Is the Cost of Gas Stretching Your Budget?

Consumers have been spending more money on gasoline for quite a while now. In 2012, gas prices climbed to their highest levels in decades, and the price of a barrel of oil has remained stubbornly above $100. As drivers gear up for their summer travel plans, many are wondering whether there's an end in sight and what they can do about the high cost of gas.

Prices at the pump range from about $3.55 to $3.70 per gallon. That's about the same as last summer, and the prices aren't expected to change much during the season. They certainly aren't dropping.

But don't expect people to stay at home because of it.

"Gas prices are not anticipated to be a huge factor in travel plans, since those prices have been where they are for a few years," says AAA spokesman Michael Green. In fact, he said, "This past Memorial Day had the largest number of people traveling since 2005."

Commuters are also feeling the pinch as gas becomes a larger line item in the budget. Those who heat their homes with oil took it on the chin, too, as prices spiked during the long, harsh winter that much of the nation suffered through. Even truckers are feeling more pain, as diesel fuel hovers just below $4 a gallon, according to the AAA. That's higher than last year.

Drivers aren't expected to catch a break, as sometimes prices drop a little in June, but then they go right back up after July 4, which has historically been a peak demand period.

So what can you do to combat the sticker shock? Just look around for the best prices at the pump, Green says, and learn where to find them.

"Gas prices can vary greatly within a few-mile radius," he says. "When traveling, be aware that prices will be higher at stations closer to the on ramp than a few miles down the road. Take your time and shop around for the lowest price."

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