Soaring gas prices tightening family budgets

The government reported Monday that gas is up another nickel in the past week, now selling for a nationwide average of $3.84 a gallon. In six states and the District of Columbia, the average price is over $4. And as Bill Whitaker reports, that's wreaking havoc on some family budgets.

LOS ANGELES - Gas prices, topping $4 a gallon in California, are forcing Dwain Griffith to make tough choices. A public school security guard, Griffith drives 60 miles most days and sees a direct correlation: gas prices go up, his purchasing power goes down.

A single dad, it hits him where it hurts most -- in his ability to give seven-year-old daughter Dallis life's little pleasures.

"It's heartbreaking," said Griffith. "I was unable to stop and get her ice cream. I had to make an excuse. 'We'll get it later.'"

It's not just her wants he can no longer afford, but also her needs.

"I used to be able to buy shoes, $25 shoes or whatever. I can't afford to do that now," said Griffith. "Try to be the man in your kid's life, he's supposed to be the hero and you are unable to do those things that you were normally able to do."

With prices rising about a penny a day last week, some 75 percent of Americans say they are now or soon will be pinching pennies. At these prices, the average American will pay about $750 more for gas this year, per car.

In Southern California, AAA reports a 13 percent jump in calls from motorists who've run out of gas.

"More people are trying to extend that gas tank a little farther. They don't want to go back to the gas station unless they have to," said AAA's Jeffrey Spring.

Up the coast in Central California, Kurt Cummerfeldt parked his Suburban and hopped on a bike, saving $200 a week on his 50 mile a day commute.

"It's a 42 gallon tank, so you do the math on that one," said Cummerfeldt. "I haven't filled it up in forever."

As for Dwain Griffith, he can't afford to completely fill his tank either. He's switched to cheaper regular grade instead of the recommended premium.

"My car is running bad now, because I'm putting in the wrong grade," said Griffith. "I hate it. I hate it."

And if prices keep rising, Griffith says he has doesn't know what other corners he can cut.

  • Bill Whitaker

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