BY BECKY YERAK
Chicago Tribune (TNS)
The drop in gasoline prices since 2014 will save the average U.S. household $700 in 2015, according to a new report.
So what are people doing with the money they once forked over for fuel?
Raise an eyebrow if they claim to be socking it away in savings or paying down debt, says the JPMorgan Chase Institute.
In reality, they’re probably using most of the savings from lower fuel prices to buy other goods and services, said the institute, which created samples of 25 million credit and debit card users and 1 million regular Chase customers.
A notable winner in a world of declining gas prices: the restaurant industry, says the megabank’s think tank.
“For every dollar less spent at the gas pump, individuals spent roughly 80 cents on other things,” the institute’s report said. “Almost 20 percent of the gas savings were spent at restaurants, but department stores, entertainment and electronics and appliances also saw significant gains.”
People in the South and Midwest spent more on gas and saw bigger increases in disposable income when gas prices fell relative to those on the East and West coasts, the report said.
“This boost to consumer spending could be here to stay and even strengthen with time if gas prices remain low or continue to decrease as predicted,” the institute concluded. “On the other hand, a substantial increase in gas prices might proportionately dampen consumer spend.”