New Brunswick

Commute a struggle for N.B. family with monthly gas bills now over $1,000

With hiked up gas and food prices, recent daycare savings are washed out, said this rural family, struggling to make ends meet.

Recent daycare savings knocked out by high gas, food prices for Memramcook family trying to make ends meet

Amanda Dynes says she and her husband have to make some tough decisions as the price of gas soars. The couple, who commute to their jobs, say their gas costs have skyrocketed to more than $1000 per month. (Submitted by Amanda Dynes)

Every morning, Amanda Dynes drives about 40 kilometres starting at her home in Memramcook, then dropping her daughter off at daycare in Sackville, then on to her workplace in Amherst, N.S. At the end of the day she makes the same trip in reverse. Her husband heads in the opposite direction every morning to his job in Moncton.

They both are filling their gas tanks about twice a week, and with rising costs at the pump and at the grocery store, Dynes noticed the family was going over their budget every month.

"We sat down and really crunched the numbers and checked our accounts to see how much we'd been spending on gas and we are running upwards of $1,000 a month on gas right now."

New Brunswick has the second-highest inflation rate in Canada. At 7.6 per cent for April, the inflation rate has impacted gas and food prices.

High cost of housing led family to rural living

Dynes and her husband moved to New Brunswick from Ontario in 2019. When they were ready to purchase a home, they originally wanted to buy in Sackville but were "priced out" of the market. That's when they decided to look in more rural areas.

Amanda Dynes, seen here with her compact SUV, said she and her husband drive Ford vehicles since they have a family member who is a Ford mechanic and can do repairs inexpensively. (Submitted by Amanda Dynes)

Memramcook seemed like a good choice at the time, but having two vehicles now feels "quite burdensome," Dynes said.

 "I think the only way, looking at our budget, that we can really make adjustments is by selling a vehicle and finding something more affordable."

    Dynes drives a Ford compact SUV, while her husband drives a mid-size Ford sedan. She said her step-father is a Ford mechanic, so they chose vehicles they can get fixed "cheaply."

    "It's because obviously everything is so spread out here that public transportation just isn't an option for us."

    The family has already made cuts to their grocery budget. That, combined with the rising cost of food, means their "fridge is a lot emptier that it has been," she said.

    Inflation data from April says Canadians are paying 9.7 per cent more for food this year than last year.

    Dynes said her husband is looking for options to car pool but they aren't quite at the point of making those "tough decisions." 

    Grateful for reduction in daycare costs

    With their 3-year-old daughter in daycare in Sackville, Dynes is grateful for the recent daycare cost reduction, dropping from $37.50 to $19 per day for infants in small urban and rural areas.

    She'll likely be saving around $370 on daycare per month based on the fee reduction, but with a gas bill upwards of $1000, it's not having the impact she had hoped. 

    For the first time, her family — with two people working full-time jobs — hasn't been able to keep up with paying off their credit card each month.

    'Is it even worth my time to go to work?'

    Dynes has been talking to many friends and said some with lesser incomes are starting to wonder 'Is it even worth my time to go to work?'"

    "When they break down the budget it might not be worth it, and they also are people who are hesitant to leave work and go on any kind of assistance, but it's looking more and more like it might be the more appealing choice," she said.

    Gas pump inserted into car
    Gas prices have soared in recent months, with drivers now paying more than $2.10 per litre to fill up. Combined with the increased cost of food and higher interest rates, families like Amanda Dynes's are having to make cuts to their grocery budgets. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

    Dynes plans to continue her commute to Autumn House in Amherst, a women's emergency shelter, where she works with children and youth who have been impacted by domestic violence.

    "I think I'd suffer through a lot of financial hardship to make sure I could keep doing what I'm doing."

    However she has considered asking her boss to allow her to work a different schedule that wouldn't require her to commute five days a week.

    "You know, working later days some nights and then off other days. But then that would take away my time with my child," she said.

    There are no easy choices. 

     "There's some tough conversations about to be had in a lot of families I think."

     

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prapti Bamaniya is a journalist in Fredericton at CBC New Brunswick. She's completing her bachelor's of journalism at Toronto Metropolitan University. You can reach her at prapti.bamaniya@cbc.ca

    with files from Shift

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