ATLANTA — Food, rent, utilities and other essentials are all costing more on average, and it's largely due to inflation.
The consumer price index tracked inflation at 8% percent overall compared to year ago. Shoppers are particularly feeling the pinch at the store, where food is up 11-percent compared to last year according to government data. Gas is up over 25%, and electricity is up almost 16% year-over-year.
Schajuan Jones is going back to school to try and earn more money. She said told 11Alive inflation had touched every facet of her life.
“Everything is going up, including how I pay my bills," Jones said. "They’re going up. Everything has an extra fee to it. I am more cautious about how I spend money.”
Mary Jo Terry with financial firm Yrefy said budgeting is the best way to counter inflation and rising interest rates. Terry suggests listing out each expense. She said to take a look at credit cards and put a priority on paying off the ones with the highest interest rates.
“Most of us don’t have a budget," Terry said. "Most of us are not as aware as we possibly could about where our money is actually going.”
Terry encouraged people to negotiate with insurance providers and work with cable and utilities providers to get a more cost-effective rate. Finally, Terry said apps and online templates, several of which are free, can help people make sense of all the numbers.
"You’re not alone, and there are tools available," Terry said. "Finance and budgeting is a completely overwhelming subject for all of us. Take the time, do the resources, even if you do it just ten minutes a week. You’ll be surprised at what you could save.”
Terry said people might want to look at refinancing to a fixed interest rate on loans or mortgages. For those with student debt that has been frozen during the pandemic, she suggested putting some money toward loans so that it goes directly to the principle amount. Research discounts and loyal customer perks could be floating around, Terry said, and subscriptions could be hidden costs that might not be used to their full potential.
With rising housing costs, especially in Atlanta compared to other parts of the United States, people have less income to put toward other things. Terry suggested possibly refinancing the mortgage, taking the cash out and paying off other debts. She said refinancing doesn't harm credit and there may be multiple options available, so people can get a better and more competitive deal.
“You might have a little extra money for that vacation," Terry said. "You might have extra money to put toward your kid’s college. What you’ll end up is debt-free.”
Jones has noticed costs gradually increasing, but counted her blessings not having kids at home anymore. She knows she could be paying a lot more.
"I know it costs, every time you leave the house, it costs," Jones said. "So if you want to save money, stay home.”