Price Squeeze: Part I

By Michael Stafford
Newswest 9

PERMIAN BASIN - Those higher oil and gas prices really are a mixed blessing for the Basin.

It's great for our overall economy.  We're creating lots of new jobs and new businesses are popping up everywhere.

Ironically, many middle and low income families are really starting to feel the price sqeeze because higher oil means an increase in price for many other products.  And as we found out some people are taking charge of their finances in a number of ways.

It's not hard to notice those gas prices just keep climbing. 

Three dollars and 40 to 60 cents for regular unleaded.  Hold onto your wallet, because some economists think oil could hit between 120 and 180 or even 200 dollars a barrel in the months and years ahead. 

Some families say they've started carpooling or plan to downsize to a smaller vehicle.  Perhaps they'll drive the speed limit or perform gas saving maintenance on their cars.  Still others say they'll temporarily curb their lifestyle.  

"I live on the west side of town, and it takes more money to get back and forth and it looks like everytime I turn around the prices go up.  I'm also staying home more often," Jessica Aguilar, said. 

"The gas is way too high, and we can't afford the gas anymore, and we're not going to buy that new vehicle now," shopper Brenda Gudino, said.

If you have summer vacation plans get ready for higher airfares.  Most airlines are struggling with soaring prices.  Some major airlines have merged or even gone out of business. 

And consider those trucking companies that deliver goods nationwide.  Their higher fuel bills are ultimately passed onto you in stores.  Case in point, milk, eggs, bread and most of your regular products are up from 10 to 30 percent in most cases. 

Just this week, some economists say food inflation could double.  Some shoppers like at H.E.B. in Odessa choose the private label or generic brand products to cut corners.  Many smart shoppers also have been taking advantage of coupons to help with their budgets.  Speaking of budgets, Brian and Amy Cook of Midland spend lots of time with their calculator, keeping a close tab on their bottom line. 

"I've already spent 100 dollars on gas this week.  I use to spend only 30 percent of that.  First we paid off our debt last year.  Now, we've freed up about a thousand or two thousand dollars a month," Brian Cook, said. 

"I've done a few things like watching prices at the store, planning meals carefully and I've started working one day a week at the church," Amy Cook added.

Brian owns a lawn care business, and says gas has hit them hard.  They have three kids and Amy took a part time job to help.  Their discipline and making smart financial goals have helped them wipe out about $30,000 in debt. "It's a great feeling to be free and now all we owe on is our house.  That's a great sense of freedom," Cook said. 

Be sure to tune in to NewsWest 9 @ 10p.m on Thursday Night for Part II of this story.