Gas prices a concern for Americans in 2019

As the U.S. economy gains momentum and the position of consumers begins to strengthen – there is one common expense Americans are not too thrilled about budgeting for: gas prices.

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U.S. drivers spent $388 billion on gas in 2018, according to new data from GasBuddy.com, which averages about 34 million fill-ups per day.

“In 2018 we collectively spent $49 billion more on gasoline than 2017,” Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, said in a statement. “People, no matter their age, gender or socioeconomic background, are not only frustrated by how much they pay but the options they have in how to pay.”

As consumers look ahead to how prices will impact their finances in 2019, 86 percent of respondents said they depend on gas for their everyday lives. In fact, people tended to categorize it as a household expenditure more important than major payments, like health care and savings or emergency funds. Some expenses that were considered more important included groceries, housing and utilities.

Given its importance, 57 percent of people told GasBuddy they are frustrated trying to budget for gas prices. Sixty-five percent say the amount they spend on gasoline impacts their ability to spend on other items – a sentiment even more pronounced among those ages 18 to 24.

The average price of gasoline as of Wednesday morning was about $2.27 per gallon, according to AAA. In some parts of the country – like Texas and Arkansas – averages were below $2 per gallon.

The beginning of 2019 brought with it the cheapest prices since 2016.

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Despite the fact that prices are near the lowest since July 2017, 63 percent of drivers still believe they are too high. Perhaps that’s because one-in-four respondents buy gas four times a month, while one-in-five do so even more frequently.

DeHaan noted that prices are volatile and therefore notoriously difficult to predict.