This post is part of the On the Margin blog.
Consumers aren’t apparently spending all of their gas prices savings. But they are spending it at one place: restaurants.
Gas prices have fallen below $2 a gallon in three states, and the nationwide average is $2.33 per gallon, according to AAA. A person who uses 60 gallons a month is saving $63.60 in gas spending compared to the same time a year ago — plenty to take a family out to a casual-dining restaurant.
For the year, the average family is expected to spend $550 less in gas per year, and the lowest rate in more than a decade, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Consumers have saved about $65 billion in the first half of the year.
There isn’t much evidence that consumers are spending this money, however. According to the Wall Street Journal, Americans are saving more, and total spending has not accelerated with all of this extra cash.
Consumer spending increased just 3.5 percent in July, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But consumers are spending more at restaurants: Spending at restaurants and accommodations businesses increased 8.1 percent that month.
That gap continued in August.
According to First Data, total spending grew just 0.4 percent in August. Retail spending grew just 1.2 percent, the slowest retail spending all year, and down considerably from 3.7 percent in July.
But spending was still healthy at restaurants, increasing 5.7 percent in August, according to First Data.
It’s understandable. While the lower gas prices are a boon, particularly for lower-income consumers who have been hit hard in recent years, the savings aren’t enough to justify big spending. But it might justify another night or two at the restaurant.