Five ways Americans are coping with $4 a gallon gas prices

While Americans are paying an average of $3.51 per gallon to fill up their gas tanks, the average is far higher – $3.90 – in California. Here are five portraits of how Californians are coping with $4 a gallon gas prices.

2. The latte maven

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    A gas station in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday.
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Tobi Dobie is a real-estate agent who drives about 100 to 200 miles per week, and she knows the details of her Nissan Xterra's fuel efficiency intimately.

She needs only one tank a week because she gets 20 m.p.g. on highway and 17 on the streets, but “I can push it to 23 m.p.g. on the highway if I really pay attention,” she says.

She doesn’t spend time online searching for the cheapest stations, preferring instead to rely on Costco, where the savings are regularly pennies per gallon. But cheap gas has been a topic of conversation. Costco, she says, is “the cheapest I and all my friends know of.”

She figures she is paying about $5 more a week for gas, and she's looking for ways to make a tradeoff. “So far that’s four lattes a month,” she says laughing.

Then she gets serious with two tips: “One, I always fill it three-quarters just in case I find a cheaper station somewhere. Two, If you go to ARCO, then be sure to carry cash to save you the charge they take for using your debit card."

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