Inflation may have started to ease, but it remains well above most consumers’ comfort level, and spending has slowed considerably, recent reports show.
The core consumer price index for May was at 5.3%, while the personal consumption expenditures price index increased just 0.3% for the month when excluding food and energy.
“The bottom line is everybody is feeling squeezed,” said certified financial planner Lazetta Rainey Braxton, co-founder and co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners.
However, this is a part of the cycle, she added. And those who set aside funds in an emergency savings account, revisit their income and expenses, and even hone their job skills will be better prepared to handle any uncertainty ahead, said Braxton, who is also a member of CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council.
“Kudos to the people who said ‘I am going to prepare myself for a rainy day,’ because the rainy days are here,” she said. “The people who enjoyed the ride without planning ahead of time, those are the ones that are really feeling the squeeze.”
How to prepare for the ups and downs
Some simple budgeting tricks are a good place to start, Braxton advised.
Review each recurring expense and eliminate unnecessary services such as subscriptions or premium movie channels you rarely watch, she said.
Going forward, a good way to reduce the amount you spend is to consider some of the trade-offs, Braxton said, adding that it’s good to ask yourself questions like, “Am I really using these purchases?”
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“The key is reevaluate your income and expenses,” Braxton said, to ensure they align with your current circumstances.
Also, look for ways to increase your income: There are many opportunities to turn unwanted clothing or household goods into cash. You can consign in person or online through sites like Tradesy, Poshmark and thredUP.
Alternatively, with home prices sky high, demand for rental units is soaring and anyone with a little extra space may be able to turn a room into an income stream. For some, this could be an investment opportunity, Braxton said.
Otherwise, pick up a side gig or start a business by leveraging your skills or experience, Braxton suggested. Now nearly half, or 44%, of Americans have a side hustle amid inflation, which is a 13% jump compared with 2020, according to a survey by LendingTree.
A Google search can also help identify ways to secure a second stream of income, Braxton said. “The key is, be creative.”
“Challenge yourself, even if it’s $25 a month,” she advised. “So when life gives you circumstances for which you’re forced to pivot, you’ll have the cash on hand.”