By Whitney Sielaff

Whitney 1

I'm not a conspiracy theorist. Nor am I a whiz financier. So it's tough for me to fathom how we could go from paying nearly $5 a gallon for gas a month ago to under two bucks now. 

Our family's like many. Though I drive a put-put with 160k miles on it back and forth to work, my wife schlepps the kids from soccer to karate to school, etc., in an SUV. Fourteen miles a gallon.
Needless to say, like all the other Tony Soprano wannabes in their Suburbans out there, we got to wondering through 2008 where all the money was going. With $80-plus fill-ups, it was going up in fumes.
I just don't get it. Was it a sitting president with familial ties to the oil business helping the fat cats line their wallets? Was it a global rebalancing of energy footprints, with China, India and other developing industrial economies pressuring prices up through broadened demand? Was it owing to wars being fought in oil-producing countries? Was it natural disasters impacting production capacities? 
Who knows? Certainly not me. But what I do know is that $1.85 a gallon this weekend sure put me in much more of a holiday mood. 
And I can't imagine that it won't do so for many others. While you might argue that European motorists historically have paid multiples of what we do for gas, you just can't change a culture overnight. Americans love their cars, and our society is structured around driving. 
But what could be a more visible representation of price inflation than those rolling figures on the gas pump, scrolling ever higher right before your disbelieving eyes? And when the expense began tallying into the hundreds each week, it had to have a dampening effect on consumer confidence and spending.
So the reverse must also be true. For someone who drives 500 miles a week, like I do, gas at $5 per gallon costs $400 a month. Throw in my wife's mileage, and we're talking $500 a month as a conservative estimate. At $1.85, we reduce to $185, or a savings of $315 a month!
Now that's not going to buy me a yacht. But it will buy me some peace of mind. All of a sudden, I stop counting nickels. And when my spending patterns loosen up at the low end of the scale, it carries across into my mindset when I consider making more significant purchases.
OK, that might be some pop-psychology. But I have to feel that I can project my own feelings on this one. And ultimately, what it all means is that it's got to help out for jewelers over the holidays. 
The official holiday selling season begins in four days, right after turkey. It's a lot easier now for you to throw in a tank of gas with every diamond purchased.

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