How is your family coping with inflation? No one could have predicted the increase in food prices this year — 13.5 percent, according to the latest update from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics — and many parents are struggling to balance budgets against rising food and gas costs.
If you’re a millennial parent experiencing your first period of prolonged inflation, you may be wondering how long these unprecedented times will last. You may also be wondering how you can keep your family afloat without going into debt.
That’s why we brought in three of our favorite moms—a trio of savvy spenders you might remember from our post on how parents handle spring break. Each of these moms 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 moms 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 meal planning within your food budget and more.
What parts of your household budget have increased due to inflation?
Burton: My monthly grocery line has increased greatly. A grocery trip every two weeks has almost doubled in cost for us.
Harris: My family̵7;s food budget has increased significantly due to inflation. Normally we would spend about $300 a month on groceries for my family of three, but now it doesn’t seem to go far. Our current grocery budget has increased to $500 per month, excluding one-time purchases for quick trips to the grocery store.
Gas has also gone up for my family. We now have three drivers in the family. A vehicle takes premium gas, so I take advantage of my Sam’s Club membership and the cheaper gas to cover the cost. I also avoid driving at all costs.
King: Food, food, did I mention food?! Grocery costs have increased so much. Gas is expensive but I notice it more now that school is back in session and I drive more. I’m afraid of what the property taxes will look like; I know they are increasing but I don’t know how much.
What parts of your household budget have remained unchanged?
Burton: Grooming and clothing are the only areas in our lives where the cost has been about the same.
Harris: My family’s normal household budgets, insurance and clothing have surprisingly remained the same. We’ve gotten 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 allowed me to reduce the mileage on our vehicles, which reduced our insurance premium. Also, since we’re home more, we have the same clothes we brought pre-pandemic, and they still fit.
King: My electric bills are often high this time of year, so this has not been surprising.
How are you dealing with high food prices right now?
Burton: I’ve switched to using a rewards credit card for groceries only. That way I can at least earn points or miles on these high end purchases. I was thinking that rewards might be the only way we can afford a nice family vacation next year if the cost of groceries doesn’t come down.
Harris: We find more ways to get creative when it comes to cooking. Chicken is one of the most cost-effective meats, so adding a variety of recipes helps my family not get bored with the same meals.
We’ve also found that a variety of beans, potatoes and broccoli have helped stretch our budget a little further. The biggest cost savings is our garden, where we grow cabbage and kale. I also have a colleague who gives me vegetables from her garden when she has a flood.
King: Eat more vegetables and less meat. Shop at chain grocery stores that have certain items on sale or offer $5 off $30 coupons. Stocking up on sale items.
How else do you save money?
Burton: We have made a big shift and have cut back on eating out. We normally budget a couple of hundred dollars a month for entertainment and outdoor seating. We simply cannot afford to do that anymore. We still splurge here and there, but we’ve cut this cost down tremendously.
I’ve also gone through our monthly subscriptions to determine which streaming sites we could live without and cut back there as well. I found that all these small monthly fees really add up quickly, and it’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 it is not being used much and we could sell it and use the funds to pay off our outstanding debt. By selling the boat, we can also further reduce maintenance and insurance costs, allowing us to save more.
King: I stopped using services like Uber Eats that I used to get food from my favorite restaurants that were far away, and instead opted for a local establishment that has a children’s menu. I order online and drive up myself. I also use credit card rewards to pay off my credit card balance.
Should you postpone major 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 this is the time to spend on such an expensive thing now. With the economy where it is, I can’t justify such a large purchase right now.
Harris: We do not postpone major purchases or travel opportunities. Because of the nice interest rate that was available last year, I was able to buy my dream car with less than one percent interest. After 20 years of waiting, I was finally able to buy it, and I haven’t looked back since.
We are 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 good price on an all inclusive hotel.
King: I’m in local Facebook mom groups and moms post about businesses that offer free admission for kids on a certain 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 within 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 and tear on the car.
What advice do you have for families who have higher than expected prices due to inflation?
Burton: Make it very clear where your money is going. Be sure to check your monthly subscriptions to make sure you’re using 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 good to know where you can cut back if/when the time comes.
Harris: Take a look at your budget to find ways to 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, laundry detergent, pet food or cleaning supplies. You can even find similar consumables 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. Prepare meals for part of the week so you are not tempted to eat out.
When shopping for birthday gifts for children’s parties, find one item on sale and buy several of it. That way, you can give the same gift for every party.