Beating Inflation 101

I have a very good friend who drives a ridiculous pick-up truck. He’s over 30, yet tricks this thing out like he’s a teenager whose dad is Jeff Bezos and he has unlimited money to burn. It has an embarrassingly loud engine, huge wheels, and performs like a dragster as he makes his way down the highways and byways of Dallas. When it’s running, which isn’t very often, it gets eight miles per gallon, something he complains about constantly.

Last Fall he blew out the engine, largely because one of the guys he had do cheap work to soup up the engine didn’t soup up the fuel injector and he wound up needing a complete rebuild. As this was going to cost more than $4,000 and my friend is not related to Bezos, a couple of us tried to convince him that this was the perfect opportunity to rid himself of the albatross around his wallet. The inflated used car market meant he could trade it for roughly what he owed on it and start fresh with a vehicle that gets better than 8MPG. Considering gas is quickly climbing towards $5 a gallon, there were simply no cons to go with the pros of this financial decision.

Nothing doing. My friend scraped together the money to get the engine rebuilt, it took weeks to get the work done, and now, just a couple of weeks after getting is out of the shop, he’s back to driving his disabled mom’s econobox around because his hot rod truck’s engine is leaking oil and probably needs another major service.

This is an example of how not to survive inflation.

There are plenty of things beyond the control of the average person. We are largely at the mercy of the Powers That Be when it comes to gas prices and usage, as we are with the overall cost of food. We can reduce our driving to some degree and we can choose to grow a few things in a backyard garden, but most Americans are addicted to their cars and we have forgotten how to garden significantly. That does not mean we are powerless victims, doomed to the poor house because inflation is out of control.

The first way to take a bite out of inflation is to take an honest look at your spending habits. How much of your monthly budget is recreational spending (eating out, going to movies, streaming services, online shopping, etc.)? Great news! All of those things are optional. That’s why it’s called recreational spending. That 85″ TV you’ve been wanting? Meh. The 75″ is more than fine. More clothes, new shoes, more electronic devices… most of these are non-essential. In fact, just for fun let’s look at the top five sellers on the world’s top retail outlet (see: Bezos).

  • Clothing, Shoes & Jewelry.
  • Toys & Games.
  • Books.
  • Electronic Accessories & Gadgets.
  • Beauty and Personal Care.

See anything there you absolutely can’t live without if inflation threatens your home or livelihood? I’m not a clothes horse by any means, but I definitely have clothes I don’t wear often or at all. I am extremely active, so I do buy a couple of pairs of running shoes every year, but I don’t wear jewelry and I could go for quite a while without buying any more clothes. I love games and electronics, but I have more devices than I can use and tend to play older games I’ve had for a while. I am a HUGE reader, but 99% of the books I read come from the library. I borrow them, read them, and then let them store them. If it’s a book I really need to read again and mark up with my highlighter, then I go to Half Price Books and get it used. Finally, personal and beauty care products are mostly a racket. Ever wonder why the aisle for men’s personal care products is so much smaller than the multiple aisles devoted to women’s products? A guy can use the same thing to wash his hair and body but women need 15 different products for one shower?

The power of marketing.

Speaking of marketing, how about those touching commercials that encourage you to tell a licensed medical doctor what to prescribe for you? D’oh!!

There are many things we can’t control when it comes to inflation, that’s absolutely true. On the other hand, a little common sense can also help overcome the challenges presented by the rising cost of basically everything we use in our everyday lives. Skip that Starbuck’s on the way to work and get a coffee maker instead. Eat a sandwich at home instead of eating out. Give that hair and body wash a shot and see if you really need five different products for one shower. Maybe those shoes you already own can work in situations where you think you need new ones. If we can just stop our out-of-control consumerism for a little while, trust me, inflation will begin to subside.

It really isn’t rocket science.


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