8 Unexpected Ways Cheaper Gas Is Boosting Your Pocketbook

One of the greatest gifts of this holiday season has been the low price of gasoline. With prices well below $3 across much of the country, drivers haven't filled their tanks for so little in years.

The basic benefit of lower gas prices is obvious: It's money that you can invest or spend elsewhere.

But there are some surprising other financial benefits as well. Here are eight unexpected ways that cheap gas is helping your wallet or pocketbook.

1. Food Could Get Cheaper

Most grocery stores ship their items via truck. So if delivery companies are paying less for gas, those savings could be passed on to consumers. The Department of Labor reports that food prices have risen a monthly average of .25% over the last 12 months. But food went up just 0.1% in October, perhaps as a result of cheaper transport costs.

2. Restaurant Stocks Are Rising in Value

People are spending less on gas, so they are likely to have more discretionary income. Thus, families are more likely to go out to eat. In fact, spending on restaurants and bars rose nearly 1% in October, according to the Department of Commerce. DineEquity, which owns IHOP and Applebee's, has been trading near its 52-week high. The same goes for Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden, Longhorn, and other popular eateries. The Dow Jones U.S. Restaurant & Bars Index rose more than 5% in November.

3. You're Spending More on Fun Instead of Just Necessities

With a little extra money in their pockets, Americans are spending more on things they enjoy doing. The U.S. Commerce Department said that in October, sales of sporting goods and items for hobbies rose 1.2% — higher than any other brick-and-mortar retail category.

4. You Can Get More Car for Your Money

If you've got a big family or a lot of stuff to haul, you may be in need of a bigger vehicle. With gas prices low, the operating cost of that bigger car may have fallen to reasonable levels. In fact, the Federal Reserve said that it has recently seen an increase in sales of SUVs and light trucks in some parts of the country. (Be smart, however. Gas prices may not be this low forever, and it always makes sense to drive the most fuel-efficient vehicle you can.)

5. Getting Clean Is Less Expensive

If you like to take a hot shower every day — and let's hope you do — you may find it will cost less to heat your water. And if the price of oil stays low, don't be surprised to see lower prices for shampoo, which has petroleum-based ingredients. Same goes for the shaving cream, toothpaste, and deodorant, and lots of other products.

6. Home Improvements Could Cost Less

Think about all the things used to construct your home that are made with petroleum. Paint is a big one, along with nylon carpeting, upholstery, caulking, plastic piping, and parts of your dishwasher and refrigerator. Even the toolbox might cost less if it is made out of plastic.

7. Your Sport or Concert Tickets May Be More Valuable

Low gas prices could allow some sport or music fans to travel farther for their next event. Organizers of upcoming college bowl games, for instance, have indicated that fans will be more likely to go on road trips to attend. Higher attendance creates ticket scarcity, which is great for those who may have tickets they are looking to sell.

8. Job Opportunities Broaden

When gas prices are high, you may not be so eager to take that sales job with customers spanning a four-state area. Similarly, you might turn down that offer for the great job in a town 50 miles away. Lower gas prices expand the number of jobs you might be willing to consider, because the cost-benefit equation shifts in your favor.

Have you noticed lower gas prices helping your budget? Tell us how in comments!

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Guest's picture

Really good points made here. I drive so seldom that I really don't pay attention to gas prices as much as I should. Back when gas was more expensive I remember asking my husband if he noticed that he cost of food was higher than usual. Now I don't feel that way.

Guest's picture

Yes we were spending $320 in gas alone just for my husband to go to work and run errands in a 1 mile radius. We stopped having fun because we didn't have extra. Our family can now travel outside of our 1 mile radius. We can live again.

Guest's picture

Job opportunities broaden? Do people really make commuting decisions based on something as volatile as gas prices? What happens when, in a year, gas increases by 50% - look for another job?

The same argument applies to refraining from buying a larger, more fuel-inefficient vehicle. Don't make long-term decisions based on short-term factors!