Inflation obviously involves spending challenges. Rising prices mean consumers might need to shop more carefully, pare back on purchases and still face higher bills for food, shelter, gasoline, appliances, vacations and other purchases.
With U.S. inflation now running at an annual pace of 8.6%, a four-decade high, the topic has taken on more urgency.
Most economists expect inflation – which has already hammered consumer budgets and quickly shifted spending patterns – to linger. The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded is expected to hit at least $6 this summer.
Rising inflation also can influence your borrowing, saving and even volunteering patterns. Here are some of the less-obvious ways that some people are feeling it.
Living closer to the edge
Even before this latest inflationary burst, millions of Americans were scraping by. Rising prices for gasoline, shelter, groceries and more has made it harder for people to build up a cushion for emergencies.
Many consumers said they would have trouble meeting a surprise $1,000 expense using cash on hand or in a savings or checking account, according to a new survey by Freedom Financial Network, which has a large operation in Tempe, Arizona. Only 28% of respondents said they could meet an unanticipated big expense from an emergency savings account. Other common responses included putting the expense on a credit card (32%) and borrowing from family members or friends (18%).
Other options included taking out a personal loan, selling items to raise cash, cutting costs and taking on gig jobs or other extra work. Some people cited multiple options.
Financial advisers generally recommend building an emergency fund capable of meeting three to six months of routine expenses. In an inflationary environment, socking away even more money could be wise.
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More reliance on credit cards
Many Americans seem to be altering credit card usage in response to higher inflation, partly to handle higher expenses.
Because of inflation, 32% of respondents in a recent NerdWallet survey said they have used a card within the past year or so to pay for essential purchases, but haven’t yet paid off the debt. Another 26% have relied on cards to make essential purchases between paychecks, and 25% said they have redeemed card rewards to pay for essential purchases because of inflation. About 1,600 people were polled.