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Rising Gas Prices Impact Debtors in Bankruptcy

March 18, 2011

Debtors in bankruptcy are required to disclose all household income and expenses. While the debtor’s income is often relatively easy to determine through pay stubs and bank records, calculating expenses can be more elusive. When completing your bankruptcy schedules it is important to be realistic. Often changes in the economy can significantly affect your budget. The recent spike in gas prices has impacted the budgets of American families, and changes calculations within your bankruptcy case.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently determined that the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in the United States is $3.567. That is a change of almost $.78 from the same time last year. Many economists believe that the national average will climb to over $4.00 per gallon. In fact, in some states (notably California) gas is already over the $4.00 mark.

It is important to account for this increase in your family’s budget. If you drive 12,000 miles per year and your car averages 25 miles per gallon, you use 480 gallons of gas per year, or 40 gallons per month. At the national average price of $3.567 per gallon, you spend almost $143 per month on gas. That is already $31 more per month/per vehicle than a year ago. If gas prices climb to $4.00 per gallon, the additional cost to a two income, two car family will be approximately $97 per month more than last year.

Higher gas prices have also contributed to an increase in food prices. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, food prices for a family of four with school-aged children averaged $1184.50 during the month of January. That’s $26.20 per month more than the same time last year.

While not every budget increase will necessitate a change in your bankruptcy schedules, any significant change that occurs after you sign your bankruptcy schedules should be brought to the attention of your bankruptcy attorney. While only a small percentage of cases will be affected by increases to a debtor’s expenses, it is important to keep your attorney apprised of changes in your finances during your case.


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