On Gas, Cigarettes, Dollars and Debt (Rant)

by Bill on April 6, 2012

Convenience can erode dollars and financial stability

This morning I walked down to the nearby convenience store for the daily news. The market sells gas, so they have the current price of gas listed in big neon numbers. I noticed the price of gas finally reached over $4 per gallon today; the price was $4.04 – why they don’t just make it an even number I never know.

While in the convenience store paying for the newspaper I noticed the price of cigarettes; the cheap ones were around $4.67, not that far up from the price of gas. The name brands (Newport, Marlboro etc) are about a dollar higher.

I then came up with an odd conclusion – that at the current price increases in this country, a gallon of gas would be the same as a pack of cigarettes sometime this year. I’m thinking summer. Convenience is now catching up with habits. What I thought was funny is that soon it would cost the same to die from carbon monoxide as it would from smoking.

This got me thinking more when I got home. Americans are good for complaining. Usually its about how someone else is causing them financial pain due to raising prices – their dollars are not keeping up with what they consume. And what they consume is causing more debt. The problem is not the dollars and debt, its the convenience of having things and immediate gratification of it. Convenience stores don’t sell stuff that is good, they sell “quick and easy”. The fact that there are so many of them in any given town is the physical appearance of convenience, dollars and debt. People don’t think about the dollars, just the convenience – which drives the debt. Leading to my next point.

Convenience is not necessity. Nope. Usually something deemed as convenience is often something we can do without, or at least using a lot less of. The price of convenience is often related to the amount of underlying work or effort a person would rather not deal with. People would rather pay the $4 per gallon of gas to go buy the $5 pack of cigarettes than just quit and avoid the trip all together. That’s why stuff at convenience stores are always higher than everywhere else. That’s also why you see long lines at McDonald’s around lunchtime instead of people making lunch at home.

So meanwhile as you complain about the cost of gas, cigarettes, fast food or whatever – remember that we Americans allowed this. Convenience, debt and “quick and easy” has surpassed the amount of dollars earned for a reason.

William Swan, writer

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Jennifer @ Spend Less, Shop More April 8, 2012 at 12:04 am

I think gas is a hidden cost in many people’s budgets, especially for people who use their cars a lot. Since I started working from home, ironically, I’ve become much more aware of my gas purchases!
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Jana @ Daily Money Shot April 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm

My normal gas station also serves as a cigarette outlet. Since I pay cash for gas, I have the pleasure of standing in line, typically behind 3-5 people who are buying cigarettes not gas (though those people might use debit/credit for gas. I’ll be fair). It never ceases to amaze me how people will gladly fork over $20 or more for cigarettes but they constantly complain about the cost of gas.

I agree that the convenience factor is definitely a cause for a great deal of failing budgets. But I’m going to take it one step further and say that people would rather complain than make changes. Because that’s what’s easy.
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Charlotte@EverythingFinance April 10, 2012 at 2:02 am

Fortunately, I don’t smoke, but I do drive almost every day. Gas in Houston is cheaper than in most parts of the country. We haven’t reached $4 a gallon…yet. I’m sure I’ll be one of the ones complaining when it does.

Bill April 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Hi Charlotte!

Gas, like food, is a consumable product that is controlled by outside forces to us if we allow it. If we control how we use or obtain or control our response to those forces, they are somewhat marginalized in our lives.

Thanks for stopping by!

Bill April 16, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Hey Jennifer

That’s the one thing people always find first – the amount of money they used when they “needed” an item.

Bill April 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Jana I see this exact situation at the local mini-mart down the street from me with the cigarettes and gas. And then they complain that they can’t do without either.

I also agree that people allow themselves to be taken advantage of because they can’t see past the convenience of something.

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