Anyone who has paid bills, bought gas, or gone grocery shopping recently has noticed an uptick in prices. The data backs this feeling up. The Consumer Price Index measures changes in the cost of goods like housing, utilities, gasoline, food, and other typical daily expenses, and in January, the CPI reported that prices had gone up 7.5% since January 2021. Food prices were up 0.9% over December 2021, but some prices have gone up even higher. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that energy prices went up 27% during 2021, and the price of gas soared 40%. Those needing a new car are also facing higher prices. New car prices increased more than 12%, while used car prices have risen more than 40%. Overall, food prices rose 7% since January 2021, but meat, fish, egg, and poultry prices rose more than 12% compared to what they were a year ago. These price increases affect everyone, but those of us on tight budgets really feel the pinch. Incomes aren’t rising enough to offset the rise in prices of everyday necessities.
Why is this happening? COVID-19 was a shock to the global economy. Shipping delays and supply chain issues continue to be a problem. The pandemic also caused a surge in consumer demand that coincided with a labor shortage. The good news is that most experts agree that the current inflation won’t last long. As the world recovers from the pandemic, supply chain and shipping issues will resolve, and prices will begin to drop. But while that’s good to know, our wallets are still feeling the pinch now. Luckily, there are ways you can lessen the impact that inflation has on your bottom line.
A package of my favorite waffles had been priced at $4.99 for as long as I could remember. Then, they went up to $5.39. Now, they almost cost seven dollars! I’m like most people: We first notice inflation on the things we buy regularly. Already, the average American consumer spends about 9% of their income buying food. So when food prices increase, it has an immediate impact that we feel in our wallets. However, there are ways to battle rising prices.
Inflation hasn’t caused the prices of all items at the grocery stores to rise. The prices of fruits and vegetables are holding steady, for example. Grocery stores are still running sales and offering weekly specials. And there are some other ways you can save money on food.
- Eat out less often, and order less takeout. The rising costs of food are reflected in the prices restaurants are charging.
- Take up meal planning.
- Download the apps for grocery stores in your area, or check out their weekly circulars on the Internet. Planning your meals around what’s on sale helps lessen your total food cost.
- Add digital coupons to your account on grocery store apps, and look for manufacturers’ coupons on things you buy frequently.
- Try eating more plant-based meals to lessen the impact of rising meat prices on your budget.
There’s a global surge in demand for natural gas and other fuels, which is causing everyone’s heating and utility costs to go up. According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, some people have seen their heating bills rise 54% over last year. That’s a big jump for the budgets of most households. There are a few things you can do to keep the heat on, though.
- Turn down the thermostat on your hot water heater.
- Turn down the thermostat in your house as well, and impose rules about wearing sweaters indoors and using more blankets at night.
- Call your utility company and ask them what assistance they can offer you. It’s better to work something out with them before you start falling behind on bills.
- Look into federal assistance programs like the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help pay your heating bills.
- Consider a loan to help bridge the gap in your income and expenses until winter is over.
Transportation costs are rising in a variety of ways. Just like the global demand for fuel is causing a rise in utility prices, it’s also causing gasoline prices to rise dramatically. Almost everyone is feeling the pinch at the pump. Those who have the option to take public transportation or carpool should do it to save money on gas. Also, if your job offers the chance to work from home, take it: You’ll see significant savings in your gasoline expenses.
Those who need a new car are also definitely feeling the impact of inflation. Prices for new cars are up, but prices for used cars are soaring. The price of car repairs is also going up. What can you do? If you don’t absolutely need a different car right now, wait. Supply chain issues will resolve, letting supply catch up to the demand for new cars. On the flip side, if you have a car you don’t need or could do without, now is an excellent time to sell it.
Join a “Buy Nothing” Group
Social media can be an excellent place to save money. Look for “Buy Nothing” groups in your area. These groups are filled with neighbors looking to get rid of their unwanted items. The old saying that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure is true. Furniture, baby items, kid stuff, clothing, tools, and pet supplies are just some of the items regularly offered in these groups. If you can’t find a group for your area, start one!
Switch to Reusable Products
Another item at the grocery store I’ve seen rise sharply in price is paper towels! A $10 pack of paper towels now costs around $13. That’s a big price increase for something that is, in reality, a luxury item. We all need to clean up messes around the house, but you can do it without paper products. Switching from disposable paper towels to reusable replacements can save you a lot of money. You can also swap out a lot of other single-use things with reusable items.
- Cut up old towels, sheets, and worn-out clothes to make rags to take the place of paper towels. They are great for cleaning jobs. Designate a place for used rags and throw them in the wash once a week. If you don’t have anything to make into rags, buying dish towels is still cheaper in the long run than using paper towels.
- Buy glass food storage containers instead of disposable plastic bags for leftovers and meal prep.
- Buy reusable containers for toting lunches and snacks. If you have kids, label everything and make sure they understand that they need to bring back the containers every day.
Set Up a Sharing Economy
Tap into your network of friends and neighbors to set up a sharing economy and save on buying or renting pricey tools and equipment. If you have a truck, offer to take a load of trash to the dump for your neighbor in exchange for using their wood chipper to get rid of limbs from your yard. Or maybe your friend has a carpet cleaner you could borrow, while you have a paint sprayer that they could use. Most of us have specialized tools that we rarely use. Sharing them among people you trust keeps everyone from spending money unnecessarily. Consider starting a text group or private Facebook group so people can offer and ask for the things they need.