Gas costs drive Americans to cut elsewhere

Financial Security Index

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So what’s it going to be: Enjoy life a bit or drive to work?

For most Americans, the commute wins. They can’t afford both. According to Bankrate’s latest Financial Security Index and accompanying story, gas prices prodded nearly two-thirds of Americans to decelerate their spending on “nonessential” things like vacations or dining out this year.

Never mind that, for weary survivors of the Great Recession, just a little personal splurge might seem like an essential expenditure at the moment — a reward for hanging tough through the worst downturn in eight decades. Hiring may be on the rise, but much of the increased income is getting pumped into gas tanks rather than the broader economy.

There is some cause for optimism in this month’s FSI, however. For instance, Americans’ sense of job security is on an upward march. Somewhat surprisingly, those households with incomes under $50,000 are the most optimistic regarding job security.

The surprising reason why is in the following Financial Security Index slideshow. You’ll also find detailed reports about how our sense of financial security seems to be improving in areas such as debt, savings and net worth.

But the Financial Security Index also shows consumers face a long road to recovery — particularly with gasoline prices where they are.