Gas prices have increased in the Carolinas for the fifth straight week.

To blame, monitoring groups say, is a gradual decrease in gasoline stocks while demand has started to increase and crude oil prices have been fluctuating. Combined, these factors are driving up gas prices across the country.

According to AAA Carolinas, South Carolina’s $2.24 average is up 8 cents from a week ago – and 25 cents on the month.

“Motorists across the Carolinas are paying the highest prices so far in 2019,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson. “These averages are just pennies less than this time last year. We expect pump prices to continue to increase in the coming weeks, but we do not expect to see 2019’s high reach the highs of 2018.”

Still, people are feeling negative effects. They always do when gas prices go up. You might not have known just how much until GasBuddy.com’s 2019 Consumer Sentiment on Gasoline Study provided some statistical insight.

The study found the necessity, perception and price of gasoline adversely impacts Americans across all age groups and income brackets, with 86 percent of Americans depending on gasoline for their everyday lives.

Respondents categorized gasoline as a household expenditure that is more important than other major expenses, including health care and savings/emergency funds. Gas was behind only groceries, housing/rent and utilities.

When given the choice, respondents would rather receive a free fill-up than find $20 cash on the street or get their dinner bill paid for.

“Gas prices are extremely volatile and hard to predict, making it difficult to budget for. Yet it is a major necessity for millions of Americans,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “In 2018 we collectively spent $49 billion more on gasoline than 2017. People, no matter their age, gender or socioeconomic background, are not only frustrated by how much they pay but the options they have in how to pay.”

According to the study, 25 percent of respondents purchase gasoline four times per month, with an additional 20 percent purchasing gasoline more than five times a month. The leading payment method is a debit card (44 percent). Even with the rise of cash-back credit cards, only 38 percent of consumers pay for gasoline with credit, while 14 percent of Americans pay with cash.

“Not everyone qualifies for the types of credit cards that provide rewards on gas,” DeHaan said. “The fact that a majority (58 percent) of people are still paying with debit cards and cash is a sign there is a need for a payment option that addresses savings and convenience for the greater public.”

Other study findings:

• More than half of respondents (57 percent) believe gas is frustrating to budget for.

• Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say gas prices impact their ability to spend money on other items and services. This impact is especially felt by young people ages 18-24 (70 percent).

• Half of respondents say gas prices help them assess the health of the economy.

• 63 percent of respondents believe gas prices are too high, even though prices are some of the lowest since July 2017.

And what does all this mean to everyday quality of life? Well if you are looking for something to blame for a bad mood, look no more. According to the study, 40 percent of people say gas prices affect their mood.

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