MIAMI (CBS4) – Miguel Rodriguez, who works in sales, couldn’t find gas for much less than about $3.99 a gallon on President’s Day.

“It’s not easy, $4 a gallon is very difficult to work with,” Rodriguez told CBS4’s Chief Consumer reporter Al Sunshine.

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While South Florida’s official average is still under the four dollar a gallon mark, more and more drivers are feeling the effects of more than a month’s worth of rising gas prices. The latest American Automobile Association (AAA) shows unleaded regular averaging $3.89 a gallon in Miami-Dade; up 41-cents the past month.

What about Broward?

It’s up 42-cents at $3.87 a gallon.

Statewide, gas prices are averaging around $3.79 a gallon or six cents more than the national average of $3.73.

So why have prices risen in the last few weeks?

AAA said it was the “perfect storm” of weather and Wall Street.

Winter blizzards up north boosted demand for heating oil. Meanwhile, Wall Street prices hit new highs for the year which fueled speculators to buy more oil futures and boost wholesale oil prices.

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With paychecks and new hiring stalled around South Florida, and across the country, people are feeling the pinch of figuring where to cut spending to afford higher gas prices.

“It changes our budgets and limits outings maybe with the family. It changes the amount of times we travel. We try to keep it to the minimum as possible,” said Doral resident Santiago Quinn.

Yaleska Martinez, who lives in West Miami-Dade, said her budget cuts may have to include all extra spending.

“Where do I have to cut back? Well the things I like, going shopping and all of that, I am going to have to cut back,” said Martinez.

Since consumer spending plays a major role in the economy, higher gas prices could trigger more bad news for local businesses struggling to keep current workers and wondering if it’s time to add any new ones.

So when might we see prices come back down again?

As long as we see a bull market on Wall Street, investors will continue buying oil futures.
That could keep wholesale prices high.

Hopefully the worst winter weather may be behind us.

But Spring Break is just around the corner and gas prices are still higher than normal as drivers start hitting the roads for the holidays.

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