By Terry Frisk
Have you noticed the uptick in prices lately? I’m sure you all have. It recently cost me over $90 to fill my vehicle with gasoline. I looked back at purchases in January and it cost less than $50 to fill the tank at that time. WOW!
The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reported overall prices increased 5.4% from June 2020 to June 2021. While fuel costs are a large portion of the increase, prices are increasing for many items. Groceries increased 2.4% over the past year, while clothing was up 4.9% and used cars were up a whopping 45.2%! As the world reopens from the pandemic, we are paying more for goods and services as demand outpaces supply. Many of us are being forced to reevaluate our budget in response to make ends meet.
Over the last 40 years, the average annual inflation rate in the U.S hovered between 1% and 3%, much lower than the average annual rate of 7% experienced in the 1970’s. For the most part, wages in recent years have kept pace with price increases. However, the recent spike in prices has made it difficult to make ends meet. How do we stay ahead of inflation? Here are some action steps you can take:
- Review your budget. Look at how price increases are affecting your budgeted spending and make necessary adjustments to compensate. If you do not have a budget, now is a good time to start. Jesus addressed budgeting in Luke 14:28 stating, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
- Shop for the best value. Many times store brand or generic products are just as good if not the same as name brand products. Name brand products spend a lot of money advertising their brand, which is built into the price of the product. Often the store brand is the same as the name brand with a different label.
- Avoid stocking up in anticipation of higher prices. While this may seem like a good idea, it results in spending a disproportionate amount of money stocking up, thereby reducing the amount of money you have for other immediate needs. I am reminded of Jesus’s statement on materialism in Matthew 6:19:“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal.” There is a greater risk of spoilage and waste when you buy more than enough to fulfill your current needs.
- Be good stewards with what you have. Carefully plan major purchases and avoid buying more than you need. Keep what you have in good working order and complete repairs and maintenance when needed. Avoid replacing items before they reach the end of their useful life. I drove my previous vehicle for 12 years and only had to complete routine maintenance. Keeping it nice reduced my desire to trade and resulted in a higher value when I did trade it.
- Use your resources efficiently. Be thinking ahead and plan how you spend your time and money. Plan your errands to minimize the amount of time and distance you spend in your vehicle. This not only saves gas and reduces the miles on your vehicle, it also saves you time for more important activities.
- Avoid using debt to accumulate possessions you cannot afford now. I’ve heard it said, “It’s going to cost more in the future, so I borrowed to buy it now.” However, this ignores the interest that would be paid on the debt. The credit monitoring service WalletHub recently reported the average interest rate on credit card debt is 14.61%, which would likely exceed any increase in the cost of the item purchased.
While many experts believe the recent inflationary trend is temporary, it is important to adjust our finances in response. You may feel helpless swimming against the tide of escalating prices. But through prayer and planning, you can overcome the financial adversity through your faith in God to provide. Take care and may God bless!
Terry Frisk is a partner in the firm B2B CFO, providing financial advisory services to small businesses. He also counsels individuals on personal financial matters through the Cathedral of the Rockies Budget Counseling ministry. He may be contacted through e-mail at [email protected].