Montana gas prices rose by 3 cents during the week before Christmas, putting the statewide average price of a gallon of gas at $2.99.

National prices are up to $3.23 per gallon, a jump of over two cents from the prior week. Now that the national price is picking up speed, Montana is nearly a full quarter cheaper, but is expected to follow the trend in the next week or two.

Still, even with the slight increase, Montana motorists have something to be happy about. Prices now are a full 16 cents cheaper than they were at the end of 2012 and nearly 3 cents cheaper than they were at the end of November 2013. Even better, analysts are predicting that next year's prices will be even lower.

"Motorists hitting the road for Christmas travel are cringing as gasoline prices have picked up with the best now behind us," said Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "While prices will advance, I don't expect it to last too long- January and February generally also feature relatively low gasoline prices. And while motorists aren't looking forward to the higher prices, they may take some solace in our expectation that gasoline prices in 2014 should average lower than they will after 2013 is complete. Make no mistake- gas prices will see volatility, and there will be times when motorists will experience "motion sickness" at the pump, but that shouldn't discount that Americans will be able to spend less on a yearly basis in 2014 than they did this year."