The price of a gallon of crude may have dropped by $16 in the past month, but for the most part, gas prices haven't followed suit. In fact, the nationwide average hit $4 per gallon just last week, or $1.10 higher than it was at this time in 2010.

But while relief at the pump feels far from fruition, Reuters reports that the worst may be behind us. Gas prices have dropped to a national average of $3.96, the first decrease in eight weeks. Diesel fuel is cheaper as well, down 4.3 cents to $4.03 per gallon.

Phil Flynn of PFGBest Research in Chicago reportedly told Reuters, "I think we've turned the corner and we should expect to see substantial price drops in the coming weeks." Flynn adds that we should see a national price of $3.50 per gallon at some point in the summer. Guy Caruso of the Center for Strategic and International Studies goes a step further, speculating that we may have already seen the peak gas price for 2011.

It's hard to believe that we're looking forward to $3.50 per gallon gasoline, but even a cut of 50 cents per gallon can be a big relief on the family budget. If, for example, you drive 15,000 miles per year and your vehicle averages 25 miles per gallon in mixed driving, a per-gallon drop of 50 cents could result in another $300 in your pocket at the end of the year.

It's still early, but we're thinking that the downward trend of oil prices means that relief at the pump is relatively close. Of course, we're not likely to pay $2.50 per gallon again anytime soon, but we'll take whatever we can get.

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