Higher Gas Prices Mean Consumers Spend Less Elsewhere

By Craig Hoffman

(LOUISVILLE, May 21st, 2004, 12:05 p.m.) -- Tainted fuel causing gas gauge and other problems just adds to the frustration of surging gas prices -- prices that are forcing consumers to change spending habits. Many people are adjusting their budgets to fill their tanks. And believe it or not, when traveling, flying may actually be cheaper than driving your car. WAVE 3's Craig Hoffman reports.

"I definitely can't buy as much, I can't," said Whitney Blandford of Louisville, as she purchased items at the Dawahares Department Store in Mall St. Matthews. "Clothes, shorts and everything -- go for those 50 percent off racks. I have to watch my money."

Blandford isn't the only one. Many people are adjusting their budgets, thanks to surging gasoline prices. That includes Dani Harper of Louisville. "I have to have gas money for school, and to get home, do things. So it's kind of penny pinching a little bit."

The National Retail Federation is conducting a survey to see how rising fuel prices are hurting sales. Wal-Mart reports it's losing about $7 per customer, per week because of higher gas prices.

Dawahares store manager Bryan Moody said his store had the best Mothers's Day sales in years. But he admits skyrocketing pump prices are a concern. "At present, I think it's too short-term, I don't think the price increase has been there long enough to affect mindset. I think they're (consumers) going to be thinking about it a bit more, and if they keep going up, many shoppers will hold on to their cash and use credit cards."

It is getting more expensive to travel. People are still taking trips, but planning ahead. "Got a plane trip planned later this summer, but that's about it," said Phyllis Leibson of Louisville, as she filled up her tank at the St. Matthews Chevron Station. "I have to say: the high cost of gasoline is a consideration."

Some people plan to travel by air this summer, instead of by car. Round trip airfare purchased in advance from Louisville to Orlando is $118. Take the same trip by car, and you could spend $111; and for owners of SUVs, that same trip will cost around $176.

If you want to fly to New York City, a ticket purchased in advance goes for $178. By car, Kentucky AAA says it is $100. -- $157.96 if you drive an SUV.

But Kyle Winkler of Carson Wagonlit in Louisville reminds people to be flexible when booking air travel. "If you can, say, go during off times, say mid-week, down travel time, middle of the day, late in the evening as opposed to early evening, or morning. You can then find some good fares."

Winkler says fares can change at anytime, and that delays with airport security will add extra time to your trip.

If you're planning on taking a trip and want to estimate how your fuel will cost, visit http://www.fuelcostcalculator.com.

Online Reporter: Craig Hoffman

Online Producer: Michael Dever