I’ve been driving for myself since I was in first year college, but it was only when I started working that I took notice of gas prices — that was when I started paying for my own. Then I could still recall gas priced at the high 20’s and low 30’s. At the beginning of the week, I’d gas up P500 and it would last my daily commute from Parañaque to Ortigas with still some left over for a Saturday trip. Fast forward to now.
By the time school ended last March, gas was priced at P40 to P42 a liter. My car, a 1997 Honda City, is fairly fuel efficient. It can give me 10 to 12 kilometers per liter. A one-way trip from my house in Parañaque to Philippine Science High School in Diliman, QC is 21 kilometers. So on average, I use up 2 liters of gas one way. Thus, the round trip is 42 kilometers and 4 liters.
To calculate how much fuel I used up every week, simply multiply 4 liters by 4 days (I just use that specific car four times a week; it’s number coded on Tuesday) and that would yield 16 liters. Therefore, calculating at P42/liter, I used to spend P672 or P700 a week just on fuel. Multiply that by the weeks in a month, P700 x 4 = P2800, and that is already a hefty percentage (not telling, but you may guess) of this teacher’s salary.
When school starts this June, we will be lucky if it stays at its new base of P50/liter. So how much would I have to spend now? About P800 a week or P3200 a month. By the end of the school year, I anticipate it to settle at P1000 a week and P4000 a month if we’re lucky.
(As an aside, we government employees are getting a 10% increase. Will that help? Maybe. With the rise in gas prices, I’ll be spending 8% more of my existing salary just on gas. However it isn’t just gas that’s getting more expensive.)
That rise is very large, especially for one with a meager salary such as I. I can imagine that it is bigger for those who are even more meager. Lately, I’ve been taking public transportation more. I have been doing so whenever I had to go to Pisay this summer, and did so when I met up with my college friends at Trinoma (about 23 kilometers away) last weekend. I plan to commute this coming school year (won’t cost me more than P340 a week), but the only thing stopping me is the fact that I bring so much stuff, particularly my laptop and books, whenever I travel. I’ll probably be more judicious about this then, and bring the things I need only when I need them, and strike a balance between using the car and not. I may give myself a budget — gas up the car only with P500 a week — then commute on most days to maximize whatever kilometers that much gas gives me.
But of course I’m not just cutting down there. Food is getting more expensive (and if it is not then its quality is getting poorer) and so I have to be more judicious too. Thankfully, I just started a new diet and so I hope that helps me cut down both my weight and expenses. I haven’t bought new music CDs in ages (if you noticed, a lot of music stores are closing) and I don’t splurge on books and comics as I used to (Confession: I still do splurge but I’m helping myself kick the habit more forcefully now. Oddly, those things are getting cheaper.).
I was about to write a political and economic summary of why gas prices are why they are and how that affects ordinary people. Then I realized that when it comes to that, I am ‘ordinary people’. I felt that being all academic will only mask what I truly want to say. This time, it’s not about what I took out from reading a book but about what I can no longer take out from my wallet.