How is your family dealing with inflation? Nobody could have predicted the increase in grocery prices this year — 13.5 percent, according to the most recent update from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — and many parents are struggling to balance budgets against rising food and gas costs.
If you’re a Millennial-aged parent experiencing your first period of prolonged inflation rates, you may be wondering how long these unprecedented times will last. You might also wonder how to keep your family afloat without going into debt.
That’s why we brought in three of our favorite moms — a trio of savvy spenders whom you might remember from our post on how parents are handling spring break. Each of these mothers has her own way of balancing high costs and tight budgets, including cutting back on subscription services, putting off discretionary purchases and taking advantage of credit card rewards.
Here are the three mothers we invited to participate in our Inflation Q&A:
Keep reading to learn how they answered our questions — and how your family can save money as costs continue to rise. Their ideas include tips for grocery shopping, and making a meal plan within your food budget, and more.
Which parts of your household budget have increased due to inflation?
Burton: My monthly line item for groceries has increased greatly. A biweekly grocery trip has nearly doubled in cost for us.
Harris: My family’s grocery budget has increased substantially due to inflation. Typically, we would spend about $300 a month on groceries for my family of three, but now that doesn’t seem to go far. Our current grocery budget has increased to $500 monthly, not including one-off purchases for quick runs to the grocery store.
Gas has also risen for my family. We now have three drivers in the family. One vehicle takes premium gas, so I take advantage of my Sam’s Club membership and the cheaper gas to defray the costs. I also avoid driving at all costs.
King: Food, food, did I mention food?! Grocery costs have increased so much. Gas is pricey but I notice that more now that school is back in session and I’m driving more. I’m afraid of what property taxes are going to look like; I know they are increasing but I don’t know how much.
Which parts of your household budget have stayed the same?
Burton: Grooming and clothing are the only areas of our lives where the cost has stayed roughly the same.
Harris: My family’s normal household utilities, insurance, and clothing budgets have surprisingly stayed the same. We have become used to spending time at home since the pandemic, so we haven’t changed our daily consumption of external niceties. Spending more time at home enabled me to decrease the mileage usage on our vehicles, reducing our insurance rate. Also, because we’re at home more, we have the same clothes we brought pre-pandemic, and they still fit.
King: My utility bills are often high this time of year, so that hasn’t been surprising.
How are you dealing with high grocery prices right now?
Burton: I’ve switched to using a rewards credit card exclusively for groceries. That way, I can at least earn points or miles on these high purchases. I figured that rewards might be the only way we can afford a nice family vacation next year if the cost of groceries doesn’t go down.
Harris: We are finding more ways to get creative when it comes to cooking. Chicken is one of the most cost-effective meats, so adding in a variety of recipes helps my family not get bored with the same meals.
We have also found that a variety of beans, potatoes, and broccoli has helped stretch our budget a little further. The biggest cost saver is our garden, where we grow cabbage and collard greens. I also have a coworker who brings me vegetables from her garden when she has an overflow.
King: Eating more veggies and less meats. Shopping at grocery store chains that have certain items on sale or offer $5 off $30 coupons. Stocking up on sale items.
How else are you saving money?
Burton: We’ve made a huge shift and have reduced eating out. We normally budget a couple of hundred dollars a month for entertainment and eating out. We just can’t afford to do that anymore. We still splurge here and there, but we’ve cut back on this expense tremendously.
I’ve also gone through our monthly subscriptions to determine which streaming sites we could live without and pared down there as well. I found that all these small monthly charges really add up quickly, and that’s a way to save.
Harris: We took stock of what’s important to us right now and took a look at our outstanding bills. We bought a boat a few years ago but realized that it’s not used a lot and that we could sell it and use the funds to pay off our outstanding debt. Selling the boat will also allow us to reduce maintenance and insurance costs further, enabling us to save more.
King: I stopped using services like Uber Eats which I used to get food from my favorite restaurants that were far away, and instead chose a local establishment that has a kids’ menu. I order online and drive up myself. I’m also using credit card rewards to pay off my credit card balance.
Are you postponing big purchases or travel opportunities?
Burton: I’ve been saving up for a Peloton bike for a while. I finally have the money to buy it outright but I’m hesitant to pull the trigger. I really don’t think now is the time to splurge on such an expensive item. With the economy where it is, I can’t justify such a large purchase right now.
Harris: We are not postponing big purchases or travel opportunities. Due to the great interest rate available last year, I could buy my dream car with a less than one percent interest rate. After 20 years of waiting, I was finally able to purchase it, and I haven’t looked back since.
We’re also planning to travel to celebrate my daughter’s graduation. We booked the trip months ago, before everyone started traveling again, so we found a great rate on an all-inclusive hotel.
King: I am in local Facebook mom groups, and moms post about businesses that offer free entry for kids on a particular day of the week or month—the zoo, bowling, movies, etc. Then I plan an outing around that. This allows us to have fun, within budget.
I also have annual passes to a few family-friendly attractions that are a two-hour drive from our home, but I’ve cut back on how often we visit. We now only go once a month instead of twice a month to save on gas and wear/tear on the car.
What advice do you have for families dealing with higher-than-expected prices due to inflation?
Burton: Get very clear on where your money is going. Be sure to check your monthly subscriptions to ensure you use all the apps and streaming sites you’ve signed up for. Even if you’re not ready to pull the plug on them, it’s great to know where you can cut back if/when the time comes.
Harris: Take a look at your budget to find ways that you can cut costs. If you haven’t used your gym or car wash membership in the last six months, consider canceling it to save money. Stock up when you see a sale on frequently purchased items like toilet paper, detergent, pet food, or cleaning items. You can even find similar expendable products at The Dollar Tree for less money.
King: Find a side gig that doesn’t require you to leave your house. Freeze bread and fruit if you buy in bulk. Meal prep for a portion of your week so you won’t be tempted to eat out.
When shopping for birthday gifts for kids’ parties, find an item on sale and buy multiples of it. That way, you can give the same gift for every party.