Been wondering where a bunch of your money went this year? For the average American family, a higher percentage of the budget was spent on gas in 2011 than at any point since 1981. According to the AP, gas cost most Americans $4,155, or 8.4 percent of the median household income, in 2011. In 1981, the number was 8.8 percent. In the 2000s, a normal number was around 5.7 percent.

The culprit, as should not be a surprise, was $3.50-a-gallon gas in a sluggish economy, creating the situation where fuel cost more while people made less. Not a fun combination. Even worse, the AP notes, when Americans spend more on gas that on eating a meal out, for example, a higher percentage of the money goes overseas. Also, one economics professor calculated that 2011's high gas prices had the same effect as the economy growing 0.5 percent slower than it did. So, our inefficient cars hurt us in all sorts of ways. And there are still people who question the work being done to make our cars more efficient? Boggles the mind.

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