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Fueling America

iReporters change lifestyles to dodge hefty gas bills

By Kate Taylor
CNN
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(CNN) -- As rising gas prices leave drivers with ever-heftier tabs at the pump, Americans have started looking for ways to reduce the drain on their budget. For some, transitioning away from a one-person, one-car lifestyle has proved rewarding.

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Twenty-two-year-old Janaki Purushe bought her bike, which she rides to work every day, for $100.

Janaki Purushe, a 22-year-old genetic researcher living in Rockville, Maryland, bikes just about everywhere she goes. "When I had the opportunity to finally plan my own life after I graduated college," Purushe explains, "I took into consideration where I was going to shop, where my friends live, where my boyfriend lives, and I definitely tried to plan the location of my home around where I was going."

Now, although she still has a car, Purushe bikes to work every day. It's a 10-mile round-trip commute, and she carries a change of clothes for when she gets to the office. She says she loves it. "When I'm riding my bike, I really pay attention to what's around me, and the weather's been great. I feel like I'm getting more out of my days."

Purushe also enjoys biking to the grocery store, and the bank. She admits that such convenience came at the price of living in a costlier part of town, but maintains that by not driving, she's made up for the extra expense.

"I know I'm lucky to be able to bike everywhere," she says.

The Department of Transportation said Monday it had seen the sharpest monthly drop in driving since it began keeping records. In March, Americans drove 11 billion fewer miles than in March of 2007.

When rising gas prices coincided with a baby on the way for Lucas and Naomi Smith, they knew they had to make some quick changes help keep life affordable. The first move the Smiths made was to sell one of their cars. Between insurance, gas and the depreciation of the car's value, Lucas Smith says the couple saves about $350 a month. iReport.com: Are gas prices changing your life?

Another benefit of sharing the car is that the Smiths, Herndon, Virginia, residents, now spend more time together, in the car and at home.

"We have to plan out our weeks," Smith explains, "When are you going to pick me up? What days am I going to work later? It actually facilitates conversation."

In making room in the budget for the baby, the Smiths each also gave up their cell phones and cable TV. Smith thinks the change has been nice.

"We've found that there's just such an emphasis on having things, that you don't realize there's a stress cost, the cost of maintaining those things. Although it seems like you have less convenience," he explains, "you also have less stress."

Besides a drop in stress, the money the couple has saved will allow Naomi Smith to stay home with their new baby.

If he had all the money in world Smith says the one thing he might do differently is buy a fun car. "There's something different about having a fun car than having an efficient car," he muses.

Bethany Dietz of Baltimore, Maryland, is the stay-at-home Mom of two daughters, ages 1 and 3. Dietz says her husband works 20 miles from home, so his gas tank gets first priority. "If I stay home all week with the kids," Dietz says, "so be it -- it saves us on gas."

Dietz waits until Friday, when her 3-year-old goes to school, to run all of her errands. The rest of the week, she and her daughters don't really go out.

Although she doesn't mind not driving, Dietz says, "It can get kind of hairy sometimes because my daughter's 3 years old and she likes to go out and do things. She gets a little stir crazy."

Dietz says the family's gas bill is encroaching onto the food budget. "You just have to make the choice," Dietz explains, to conserve money on gas in order to afford food.

With respect to the gas prices that show no sign of leveling, Dietz says, "I see a lot more complications in the future."

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