Refineries are nearing the completion of their conversion to the winter blend, which is cheaper to make, Laskoski said. Some of the winter-blend savings are passed on to consumers and should be reflected in retail prices within the next few weeks, he said.

"Barring more hostilities that erupt in the Mideast, we should see the winter blend bring prices down," said Laskoski, who acknowledged that higher gas prices can be "very problematic" for consumers.

"It really takes away from a lot of discretionary spending that they might have," he said.

Isabel Sawhill, a Brookings Institution scholar who has studied the impact of gas prices on family budgets, said her research shows higher prices can cause ripple effects at all income levels.

"Even for higher-income people … because a basic necessity of life now costs more, you do have to reallocate their consumption," Sawhill said.

Lower-income people have to make harder choices about what to give up in order to pay a few dollars more each week for gasoline, Sawhill said.

"This really does cut into their budgets in a significant way," she said. "It means they have to give up something that's quite important to them — maybe buying stuff for their kids, or eating out, or going to a movie, or getting a leak in the roof fixed, or a new tire for the car. It has an impact."

Gross-Ojekwe is shopping at less expensive clothing stores and limiting her nighttime outings to once a month — BYOB reggae concerts are her go-to diversion — to help absorb the rising cost of fuel.

"I used to be a fashionista," Gross-Ojekwe said. "I have to cut back on entertainment for myself."

The one thing the upholsterer said she won't cut back on is her 10-year-old: "She does too great in school."

steve.kilar@baltsun.com

twitter.com/stevekilar

Gas prices on the rise

Average price, in dollars, of a gallon of fuel in the Mid-Atlantic region

Date8/68/138/208/279/39/109/17

Unleaded, all grades3.723.813.833.873.913.954.04

Diesel, all types3.934.004.074.134.154.184.20

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration