When Monique Cone, an Augusta, Ga.-single mother working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, realized the monthly expenses of raising her 7-year-old son were rising faster than her sanity would allow, she knew she had to give up something. “My routine on the weekends has always been driving the eighty miles to Statesboro to see my ailing grandmother,” says Cone, who also regularly travels down to Atlanta to see her father and friends.
“But with gas and food prices rising so quickly, I knew I had to cut back on travel. It was getting too expensive.”
Now, instead of making those trips weekly, she’s only going twice a month, or less.
“Less” seems to be the operative word during these days of economic uncertainty. We’re all getting less for our dollar and realizing we have to do more with less.
Blame it on that frustrating economic phenomenon called inflation—the steadily rising rate in the cost of goods and services that Americans have been experiencing, increasingly, since February. It’s making life difficult for millions, especially for those of us with lower incomes.
Prices are rising faster right now than they have in the past 40 years, since the early 1980s. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that the U.S. Consumer Price Index increased 8.6 percent in the 12 month period from May 2021 to May 2022.
“At first glance that may not sound like much,” says Fabio Torelli, founder and CEO of OneBlinc. “When people see that inflation went up 8 or 9 percent over the past year, what does that even mean? People see it on paper but don’t really feel it. But when gas used to be 5 percent of your monthly spend, and now it’s 15 percent, that’s when it becomes real.”
How much are we feeling inflation?
Inflation means just about everything we’re putting our paycheck towards—including housing, food and transportation—is slowly but steadily getting more expensive.
“Gas prices are where people are feeling it the most,” says Torelli, pointing to a recent survey of OneBlinc’s customers in which over 90 percent say that rising gas and transportation prices, specifically, have increased to the point where it’s affecting their budgets and causing them to struggle to keep up. “It’s devastating people at the pump,” he says.
Groceries came in at a close second in the survey. And the costs of medical care, recreation, household furnishings, and utilities, especially, are all going up as well. People are just not feeling those secondary expenses quite as much as gas and groceries, the survey showed.
Tips for dealing with it
For many of us who are experiencing this kind of inflation for the first time in our lifetimes, what can we do?
Many things, it turns out. Here are six specific ways OneBlinc suggests protecting ourselves and our families from the effects of the troubling trend of inflation—that doesn’t show signs of slowing anytime soon.
1. Shop your pantry Before you hit the grocery store, check your pantry first. If you look closely you may be surprised to see some canned goods, pasta and other items you’ve forgotten about but are still edible. That can save you some money in the short term.
2.Plan meals and avoid waste If you plan out your meals and make a grocery list you’ll be less likely to waste money on things you don’t really need at the grocery store. A typical family of four wastes about $1,500 in food a year, CNBC reported. Don’t let food go to waste. Plan ahead. “You have no idea how much meal planning has helped me,” says Monique Cone of Augusta. “I wish I had done this a long time ago.”
3.Experiment with meatless meals or canned meat The cost of putting food on the table is the highest it’s been in 40 years. The biggest food price hikes are in meats, with pork and beef up nearly 20 percent vs. one year ago. Maybe a meatless meal Monday is one way to experiment?
For Cone’s family, she had never considered that you could substitute fresh meats and fish for ground turkey and canned fish. “It’s one reason why obesity runs in our family,” she says. “We had bought only fresh meat for generations. It took the pandemic and inflation for us to make those changes. We’re now eating differently and seeing positive results.”
4.Be smart about filling up As gas prices keep going up and up, in part due to what’s happening in Russia and Ukraine, consider carpooling to the office. You can also sign up for fuel reward programs or use apps to find the lowest gas prices in your area. Be smart about how much you drive on a weekly basis.
5.Get creative on earning more If you have a spare room in your house or maybe an expensive tool like a lawnmower, consider renting them out. In such a crazy job market where many employers are desperate to keep talent, this may also be a good time to ask for a raise. Or if your employer allows it, work overtime.
That’s what Chikira Jones of Mirimar, Fla., who works for the Department of Homeland Security, is doing. “I consider my overtime like a second job,” says Jones, who is working 70-hour weeks, 30 of which are paid overtime. “It’s not what I’d prefer, but it’s allowing me to keep up with inflation.”
6.Delay Spending: Whether it’s a new car, a family trip, an upgraded smartphone, or even a desired item of clothing, delaying a purchase is a simple way to avoid falling into debt at a time when prices are rising.
“I used to buy gadgets, take weekend getaways and eat out at fancy restaurants a couple times a week,” says Chikira Jones. “If there’s one good thing about inflation, it’s forcing me to stay grounded, avoid frivolous things, and pay down my debt faster.
It’s helping me survive.”
NOTE: For more tips on how to spend wisely, check our other posts on social media and explore other sections of our Blog.
Unexpected things happen more often than we would like them to. That’s why OneBlinc is here to help, whether you have an emergency or just need that extra cash to go through the end of the month. We believe in people, and we understand that everyone might need money someday, somehow.