The price of gasoline is one of the few bright spots in this down economy. As millions of Americans prepare to hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday, many are stopping to give "thanks" at an unlikely spot -- the gas pump.
Nationwide, the average price has been cut in half since peaking at $4.11 a gallon in July. The average price for regular unleaded is now $1.89 -- a drop of 18 cents in a week, according to the government's weekly report.
"Oh, my God, $1.99," one Dallas driver said, surprised to see such a reduced price at the pump. "Below $2."
On the West coast, the average gas price is $2.12 -- down 24 cents in a week. In the Midwest, gas is $1.75 on average, in the south $1.80, and on the East coast, an average of $1.95 a gallon. Gas prices have not been lower since January 2005.
"It's a blessing, especially for a lot of people who are struggling to buy groceries and take care of their kids," said Nicci Stadler, a driver from outside of Dallas. "This is going to help us a lot."
If you load up the minivan this week and head from Dallas to grandma's house in St. Louis, your roundtrip gas bill would cost an estimated $94. If you'd made that same drive for the Fourth of July, it would have cost about $205.
Four months ago, gas signs nationwide were in the range of $4; now experts are wondering how low prices can go because of decreased consumer demand.
Karen Alfest, a financial adviser, says that the average family will find themselves with about $1,500 more in their pockets per year because of the decreased cost of gas.
"This is going to help average families on an average week," she said. "They're going to notice the extra jingle in their pockets. This is definitely going to save them money and they'll be able to see it and feel it."
Pain Turns to Gain at The Pump
Stadler says that she can now afford to travel with her family this holiday -- a luxury that she had ruled out a few months ago.
"It's been a huge relief," she said. "You don't feel nearly as much pressure as when you have to plan everywhere you're going to go. And you know you don't have to be quite so strategic about everything. ... "It's been a great relief."
Alfest said, "When the markets have been so volatile, it's good to have a piece of good news to make us all feel better, just when we need it. Just when we think things are getting desperate, the economy is going downhill; it's nice to hear something positive for a while."
AAA estimates that 41 million Americans will travel the nation's highways more than 50 miles this Thanksgiving, down 1.4 percent from last year. For those who choose to travel, the road trip may be the least stressful part of the holidays.