Kristin Slater: Gas prices tougher to weather for those living paycheck to paycheck

·3 min read

“We’ll have to hurry home if you’re going to be on time.” I move my shoulder to hold the phone up to my ear while I grab a small hand and start dragging to my sister’s front door. Yes, the kids want to stay and play more with their cousins, but that’s just not an option right now.

“I could take the Suburban to work if they want to stay.” My husband’s voice over the phone seems to convey the sense that this would be an acceptable idea.

“We can’t afford for you to take the Suburban to work.” I hope the panic I’m feeling at the thought of him doing that doesn’t show through in my voice. But, it’s $5 a gallon! That thing is a monster. Just driving it to the end of the driveway makes me cringe now. Drive it all the way to Holland?

Kristin Slater
Kristin Slater

Only if someone’s life is in some sort of danger.

Or we’re picking up free wood. Wood can be pretty expensive, too.

But this isn’t either of those situations.

“No, if I leave now, I can make it home in plenty of time for you to get there.” Decision made. I hang up, “Come on, we’ve got to go.”

Goodbyes are made and we head out to our cute little Kia Soul, it’s become our main vehicle in the past few months as gas prices have climbed higher and higher.

“Why can’t Daddy just take the truck to work?”

I sigh, “Because it would cost us more to get him to work.” A lot more. A 40-minute drive from our front door to his job, and that’s without the extra five to 10 minutes you spend in line trying to cross the bridge over I-96.

It’s gotten to the point where if the Suburban was our only vehicle, it would make more sense for him to take a lower-paying job in Allegan.

We would end up with the same amount of money in our pockets at the end of the week.

I frown as I pull out of my sister’s driveway and wonder how high is that breaking point for us in this car. Fortunately, I know it’s much higher. This tiny vehicle can drive from here to the bottom of Indiana on one tank, I know because we’ve actually done it. And even at these prices, I can still fill up for less than $60.

But the Suburban ... No. Just no. That’s our go-around-Allegan-vehicle-only now. Grocery store, park, the campground store near our house. But to Holland — only if we really need something big. Really, really need something.

I pass by the house after house driving from Fennville to Allegan. Fennville, Bravo, Pullman: all the small communities out here where housing is cheaper. Where the people who fill the factories and service jobs of Holland live because we can’t afford to live near the city itself anymore.

I notice a lot of trucks sitting in driveways. A lot of rusty Suburbans, F-150s, Rams. A vehicle like this is essential out here in the winter, when there are days when the only way to make it to work is to plow your own road because the county won’t get to you until well after lunch.

A lot of big, heavy trucks out here. A lot of other people wondering the same thing I am right now: Exactly when does it make more sense to take a lower-paying job somewhere closer to home? How high can gas prices go before you end up with more money in your pocket working for less but driving less, too? Where is that breaking point? And, more importantly, how long do we have before gas prices get there?

— Community Columnist Kristin Slater is an Allegan County resident. Contact her at kristinslater@yahoo.com

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Kristin Slater: Gas prices tougher to weather for those living paycheck to paycheck