The problem with inflation is that there is more than enough blame to be had.
Some will say it’s Joe Biden’s fault, others will blame Donald Trump, Russia, Congress or the Federal Reserve. Maybe everyone is a little right or a little wrong.
I do not know.
I grew up on a farm. And no one appreciates the dynamics of commodity prices better than a farmer. Every morning, my parents turned on WGIL and listened to the price of a bushel of corn or soybeans and a quintal of pork.
Now was not the time for the children to talk. It was something important.
But that didn’t stop me from asking boring questions. At 10, I could ask my father why the price of pork was high or low. And he was trying to explain it in language a child could understand by saying something like, “Fewer baby pigs were born six months ago and that means supply is down and prices are going up.”
Or he could explain that we had good weather for growing corn and that caused the supply of grain to increase and the price to drop.
And sometimes he might just scratch his head and say, “I don’t know why he’s doing what he’s doing.
My point? There are rarely simple solutions to complex problems like inflation.
But here are a few contenders in my book: The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates way too low for too long; Congress has been spending like crazy since the start of the pandemic; the labor market is tight and labor costs are rising; the pandemic has really disrupted supply chains and left store shelves empty and driven up the prices of what’s left; and Russia invaded Ukraine upsetting oil markets.
Inflation is a thief that robs families and impoverishes us.
So how can an individual fight inflation?
Here are some thoughts: Negotiate everything.
When I make a major purchase, I negotiate. For example, I purchased a wall mounted fireplace from Ace Hardware last week. I asked an assistant manager how much she could reduce the price. She told me that they don’t negotiate prices unless the item is damaged. After jokingly offering to hit it with a hammer, I got to talking to the store manager and he reduced the purchase price by $75.
Be pleasant but persistent.
With an inflation rate between 7% and 8%, it’s a good idea to assume that what you buy now will cost more later. So for consumables, things you’re sure to use no matter what, find the right prices and buy in bulk.
For example, I recently bought 18 bottles of Arm and Hammer detergent when I saw a good price at Menards. Or I bought a 6 pack of Colgate toothpaste at Sam’s Club when I saw a good price.
I know that no matter what the economy does, I will wash my clothes and brush my teeth. By buying now and using later, I hedge inflation. It’s like buying a bond at 7%. It’s not a flashy investment, but it is a pragmatic investment.
With labor prices escalating, now might be a good time to consider spending some money on that project you’ve been putting off. For example, I have a plumbing project that I have continually put off, but I know it will eventually come to fruition.
I received a quote from my plumber several months ago which is good for six months. I’ve seen labor rates skyrocket since then. So I gave the green light to the project at the price at which it was offered six months ago. Again, it’s like buying a bond that pays at the rate of inflation.
I’ll be the first to admit, these are not easy undertakings. This requires spending savings now in anticipation that those dollars in your bank account will be worth less if not spent.
This is not an ideal situation. But the economy offers few alternatives to stay ahead of inflation.