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Canadians adjusting budgets, cutting costs elsewhere amid rising gas prices

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With gas prices reaching record highs, some Canadians say they are adjusting their budgets and cutting spending elsewhere, such as on groceries or travel plans, to offset rising costs at the pumps.

Russia's war in Ukraine has pushed gas prices to record levels as countries impose sanctions on Russian oil. The average gas price in Canada climbed to $1.87 per litre on Thursday, up from $1.66 per litre last week, according to the gas price tracking website GasBuddy.com.

While prices dropped Friday by up to 15 cents per litre in the Greater Toronto Area, Montreal and Vancouver, some experts warn it could be a while before Canadians see any sustained relief at the pumps.

With these rising costs, Canadians are looking to cut corners in order to save a buck, whether it be taking a walk or bike ride instead of a drive for errands, or keeping trips to a minimum altogether.

CTVNews.ca asked Canadians to share how increased gas prices are impacting them and their wallets. The responses were emailed to CTVNews.ca and have not all been independently verified.

Among the responses from people across the country, many expressed concerns about being able to afford groceries or be able to get to work amid rising gas costs.

James Sabean, who works as information technology technician, said he commutes 45 minutes to his job in Windsor, Ont., but started driving at a speed of 90 km/h on the highway when gas prices spiked to save on fuel consumption.

In addition, Sabean said he will walk more to get his groceries and run errands, rather than taking his car.

"When I get home from work, I try not to go out in my car unless it’s necessary," he said.

Thomas Bateman, of Penobsquis, N.B., said he can no longer afford to drive to work and has been staying at his brother's house which is closer to his job, while Frank Berard, who is in Alberta, said his family now crams all their errands into one weekly trip so they are not taking the car out multiple times a week.

Stephanie D’Aloisio, who lives in Toronto, said the rise in gas prices has her looking into selling her large SUV and buying a smaller vehicle, which would help her family save approximately $1,000 to $1,500 a year, she says. While she would like to switch to an electric or hybrid vehicle, she said they aren't affordable for her family at this time.

"As much as we cut in other areas and limit our driving, it’s not enough to keep up with the rise in the cost of living," D’Aloisio.

According to data from Statistics Canada, the price of gas in Toronto cost about $1.24 per litre in March 2021, which is roughly 50 cents less per litre than average prices in the city during the same month this year.

Kent Brown, who lives in Winnipeg, said he and his fiancée have had to add an extra $50 each to their monthly budget for gas to accommodate the rising prices.

Brown said they have three children, all in different schools, so limiting their driving is not an option.

"The amount of driving each day for our family just cannot be reduced and therefore, our cost can only go up with the prices which is now cutting in to our already extremely tight budget," Brown said.

For Winnipeg, StatCan data shows the price of gas has increased between 50 and 60 cents per litre since this time last year.

LIMITING SOCIAL OUTINGS

Ian Howard, who lives in southern Ontario, said he walks to work now instead of driving when he can, to help alleviate the pain he's feeling at the pumps.

If gas prices remain high for an extended period of time, Howard said his family will likely have to start limiting social outings in their vehicle.

"While some of us have the luxury of public transit, not every community does and having a car then becomes essential," Howard said.

While he acknowledges that his current financial situation will help him "weather the storm," Howard said not all other Canadians are in the same position.

"There are lots of Canadians in the low to middle class that will feel this hit each time," he said.

As a senior on fixed income, Louise Allison says she has no means to gain extra income to cover the elevated prices of gas, and other expenses.

Allison, who lives in Okotoks, Alta., said one of the few activities seniors in the province could safely do during the pandemic was "go for a drive out into countryside and enjoy the beautiful scenery in our part of Alberta."

Now, she says, rising gas prices have taken that away.

"We do not have the option of walking or biking," Allison said. "The inflated prices at the gas pumps are hitting everyone and greatly restricting our mobility."

She urged governments to step in and help those drivers and consumers facing high energy prices before the rising cost of living takes a mental toll on Canadians.

"The effects of this increase in the price of gas will have a huge impact on our social lives, not to mention our emotional and mental health, which in turn then will affect our physical health," she said.

Brian Thiffault, who lives outside the northern city limits of Calgary, told CTVNews.ca his family stays home during most of their free time now due to rising gas prices.

"We live by Cross Iron Mills Mall and almost any trip is at least an hour round trip. So we can't really go anywhere for the foreseeable future together as a family," Thiffault said.

StatCan reports the price of gas in Calgary in March 2021 was $1.17 per litre. As of Friday, according to GasWizard.ca, it's up to $1.77 per litre.

Thiffault said the pinch at the pumps comes as families are already struggling to deal with rising food costs and unaffordable housing. He added that the expenses have started taking a toll on his family's well-being.

"[It's] not only affecting us financially, but mentally and emotionally as well," Thiffault said. "We work so hard just to get by. But now, everything is weighing on us and with this last financial knockout with gas, I really don't know what we are going to do in the near future."

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