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Gas prices straining budgets, CNN.com readers say

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  • Higher gas, food costs making CNN.com readers change their lives
  • Some are moving, buying fuel efficient cars and traveling less
  • Others aren't sure what they'll do if prices keep going up
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(CNN) -- Rising gas prices are hitting CNN.com readers in the wallet, and many say they are staying in and scaling back spending to try to keep up.

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A Miami Beach, Florida, gas station sells regular unleaded gas for $3.49 a gallon on Wednesday.

Most readers said they were driving as little as possible, cutting back on shopping and eating out and other discretionary spending.

Travis Grim, of Dallas, Texas, said he moved so that he could be closer to work. "Now I'm in walking distance. I'm sure towns and businesses will see a surge as people leave the suburbs for relief," he wrote. Other readers said they changed jobs, or sold their homes so they could have a shorter commute.

Many readers said they traded their trucks and SUVs for more fuel efficient vehicles. Christine J., of St. Louis, Missouri, said she was also considering a swap.

"The way prices are increasing again I may have to sell my Kia Spectra (again small car) for a scooter," she said.

The following is a sampling of emails from CNN.com readers. Some have been edited for length or clarity.

James Downhour of Cartersville, Illinois
As with everyone else, I have had to cut back on entertainment, travel and food. An interesting trend that I have seen at work (I work for a pizza shop): When I started working there five years ago, no one ever ordered a medium pizza, it was always a large. Over the last 6 months to a year, however, not only have we begun to have fewer customers, but many of our customers have been forced to settle for a medium instead of the large.

At least a third to half of our orders are now for mediums. A family of four has to struggle to make a meal out of a medium pizza. What happens when the economy gets worse? Do they cut back to the small pizza (you can't feed a family of four with a small), or do they stop purchasing all together?

Jesus Cepero of Andover, New Jersey
I'm a Realtor and I'm suffering from the Real Estate disaster. How can I drive customers around to show properties with the gas prices the way they are. I'm being hit from all sides with the economic slowdown and higher prices due to the oil price increases. We need Bush out of Washington now!

Henry Warden of Mount Vernon, Ohio
My daughter is living at home and attends college about 30 miles away. The gas prices are causing her to use money allocated for tuition to buy gasoline, because she needs to spend so much more on fuel because of the rising gas prices. She drives a 2001 Ford Escort. She still has three more years to go!

Marcia Mason Reklaw, Texas
We don't take vacations, we use the most economical car and combine all errands, have parked the pickup, shop almost entirely by Internet for home delivery, do not go out for entertainment anywhere, including sports and avocations, not even to visit family, have turned the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer. We are cocooning.

Marcelina Malave of Rahway, New Jersey
Since the spike of the oil prices, I find myself more home often and spending less time enjoying myself with family and friends. I have a long commute as it is and adding more miles is more than I can afford because you need to drive everywhere in my area. It's definitely an impact on my love life since I am no longer able to see my significant other as often. Everything I do now revolves around "Can I go away for the weekend? I need to budget myself cash for gas" I don't feel it should have to be that way.

Jason Forkin of Lavonia, Georgia
As a business owner whose core business is in metro Atlanta, we travel nearly 80 miles one way. With 4 vehicles on the road it has taken it's toll. If fuel prices were near where they were a year ago, I could afford another employee. I'm unsure of what position we're going to find ourselves in a few months. Unfortunately, there are no alternatives for the type of driving we do. I'd gladly pay $40,000 for a truck that would get 50 miles to the gallon. I'm sure if the fuel prices rise much more, I'm going to have to lay off one of my employees just to reduce the amount of fuel we purchase.

Jenifer Lautenschlager of Lincoln, Nebraska
The thought of $4 a gallon definitely places a new burden on how we live. We currently have a mid-size SUV that is in great shape and we love, but only gets 17 miles to the gallon while the car I drive gets 30. This has caused us to look seriously as trading in the SUV for a much smaller and efficient car. Gas is currently $3.09 a gallon where we live, but continues to rise. We watch the gas gauge much more closely than before and try to run errands all together rather than spreading them out. Has it changed our lives? You bet, and we will never live the way we did 4 years ago.

Fred Beverage of Flagstaff, Arizona
Gas is once again over three dollars a gallon in Flagstaff. For the past four years I have commuted at least 100 miles a day round trip for work. This past six months has seen me cut back on over or aftertime work. I have found a carpool to drive with and I have seriously considered a job, for less pay, closer to home. Gas prices have also forced my family and I to cut back on trips to see family and friends. We also plan trips to the beach in California in such a way we can fill up in Arizona and then only put in enough gas to get back to the border so we do not have to pay the much higher prices in California.

Wesley Young of Huntsville, Arkansas
The gas prices have been an irritation and I have had to change some things to make my monthly "gas bill." However, with prices now fairly well guaranteed to soar again this year I am fearful. One has to go to work and in the past 2 years my cost of getting to work has nearly doubled, some things in life you can't avoid paying, rent, utilities and gas to get to work.

Yet we shouldn't have to decide if we need to eat less to be able to get to work and make a living to pay our other bills. On the flip side, I don't make a huge wage, I'm solidly middle class, but I have no idea how people making minimum wage can even survive in the current state of affairs.

It makes me angry to think that while gas goes up, oil execs report record profits and they argue they need to keep that money to make more oil. Yet they have not found a way to get more oil, make more gas, and ease prices on the gas that puts at risk those who can ill afford the extra money.

To add insult to injury, George Bush was ignorant yesterday to the fact that gas might hit $4 a gallon...like it will affect him if it goes up or down anyway!!! the biggest change perhaps is that the leaders' attitude to the middle class and below plight makes me very much more aggravated!

Blair DC of Saint Joseph, Missouri
There is no doubt that gas prices have affected every day rituals in peoples lives. Personally, I try not to drive anywhere that is not necessary. I even carpool to work. I drive an hour each way to work. I only have to drive two weeks per month which saves me about $200 a month after my daily commute (currently, gas is about 3.09 / gallon here). If I don't have to be out and about, I definitely stay in to conserve my gas money.

Daniel Berke of Tempe, Arizona
These horribly high gas prices are preventing me from seeing my family as much as I would like to. They live in Las Vegas, 300 miles away, and what use to only cost me $50 round trip, is getting closer to $100. All this while I sit and watch oil companies rake in billions of dollars a quarter, while the little guy gets his wallet trimmed more and more each week. Thanks President Bush for being on top of this issue.

AK Royal of Glen Allen, Virginia
I cannot go out to eat as much or even go to my mother's house because of how high the gas is, I have to always think about how I'm gonna put gas in my car. Being a senior in high school, I have a small part-time job and a Jeep, which empties my wallet everyday it seems.

Greg Doe of Frederick, Maryland
I sold my SUV, now work 4 miles from home, drive as little as possible and already owned a Toyota Echo. With the dollars' value being the biggest cause of the increase in fuel prices its unlikely to get any better in the next couple of years if at all. I'll have friends over or go to their house, but I no longer eat out or drive unless I need to. I'd rather save the money for rougher times and my own retirement. Come spring there will be a garden behind the house as well.

Deb Kersten of Wittenberg, Wisconsin
Gas in my area is $3.09 and rising. I have had the same job for 25 years and commute 32 miles one way from my home to work. This summer I am moving to within 3 miles of my office because I just cannot afford to drive the distance to work if I want to pay the rest of my bills. It is bad and getting worse. I can't imagine how low-income people can survive

Kevin Smith of Tishomingo, Oklahoma
My family lives in a rural area and it is 30 miles to town to go shopping. So instead of going weekly we go once a month and stock up. Also church is 20 miles away. So instead of going 3 to 4 times a week we only go Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. And we are driving more fuel efficient cars.

Susan Jackson of Sewell, New Jersey
I commute to work 80 miles round trip 5 days a week. Gas prices are putting a major strain on my family's monthly budget. Also, because of the gas prices rising, food prices like milk, etc. are rising too. Therefore our monthly food budget is through the roof too!

Christine J of St. Louis, Missouri
Gas prices are definably having an effect on my daily life. Instead of paying 20-25 dollars to fill up my vehicle I pay 30-35 (and it is a small car). I do not drive out of my way for anything, if I cannot make the stop on my way to work or home from work I usually do not make the stop.

Once I get home I do not drive my car anywhere else because of the price of gasoline. The biggest change I have made was selling my home so I can rent an apartment that is half of the distance away from my employer. The way prices are increasing again I may have to sell my Kia Spectra (again small car) for a scooter.

Bob Johnson of Houston, Texas
We unloaded two of our three SUVs for a high mileage sedan. We are driving less overall and going out less. Any extra cash is being stashed or paying down CC debt. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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