Personal finance

Inflation Is Soaring. Here's How to Navigate Higher Consumer Prices

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Across the nation, Americans are experiencing sticker shock — just in time for holiday shopping.

Consumer prices are surging, with October seeing a 6.2% jump from last year, the most since December 1990, according to the Labor Department.

People are paying more for furniture and cars, as well as in the grocery store. Meats, poultry fish and eggs increased 11.9% over the past 12 months. Gas is up almost 50% from last year.

The Federal Reserve has said the inflation is temporary and related to Covid pandemic supply issues. Yet people are worried about the impact on their wallets and their investments.

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Fully 78% of U.S. adults expect inflation to get worse over the next year and 69% say it will negatively affect their purchasing power, a survey from Allianz Life found.

Meanwhile, 72% are concerned the rising cost of living will impact their retirement plans and 70% are afraid they will be unable to afford the lifestyle they want in retirement, according to the survey, which was conducted in September with a nationally representative sample of 1,005 respondents aged 18 and older.

With no immediate end to inflation in sight, here's how to navigate those higher prices.

Prioritize your needs and wants

Think about what you really need right now, and what can wait. Budget for those needs first.

Also, see where you can cut back in your budget, which lists your income and expenses, to make up for paying more on some of those essentials, like food and energy.

Go over your credit card bills and see where you are spending money. You may find recurring charges you forgot about and realize you no longer use certain apps or don't need multiple streaming services.

You may also consider cutting down on your driving by carpooling to the office, the store or any events in your life.

Save while shopping

Consider buying items in bulk so you are not constantly spending as prices continue to climb. If you don't need that many items, look at forming a mini co-op and split the cost and items among family, friends and neighbors, suggests Jamila Souffrant, creator of financial education podcast "Journey to Launch."

To be sure, looking at unit prices is a good way to comparison shop and find deals. A unit price is essentially the cost per unit of a particular product. For instance, canned goods may be priced per ounce and paper goods may be by sheet or feet.

So while a product may seem cheaper at first, it may not be the best deal because it has fewer units than a higher-priced item. If you don't want to do the math, download a unit price calculator app onto your smartphone.

You can also save money by using coupons. Many retailers offer credit cards or reward systems that help you save money, just be sure to not incur debt while taking advantage of any perks. Browser extensions, like Capital One Shopping, Rakuten and Honey, can also help you save money when shopping online by automatically searching for coupon codes and applying them at check out.

Put 'no' in your vocabulary

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The holiday season generally means gift-buying and perhaps spending more money on entertainment.

This year, start saying "no" to some of the ways you usually spend, whether it is dinner out with friends or extravagant gifts.

Have an honest conversation with your family about alternatives, Souffrant advised.

"Do a Secret Santa or agree to not buy gifts for everyone and just pick names out of a hat," she said.

It may also be telling yourself "no" when you want to buy something that isn't necessary. Before you splurge, approach your purchase analytically before you even put it in your cart, suggests financial therapist and coach Carrie Rattle, CEO and founder of New York-based Behavioral Cents.

Ask yourself if you already have the item, how often you'll be using it and whether you have price compared, she said.

Don't get rattled

Fear over supply chain shortages may have you wanting to race to the stores and start shopping to ensure you have all the gifts you need this holiday season. That can lead to overpaying for items or buying too much.

Instead, try to keep emotions out of it.

Have one or two back-up items in mind if you can't secure your first choice. Perhaps you may also wind up giving some holiday gifts a bit late for adult friends and family who understand.

"It relieves anxiety and fear, helping you think a bit more rationally to protect your hard-earned money," Rattle said.

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