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More than 8% of income spent on gas

How much has it cost to fill your gas tank this year? The average American family will spend a record $4,155.

By Giselle Smith Dec 20, 2011 4:00PM

Today's news is filled with reports of gas prices falling, just in time for the holidays. The national average price is $3.213 per gallon -- compared with $3.359 a month ago and $2.981 on the same day last year, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.


But don't celebrate just yet. Americans have spent more money at the gas pump this year than ever before. In fact, when all of the year's holiday travel is completed, the average American household will have spent a record $4,155 on gasoline, according to the Oil Price Information Service. Post continues below.

That number is based on a total U.S. gas bill of a little more than $481 billion, which is more than in any past year (including 2008, when the national average price of gas spiked at $4.11, according to AAA). It also represents a staggering 8.4% of the average family's income, which is the greatest percentage since 1981, The Associated Press reported.


With the country sliding into recession and the Middle East in turmoil in 1981, American families spent an average 8.8% of their budget filling their gas tanks. Over the past decade, the average has been 5.7%, AP said.

Though prices were higher in 2008, total spending that year was lower -- just $448 billion. That's because this year's prices stayed elevated for a longer period of time, unlike in 2008, when prices collapsed in the fourth quarter, according to

And though we're trying harder than ever to use less gas -- driving more fuel-efficient cars and carpooling, among other things -- slow economic growth, high unemployment and stalled incomes mean a higher portion of family budgets is being spent on gas.


If you're like me, you're probably thinking about what else you could have done with $4,155 this year. A vacation, perhaps. It also could have made a dent in the cost of an electric or hybrid car, which start at about $30,000.

What are you doing to save money on gas? Do you think you can save more next year?


More on MSN Money:

Dec 20, 2011 7:49PM

4 years ago when gas wass $4 a gallon, I saw the writing on the wall. I bought a 1999 Ford Ranger EV. I drive it  every day. Those very few times I needed to go father than the truck goes, I took a taxi. I never have regretted buying an Electric Vehicle.


Dec 23, 2011 5:56PM
Gd8872 wrote :
It wont be long before Obama will give gas cards to the lazy....oops I mean less fortunate
They don't need him, they are taking it away by force,
  • taking advantage of loop-holes intentionally made for the REPUBLICAN-OBSTRUCTIONISTS.
  • Defunding our national agencies, etc, etc.
What's going on MSN.??? My screen show 2 comments total, but Gd88 have 15 thumps up and 6 thumps down. Is that cheating or is that fixed ? ? 
Dec 24, 2011 10:54AM
wow figured it out even though i only spend 100/month on gas still almost 10% of my income.
Dec 24, 2011 2:58AM
How many of those people are spending money putting gas into cars that they drive distances they could easily walk or bike? For the cost of 2-3 tanks of gas, many families could invest into a vehicle that could shave a third or more off their gas bill for next year. I of course am talking about a bicycle, and using it to transport themselves to points within their immediate vicinity. Many could easily replace at least a quarter of their driving with biking without suffering any adverse effects on quality of life. It really is a shame that people are so addicted to gas that they will continue to make an unnecessary hardship on themselves just so that they can drive.
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