid of extra cars can be enormous.
2. Find Alternate Ways to Heat Your Home
If your home is heated by natural gas or propane, you’re fine. But if your home is heated with fuel oil, expect prices to go up steadily each year.
You can prepare for higher fuel prices by adding insulation and making your home more energy efficient. If less heat escapes, you’ll use less energy to heat your home. There are also plenty of cheap ways to keep warm in the winter.
Another way to prepare for higher fuel prices is to find alternative ways to heat your home. For instance, you could install a woodburning stove, a pellet stove (which burns wood pellets), a cob stove (which burns dried corn cobs – great if you live in a farming community since these are often left in the fields to rot), or a masonry heater.
All of these alternative heaters don’t depend on oil to heat your home, and they would work great to supplement your home’s existing heating system.
3. Grow Your Own Food
If gasoline hits $5 per gallon, food prices are going to rise dramatically. Basic necessities like flour, eggs, vegetables and milk will be much more expensive than they are today.
Plus, anything you grow could be bartered for something you need.
4. Buy Some Food In Bulk
As gas prices rise, so does the price of food. And although there are some things you shouldn’t buy in bulk, there are plenty of foods that do keep safely for quite some time. Buying food in bulk is a great way to save money, especially if prices do start to consistently go up.
Food prices are estimated to keep rising for several reasons. For instance, emerging markets like India and China are growing in wealth and this means they’re consuming more food. CBS Moneywatch predicts that grain prices could rise 15%-40% per year over higher demand. It’s the same for dairy, which is expected to go up 16%-45% this year.
These foods keep very well when bought in bulk:
- White rice
- Dried Beans
- Canned Beans
- Peanut Butter
- Canned tomatoes
- Any grain (such as quinoa, lentils, oats and barley)
- Dried Pasta
5. Learn How to Can Your Own Food
One of the best ways to preserve the food you grow is to learn the art of home canning. This is a skill that used to be taught to every member of the family. Nowadays, however, most people think it’s too complex and time consuming to bother with.
But when a jar of jam costs $5 or more, or when a jar of pickles doubles in price, wouldn’t it be nice to save money by doing it yourself while also saving you that gas-consuming trip to the grocery store?
I’m a big home canner and to me, canning is more than worth the time and effort. The food I can is incredibly cheap, and tastes far better than anything you can buy at the grocery store.
Learning how to dehydrate food is also a great way to preserve it.
Buy the supplies you need now, and teach yourself how to can, dehydrate and preserve your own food. If prices do skyrocket, you won’t be scrambling to learn this life skill when you truly need it.
6. Walk, Take Public Transportation or Ride Your Bike
If you don’t have a bike, invest in one. You can get a bike for cheap on Craigslist, or even for free on Freecycle.
If you live fairly close to the grocery store, attach a trailer behind your bike to more easily carry your groceries home. The bike trailer many families use to cart their kids around in can be had for song if you buy it used online (again, check Freecycle) and they work great for hauling groceries.
If you live a long way from a grocery store, drive half way with your bike, park your car, and then bike the rest of the way. This will reduce your gas use by 50% for every trip. You can even ride your bike to work.
If biking isn’t an option, use your city’s public transportation (traveling by bus or train) to take you where you need to go. Granted, fares will likely be more expensive as gas prices go up, but it will still be cheaper than driving your car.
Whether gas hits $5 per gallon or not, most of us realize that prices will go up eventually. Demand keeps growing while the supply keeps dwindling, so skyrocketing prices is just Economics 101. It will happen sooner or later.
Anything we can do now to cut down on our gas consumption and prepare for higher prices in the future will only help us save money and avoid panic when things do get tight.
What about you? Do you have any ideas to help prepare for higher gas prices?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)