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Money Culture

How Inflation Post Pandemic Is Affecting Your Wallet

It’s not your imagination: The cost of living is rising. Here’s which products have seen the biggest price leaps — and how to save on them anyway.

Susan Shain • September 8, 2021

The pandemic didn’t only affect the way we work and socialize; it also affected the way we shop and consume. And now that things are inching back toward normal, you might have noticed surging price tags on everything from cheeseburgers to Chevys.

In July, in fact, the Labor Department announced that the Consumer Price Index, a measurement of the average cost of goods and services, has risen 5.4% from a year ago — the largest increase since August 2008. 

Thanks to worker shortages and supply chain challenges, companies have been raising their prices across the board — and if you haven’t noticed the increases yet, chances are you will soon. Here are six products and services that are getting more expensive, followed by tips to help you stick to your budget anyway.  

1. Rideshare services

Ready to hop in a rideshare like the good ol’ days? Get ready for some sticker shock. 

Due to a shortage of drivers — Uber, for instance, had 22% fewer drivers in early 2021 versus early 2020 — the cost of rideshares has gone way up. We’re talking like 40% up, meaning your normal $20 route might now cost more like $28.

Chime’s money-saving tips ✅

  • Before hopping in, always check both Uber and Lyft to see which is cheaper, and to avoid arriving at your destination with a higher-than-expected bill. 
  • Facing a surge? Walk away from the high-demand zone — ie: the concert venue — and wait a little while. (This is one situation where you might save money by heading to a bar for a nightcap!)
  • If you’re a frequent rider, or a frequent patron of UberEats or GrubHub, consider signing up for Uber or Lyft’s subscription plans.

Read more: How to Save Money on Transportation By Changing Your Habits

2. Food

Talk about a whopper price increase… Over just the past few months, the cost of wholesale beef has risen 40%

It’s not just burgers, though. Citing higher costs for ingredients, transport, labor, and packaging, many big food brands (think: General Mills, Campbell’s) have been raising their wholesale prices. So, starting later this summer, you’ll probably see fatter price tags on everything from SpaghettiOs to Bisquick. Fast food chains are also charging more. 

Chime’s money-saving tips ✅

  • Get a plateful of cooking pointers and affordable recipes by downloading the free cookbook “Good and Cheap,” which was written for families on a $4/day food stamp budget. It’s also available in Spanish. 
  • Replace beef with more affordable meats, such as chicken, or embrace meatless options like black bean burgers and veggie-laden pasta sauce. 
  • Join your grocery store’s loyalty program (it’s usually free!) and download a rebate app like Ibotta

Read more: 10 Ways to Stretch Your Meals During a Financial Crisis

3. Housing

If you’ve been in the market for a new place to live, you’ve probably been discouraged by crazy competition and skyrocketing costs. Though it’s cold comfort, know you’re not alone.

Over the past year, home prices rose by 14.6% nationwide (#lumbershortage). That’s a huge deal, considering we’re talking about the biggest purchase most people will ever make. Apartments aren’t cheap, either: The national average rental cost recently surpassed pre-pandemic levels, hitting $1,200 for the first time.

Chime’s money-saving tips ✅

  • If you’re comfortable in your current residence, postpone moving until the market settles down. Try getting roommates or renting a room on Airbnb to cut your costs.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Research federal and local programs that can assist you with finding an affordable rental or purchasing a house
  • Work on improving your credit, which could help you qualify for more apartments (as well as a lower security deposit) and, eventually, a better interest rate on a mortgage.

Read more: What Steps Can You Take to Become a Homeowner?

4. Used cars

Remember that big jump in the Consumer Price Index from the intro? Well, much of that rise was due to the cost of used cars, which increased 45% over the past year.

Blame the global shortage of semiconductor chips, which has led to fewer new cars being produced — and thus a heightened demand for used cars. Other factors include fewer repossessions, trade-ins, and retired rental cars entering the market during the pandemic.

Chime’s money-saving tips ✅

  • If at all possible, wait until 2022 to buy a vehicle. The car market is expected to return to normal in the next six months to two years
  • Avoid purchasing a used pickup truck or convertible, as they’ve been subject to the biggest price leaps. Opt for a sedan, hatchback, or gas-efficient SUV instead.
  • Choose carefully. Rather than basing your decision on looks, research the best value used cars, and then expand your search radius to find a good deal. 

Read more: How to Save Money for a Car

5. Gas

The next time you fill up your tank, you might get dizzy — and not from the fumes. 

The national average gas price recently reached $3.14 per gallon. That’s up from $2.19 a year ago, mostly thanks to a combination of limited supply and record demands

Chime’s money-saving tips ✅

  • Download GasBuddy or Google Maps to find the cheapest gas prices near you, and sign up for GetUpside to earn cash back of up to 25 cents per gallon. 
  • Use your feet. Embrace gas-free ways of getting around, like walking, biking, and taking public transportation.
  • If you drive a lot, consider joining AAA. Though the membership is $58 per year, it’ll save you 5 cents per gallon at participating Shell stations — and will get you free roadside assistance when you need a jump or a tow. 

Read more: 9 Ways to Save Money on Summer Road Trips

6. Travel

Dreaming of a beach vacation? It’s gonna cost you. With pent-up demand for travel being released like a horde of cicadas, the cost of getaways has gotten away from us.

The prices of hotels, flights, and rental cars have all jumped year-over-year, and experts predict that airfares will continue to rise in the coming months because of pilot shortages, increased demand, and high fuel costs. 

Chime’s money-saving tips ✅

  • Consider flying on off-days, such as Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and track flight prices through an app like Hopper.
  • Visiting a popular destination? Search RedWeek, TripBeat, and KOALA for affordable timeshare rentals.
  • Wait until the fall. If you can, postpone your vacay until September or October, when prices should drop considerably. 

Read more: How to Prepare for Holiday Travels

How to stay on track in spite of rising prices

As you can see, many of the price increases above are due to labor shortages, which could turn into a silver lining for you. 

That’s because, for the first time in a long time, the average person may have more power in the workplace. Case in point: Amazon, McDonald’s, and Chipotle have all boosted their starting pay to try and attract workers. 

So why not view the current moment as an opportunity to start earning more? Ask your employer for a raise; if they don’t give it to you, look for other opportunities. 

The fierce competition for workers means you finally have some bargaining power on your side — bargaining power that will hopefully help you ride this inflation wave through the next year and beyond. 

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