KENNEWICK -- Victoria Boozer has never filled up the tank of her Volkswagen Beetle, and it has 12,000 miles on it.
The Columbia Basin College pre-nursing student from Kennewick can afford only to pump about $10 at a time.
"I'm a college student and work full time," she explained. "I don't think I've ever been able to afford a full tank of gas."
And it got even harder last week.
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Gas prices have pop up 3 to 4 cents a gallon in the last week, according to AAA. And it could get even more costly as the Thanksgiving holiday weekend approaches.
On Monday, the average price for a gallon of regular in the Tri-Cities was $3.13, according to AAA.
Last year, a gallon went for $2.89.
Experts, like Jonathan Cogan of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, said a worldwide increase in demand for oil "in places like China" and no solid increase in production has pushed up the price of a barrel of crude. The agency is predicting the average price for crude oil this winter will be $83 a barrel. That's an increase of $5.50 compared with last year.
The price of crude oil has risen 15 percent since Labor Day because investors, worried about a weaker U.S. dollar, are buying commodities like oil instead of putting their money into the riskier stock market, according to The Associated Press.
The bad economy already has hit Mid-Columbia residents' wallets and those pumping their gas around town Monday said the higher prices will make the holidays more difficult.
Eugene Jolley is retired and was amazed at the price at the pump in Kennewick on Monday. He puts premium in his car and pointed to the 21 cent a gallon difference between unleaded and its premium cousin.
"I think I do drive a little less," said Jolley of Kennewick. "I try to anyway."
But AAA spokeswoman Cassie Devaney said gas prices usually don't go up the week of Thanksgiving.
"Last year, gas prices stayed the same the week of Thanksgiving," she said.
Terry Schwartz is counting on it. The Kennewick man drives to work in Walla Walla five days a week. He said his budget can't take any more strain.
"It's killing me," he said. "I'm living check to check as it is."
It cost Kelly Moat of Spokane 13 cents a gallon more Monday than when he last filled up. He travels around the Northwest as part of his job and said he tries to ignore the price he pays for fuel.
"This doesn't affect how much I drive 'cause this is my work," Moat said. "I wish it was a buck-50 again, but that was a long time ago.
"Hell, I bought lawnmower gas for 27 cents a gallon when I was kid -- now that was a long time ago."