If rising costs at the gas pump and in the grocery store have you feeling stressed out, you aren’t alone. Price jumps caused by inflation have left many people feeling strapped for cash, and recent reports show the problem is the worst it’s been in decades.
Bloomberg Economics predicts the average American household can expect to spend an additional $433 per month, or $5,200 over the course of this year, covering their basic expenses. The report says “excess savings built up over the pandemic, and increases in wages, will cushion those costs,” but people on social media are pointing out that relying on an extra $5,200 in savings is a luxury many families don’t have.
“Half of the people in my hometown of Cleveland make less than $20k per year,” one person writes. “Break down the math for me, because I’m not seeing where the money is going to come from.”
“That $5,200 you hadn’t planned on spending this year… change of plans. Break your piggy bank. Collect cans. Get a 2nd job,” another person adds. “When many live check to check, I can only presume ‘Budget $5,200 more this year’ refers to those who won’t actually suffer.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the consumer price index increased 1.2% during the month of March 2022 and 8.5% overall when compared to the same time last year. The increase has impacted the costs of everything from food and energy to household items and travel, though not all consumer products have been impacted equally.
Here is the 12-month percentage increase in price index for some commonly purchased items:
- Gasoline: 48%
- Used vehicles: 35.5%
- Meats, poultry, fish and eggs: 13.7%
- Household cleaning products: 8.7%
- Fruits and vegetables: 8.5%
- Dairy products: 7%
- Food away from home: 6.9%
- Apparel: 6.8%
- Day care and preschool: 3.6%
On social media, people are sharing the real impact of these percentage increases on their budgets and regular expenses. “Just cost $75 to fill the tank and $425 for groceries. $500 in one evening for basics of living. This isn’t sustainable,” one person writes on Twitter.
“A family pack of plain chicken breasts at Meijer that often is between $9-12 was $19.00 yesterday,” another person adds. “All the good job reports in the world cannot undo in-person sticker shock.”
“Good Morning America” reports that a number of Americans are attempting to cut back on costs for household essentials, like toothpaste and diapers, by switching to generic brands or purchasing smaller amounts, but individual cutbacks may not be enough to combat rising costs long term.
Despite salary increases during the pandemic, inflation-adjusted wage growth was negative for most U.S. workers last year, meaning the average consumer didn’t actually earn more money. Housing costs have also continued to soar. The shelter index rose 5% over the last 12 months, which represents the largest 12-month increase since May 1991, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Making matters worse, pandemic-driven safety nets for families, like stimulus checks and monthly Child Tax Credit (CTC) payments, have come to an end. A report by the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy found that child poverty surged by nearly 5% following the end of the expanded CTC payments, with Black and Latino children accounting for the largest share of the increase.
President Biden announced this week that he’s working to combat high gas prices by authorizing the release of one million barrels of oil per day for the next six months from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The Federal Reserve has also kicked off a series of interest rate increases aimed at lowering inflation. Efforts to help may be underway, but it’s not clear yet when Americans can expect to finally feel it.