Inflation watch: You’re on your own. Nobody is coming to save you.


One of the scariest things about our current high-inflation environment is the number of people I meet who keep on thinking (and saying) that “Somebody must do something!”  I’m not sure who that “somebody” is supposed to be (most seem to assume it’ll be the government), or what, precisely, they can do to fix things:  but an awful lot of people are bitterly complaining about current events and demanding that someone else fix their problems.

Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

It’s long gone time we faced up to reality.  “Someone else” has already caused the problems that have landed us in our present economic crisis.  We’ve written about them here often enough, and I won’t bother to repeat all those things again.  If you need a reminder, for one controversial but bluntly realistic analysis of the current mess, see Capitalist Eric’s views.  He talks about all sorts of factors around the inflation issue, but all of those factors are what gives rise to the inflation issue, so they’re all relevant.

The situation has gotten so far out of control that it’s time for all of us to get real.  Nobody, repeat, nobody has any immediate or short-term solution to the mess we’re in.  It’s going to last, not months, but years.  It’s going to be driven by economic and political factors, all of which are going to exacerbate a climate of uncertainty that’s going to affect us all, whether we like it or not.  That’s the reality – a reality we’re no longer facing;  we’re actually already in it.  It’s no good looking for help from outside.  We have to take stock of our own situation and do for ourselves whatever we can to get through this mess.

Let’s start by taking a long, hard look at where our money is coming from, and the cost of what we buy with it.

White-hot inflation has forced the average American household to cough up an extra $460 per month, as surging prices for food and fuel put family budgets across the nation under strain.

Moody’s Analytics senior economist Ryan Sweet calculated the figure based on data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed the Consumer Price Index had jumped 8.6% in the 12-month period ending May 31 – the largest increase since December 1981.

. . .

“Having inflation at 8.5% on a year-ago basis, compared with the 2.1% average growth in 2018 and 2019, is costing the average household $346.67 per month to purchase the same basket of goods and services as they did last year,” Sweet told The Post. “However, the pure cost for households for having inflation running at 8.5% is $460.42 per month.”

There’s more at the link.  Bear in mind, too, that those numbers are calculated using the official (and inaccurate) rate of inflation.  As we’ve discussed many times in these pages, the actual inflation rate is at least double that, and probably rather higher.

Has your income increased by that amount per month over the past year?  Bear in mind, we’re talking about disposable (net) income, not gross, pre-tax income.  If the latter, we’ll need to be earning $700 to $800 more per month to net, after deductions, that $460 figure.  If your income has grown to match the need, congratulations.  Most of us can’t say the same.

That means we have to take an axe to our budgets.  Far too many people are still buying all that they want, rather than what they actually need.  Even when they cut back, it’s not really a cutback at all.  Example:

Clay Watkins loves LaCroix brand sparkling water — especially the watermelon flavor.

So the suburban Chicago school teacher was excited when he spotted it on sale at his local grocery store: two packages for $8.

“I went to grab the package and I was like, ‘Wait a second,'” Watkins recalls.

He was surprised to find a package that once held 12 cans of sparkling water had been downsized to 8 — with no change in price — a common practice known as “shrinkflation.”

“I’m not a mathematician,” he says. “I teach science. But I think that’s a 33% price increase.”

(Actually, it’s even worse. The package is 33% smaller, but the remaining cans are 50% more expensive.)

Frustrated, Watkins put the LaCroix water back and fired off a tweet. Later, he bought store-brand sparkling water at Trader Joe’s for 79 cents a liter.

Again, more at the link.

My question is:  Why the heck is he buying sparkling water at all?  It’s an unnecessary luxury.  Why not make do with regular water?  In many places, tap water is just as clean and just as good-tasting as bottled, and you can run it through a soda siphon if you want it gassy.  If you want to improve the taste even further, why not install an under-sink or whole-house water filter?  It turns every drop out of your tap into purified water, the same as you buy in plastic bottles for a premium price from your supermarket.  What you save on bottled water will pay for your new filter within a few weeks or months, and from then onward you’ll save money every day.  Just save and wash and reuse your old bottles, and Bob’s your uncle.  Miss D. and I installed this whole-house water filter three years ago, costing less than $20.  A replacement filter costs us about $5, every three months.  Since buying it, our purchases of bottled water have been minimal – basically, just for road trips or picnic use.  What’s not to like?

Let me give another example from our recent experience.  We’ve had workers building and upgrading various aspects of our property for the past three months.  It’s been our practice to make sure they have cold drinks available, because if the workers are happy, they do good work.  Gatorade has proved a popular choice in the heat of a Texas summer;  but to buy 20 ounce bottles of the stuff works out at over a dollar a bottle.  By buying cans of Gatorade powder and mixing it ourselves in washed-and-sanitized Gatorade bottles, we’ve brought the cost down to less than a fifth of that;  and our workers don’t seem to have noticed (or cared about) the difference at all.

Those are just a couple of examples where savings can be realized.  There are many, many more.  You’ll have to go through your own shopping list to see what can be cut back or substituted.  Examples:

  • Do you really need to buy steel-cut oats?  Do they really taste that much better than regular (and cheaper) oats?  Not in my experience.
  • Instead of buying meal “packages”, where the ingredients for a meal are boxed up and delivered as a unit, why not buy the ingredients separately and measure them out or prepare them yourself?  It’s a whole lot cheaper cooking that way.
  • Buy lower-cost, tougher cuts of meat, and learn how to prepare them so that they become tender and tasty.  Beef stew made in a pressure cooker turns the toughest meat into melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.  It just means learning a different cooking technique.
  • Drop pretentious fruits and vegetables from your diet.  Kiwi fruit, arugula and organic produce may be tasty, but they’re also very expensive compared to more basic staple products;  and with care in cooking, and using spices and seasonings, the latter can be just as tasty.

Another factor is that we need to be willing to make hard choices about our lifestyle.  This includes where we live and how much we earn.  Let’s take housing as a core example.

In 2022, the median cost of a home in the US is now $428,000. The average American makes around $50,000 a year or less, placing them far outside the current market.

In terms of rentals, the average cost in the US has exploded to $1300 per month for people that stay anchored to a location, and $1900 per month for people that relocate. This average is of course partially pushed up by the ridiculously high prices in major coastal cities like San Francisco (up 22% year over year), Los Angeles (up 297% since January 2000) and New York (up 159% house price inflation since January 2000).

An individual today must make at least $20 an hour to afford a single bedroom apartment. Consider that over 30% of Americans are paid less than $15 an hour (before taxes).

Nearly half of the American population doesn’t make enough money to maintain a one bedroom rental. The vast majority of Americans will find it impossible to buy a home at today’s prices.

On average, an annual salary of $105,000 is recommended before taking on a mortgage for a $350,000 house. And keep in mind, as the inflation crisis accelerates the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates – which pushes up mortgage costs. So where does this leave us? It only gets worse from here.

More at the link.

Does that describe your housing situation?  It’s accurate for more than half of all Americans right now – yet most of them continue to stay where they are, slowly going bankrupt as increasing housing (and other) prices eat them alive.  WHY???  Why not move elsewhere, where your income may be lower, but the cost of living will be lower still?  In more rural parts of the country, houses are vastly cheaper than in the big cities, and still relatively freely available.  Rentals are also more reasonable.  If your housing cost is half or a third of what you were spending before, and you aren’t spending hours stuck in (and paying for) commuting hell, a lower salary may actually provide more disposable income every month than what you were earning in the big city.

Young couples and families also have more options by doing that.  I’ve watched with interest the progress of a young couple who live a few miles from my home.  They bought a rural plot of land a couple of years ago, installed electricity and a sewer connection, and moved into a small 20ft. travel trailer.  Slowly, steadily, they saved everything they could, until they could afford a relatively small (probably 400-500 square foot) utility building.  They did a lot of the work of building it themselves.  That’s become their living area;  they’re still sleeping in the trailer, out back.  They’ve paid cash for everything, have no mortgage, and are now saving to expand the utility building into a proper house in due course.  It makes me happy every time I drive past their place, to see a young couple starting out the right way and supporting each other as they build their lives together.  It’s heartwarming – and they aren’t crippled by housing costs.  Good for them!

Let’s look at transport.  I don’t need to tell anyone how bad fuel prices are . . . and they’re going to go higher.  Some are predicting $10/gallon gasoline and diesel by the end of the year.  I hope they’re wrong, but the past few months give us real cause for worry.  Some of that has been caused by deliberate policy decisions on the part of the Biden administration:  some has been affected by international pressures such as the war in Ukraine.  Expect that to get one hell of a lot worse if the burgeoning conflict between Iran and Israel “goes hot” – which it may do at any time.

We already know the Israelis been killing some of the Iranian nuclear guys.  The cameras turned off at the enrichment plant in Iran, and Israeli military is practicing for a attack on Iran.

SO what doe this mean?  Well this could very well likely open another front , and cut off the Kuwaiti, Saudi, Bahraini, UAE oil flow.  Cause no insurance company will cover the ship in a war zone or at a very high cost.

Meaning that oil will go to the moon for prices, which also means that raw  materials made from oil, like plastic, rubber etc will be scarce.  Food packaging, lubricants etc…  Not to mention fuel.

More at the link.  The author recommends investing in a bicycle for emergency local transportation.  I’ve heard worse ideas . . .

Miss D. and I are already taking a long, hard look at where and when we drive, and for what reason.  We’re consolidating individual trips into fewer, slightly extended journeys, to save gas;  and if things get really bad, we’ll park our highest-fuel-consumption vehicle and use only one.  We occasionally take long road trips to book conventions, which are important for our books and income from that source;  but we’ll be cutting back on those, too.  They may become unaffordable next year.  It’s a question of juggling priorities and demands on our resources.

I’ve discussed only a few ways of coping with inflation.  There are many more.  The biggest and most important thing is for people to:

  • ACCEPT that inflation is here to stay for the foreseeable future;
  • ACT on that knowledge, rather than wait for someone else to “do something”;
  • POSITION ourselves for the long haul, economizing wherever possible, cutting out the non-essentials, and focusing on getting as much value as possible for every cent we spend;
  • LOOK AHEAD to identify developments (particularly worsening economic conditions) as early as possible, and adjust our positions accordingly before it’s too late.

Far too many of us (including myself) are not yet doing that in all the ways we can.  It’s got to become a daily discipline.  We have to look at fiscal reality, and make the hard choices.  If we don’t . . . we won’t make it through this crisis.  It’s as simple as that.



  1. We ALL have to tighten our belts. You're right, nobody is coming to 'save' us, especially in flyover country.

  2. Two comments. Instead of bottled water, get some stainless steel water bottles and use your tap water to fill them. They are reusable, they can be stored in the refrigerator, they are sturdy, and you don't drink fine plastic particles with your water. Second, arugula is the easiest plant in the world to grow. It is a weed. Grow your own if you want to eat it.

  3. For fancy lettuce plant on your own in a bucket or window trough.
    Don't need many and plant a few seeds every week for a near
    continuous supply. FYI a pack of seeds (contains hundreds or
    more) is cheap! Backyard farming is not acres but more like
    a dozen square feet.

    Water, easy to handle reusable containers of aluminum or steel.
    The current generation of thin skinned bottle are a PITA and its expensive.

    The idea of SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, is foolish and insane.
    Credit cost are going up so spend only what you have or
    don't spend at all.

    Frugal savings and investment is a must to get to retirement
    with a paid for home and enough money on tap to pay for

    As to housing a plot of land is the hard part, a building
    is not rocket science and the whole tiny holes thing makes
    sense. Its not hard to build a 500 or so square ft home.
    I have a few garden sheds I built I could live in for cheap.
    Yet I see people going into hock for a McMansion on a
    postage stamp, why?

    Lastly as a young adult I lived though the early 70s
    Arab oil embargo where gas went from .30$ to .70$ in weeks
    but my pay didn't and that was also the problem of when
    you could actually get any gas. At that time I had a
    very economical set of wheels (low fuel consumption)
    and it helped make life easier, I still after many
    generations of wheels maintain that as the car is NOT
    an investment its a tool that wears out. A durable
    tool that is low cost to run and maintain is a
    significant savings. Gas has gone though several hikes
    and falls but each time it costs more, I expect it will
    not get better. Its easier to assume it will be worse
    and make sure the transportation is not eating ones
    lunch (cost of fuel, insurance maintenance). Never
    could figure out why a new car every 3 years is a thing.


  4. ShadowStats has inflation over 16%. You may want to consider spending some of your savings (if you have them for durable goods) If the economy collapses what happens to your job? You will probably have more time to do your own cooking. Invest in cookware that allows you to fix the things you like. Pressure cookers not only do great with meat, but canning and sterilizing what you are cooking. Don't forget recopies. Also sturdy shoes, clothes and food. Just sayin- If you've been a saver now it the time to spend. At some point your money will be worthless.

  5. Just picked up another 250 lbs of feed wheat for 110$. It will be going into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. From there into a lidded 55 gal. drum.
    I've got an old hand crank grinder (the big kind) that I picked up several years ago.
    Makes great flour and corn meal.
    The garden is in full production mode and the dehydrator does not stop. It's 24/7 with that thing. At least until it burns up.
    Just topping everyth/ing off as best as I can right now.
    Waiting for the summer riots to kick off along with Polygon Cyber attacks to shut everything down sometime in July.
    I sure hope I'm wrong.


  6. X I strongly suggest you buy and run a black light over that feed wheat.

    It's used at silos to help grade wheat-corn-soy-etc. to find unseen molds and fungus. Farmers WANT to produce Humna Grade Wheat but that has to be free of contamination that black lights find.

    When something is cheap there is often a good reason, just saying.

    And NO cooking it doesn't fix antifloxins or Kellogs would buy cheap feed wheat for the cereal.

  7. Oh, I'm under no illusion as to the wheat.
    It's "feed" grade.
    For horses, and comparatively from last year not cheap.
    Generally though most people seem to get riled up if their horse dies as opposed to grandma. Witness the last several years as an example.
    Yeah, I'm going to have to pick through it if I have to use it.
    If I have to use it though there's going to be much larger problems afoot.


  8. The idea that somebody is interested in "doing something" about inflation is based on the icorrect idea that The "Powers That Be" want to do something. TPTB actually think the economic destruction of the US is the best thing ever and is the intended outcome. They don't care if you starve to death or can't afford gas. That's fine with them. They don't even need a tax base since (they believe) they can just print money. Wake up people!

  9. Friends,

    I am old, on the other side of 70. I lived thru the Nixon and Carter years on an entry-level clerk's salary. My first job at age 16 paid $1.35 an hour before taxes. I was single and savings-minded. The economy was just a blip on my radar. I also voted Democrat. (As the saying goes, "If you're young and you don't vote Democrat, you're heartless. If you're older and don't vote Republican, you're an idiot.") For the past 45 years, I've voted Republican. I'm not an idiot.

    IMHO, this whole discussion about influencing inflation, is horse hockey. Biden most certainly needs to get his head out of his butt and open up the fossil fuel industry and take serious action (and I mean Berlin Wall kind of serious) to close the Southern border. And stamp out the leftist rioting and "peaceful protesting" before the right starts locking and loading. But that's about all that can be done. Inflation will become a Deep Recesssion, maybe even Greater Depression level. Families will be hurting in ways the entitled never imagined possible.

    Many Democrats (and quite a few uneducated others) think that FDR got the US out of the Depression with his social programs. That's fundamentally not true. WW2 got us out with massive armament production and almost 100% employment. In its simplest form, only a war made a positive difference in the economy. Let's all pray that the Ukraine horror-show doesn't spread into Europe with the Soviets upping the ante with nukes. Or that China isn't aggressive enough to actually advance on Taiwan. Personally, I think it's a given that the Israelis are going to take on Iran. When and how are the only remaining questions there.

    Not only is no one coming to save you, but what you envision barely scratches the surface of what can happen.

    BTW, the mallard ducklings living in the Tidal Basin in DC have died recently from H5N1, Avian Flu. Millions of other poultry throughout the country have been killed due to H5N1 and at least one other Avian Flu variety. There have been several under-reported outbreaks in China. It doesn't take much for this bug to mutate to infect swine and become airborne to humans. This flu is the one in 2005/2006 that prompted my getting very serious about prepping. It has the capacity to make the Spanish Flu look like a walk in the park.

    And yet they're beating drums about Monkey Pox. Mark my words, Monkey Pox will become the cause de jure to advance more masking, more vaccination campaigns, more lockdowns, more controlling the population. And they will continue to overlook H5N1. Already, the CDC is recommending people go back to wearing masks. They are reporting a shortage of smallpox vaccine which is used to treat monkey pox. Ramp up production! Vaccinate everyone! Unfortunately, the smallpox vaccine they are talking about is pretty much the same product that was used on me in my early 20s. I still have the scar – but it's not effective against a lot of the bioweapons the Chinese and Soviets have been working on, so don't get a false sense of security about it.

    Be smart, keep informed. Keep prepping however you can.

  10. I have been saying for the the last 15 years, that the coming Depression will make the last one in the 1930's look like a Boy Scout Picnic.
    Just like the Public called the 1914-1918 war, the "Great War or the War to End all Wars"? At least until 1941.
    Same now. The 1930 Depression will be called the "Little Depression".
    The one that is brewing now, will be ultimately be called the "Depression that Destroyed the United States" because that is what it will do. There will be no U.S. Depression after this one, because there will be no U.S. A series of various territories but no country that we would recognize.
    So, I am prepping as much as I can, but knowing that you can only do so much. After that, it is in the Lord's Hands.

  11. We purchased an 8 x 12 greenhouse kit on sale which we will put up before fall and extend our growing season here in the mountains of NC well into the winter. Currently looking at solar powered generators to power lighting and hopefully a heater system for it. heat mats and grow lights on shelving in our garage allows us to grow leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale and assorted micro greens all year round. We also started all our own veggie starts and had enough to supply family and neighbors with tomato & pepper plants.
    Grow it, can it, freeze it, dehydrate it and you'll not go hungry. Makes me wish I had purchased that Harvest Right freeze drier a couple years ago. Tilled up an area down by the pond and put in 10 pounds of sunchoke tubers in a place they can spread to their hearts content. Great back up food supply. We have 12 more ducks and a pair of African geese being delivered this week which are in addition to our 20 laying hens and two roosters.

    I was in a local Tractor Supply to pick up some layer pellets the other day and thought they had dropped the rice by around 10%. No actually with the 10% price drop they also went from a 50 pound bag to a 40 pound bag which equals a 15% increase. Livestock and pet food availability has been up and down in this area. Inflation, shrinkflation and out of stock items are here for the long term. Do what you need to do to prepare for the lean times ahead.

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