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Inflation Blues: Local family budgets in crisis

Gem City Market Entrance
Susan Byrnes
/
WYSO
Yetunde Rodriguez's designs appear on the exterior and interior walls of Gem City Market.

For most Americans, their pay checks are not keeping pace with the current inflation. As a result, many are making some hard choices to help them navigate these murky economic times.

By the numbers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in June the national inflation rate rose to 9.1%, up from 8.58% in May. This is putting a strain on some family budgets, especially at the grocery story.

Genevieve Harvey is an elementary school teacher. She enjoys shopping at Gem City Market on the corner of Salem and Superior avenues in Dayton.

“All over, prices are higher,” Harvey explained. “Now I think twice about what I’m eating and the amount because it’s affecting our monthly budget.”

Higher food prices motivate Harvey to buy more generic items and search for sales. She says she’s cooking more instead of buying pre-made meals. According to Harvey, the greatest loss is desert.

“I'm not buying any frozen like ice cream and stuff like that,” she frowned. “That's definitely a splurge.”

Gem City Market is community owned. It opened in May 2021 as a resource to help reduce the food desert in West Dayton. Dennis Hanley is the general manager.

“There’s no supermarkets close to this store,” Hanley explained. “We’re trying to take care of the community by providing fresh products, healthy products at a good price.”

But the pandemic and now inflation are making that hard.

“I would say we have seen probably a 10% to 15% increase on products,” Hanley reviewed a report. “As for utilities and expenses, we've seen about a 40% to 45% increase. And that's within the last 60 days.”

That increase means Hanley’s utility bill has jumped from a monthly average of about 800 dollars to nearly two thousand dollars.

Community reaction

Ronald Jackson of the RJ Financial Group calls the current inflation cycle, unusual. He says it’s the largest annual increase since November 1981. Jackson highlights several factors contributing to this inflation cycle: including the pandemic, the stalled import of overseas products, such as microchips for cars, appliances and computers—and the Russia-Ukraine war. Plus, he warns there’s no quick relief.

Thus, to help people weather this storm, Jackson recommends, “cut your expenses, charge less, try setting a dollar aside each week—more when you can. Then write out a monthly budget.”

According to Jackson, writing out your finances will help you better see changes you need to make. Tameka Wills knows the value of budgeting. At Gem City Market, she’s looking for a deal on hamburger. Wills says a competing grocery store is too pricy.

“It was $10.99 last week. Now it's $15.99 for the same pack,” Wills complained.

However, when it comes to her newborn son Rylan, Wills will pay higher prices to get him what he needs.

“I have to have diapers, wipes and formula," she said.

Throughout the store, Hanley has only increased prices by less than a dollar at Gem City Market. He says every day is a delicate balancing act between setting prices and what customers will pay.

“The customer has to feel like the prices are fair at Gem City Market,” Hanley looks in the meat cooler. “At the same time, they know they can get a New York steak for $9.99 a pound and the competition sells it for $14.99 a pound,” he smiles. “Customers remember that.”

Kathryn Mobley is an award-winning broadcast journalist, crafting stories for more than 30 years. She’s reported and produced for TV, NPR affiliate and for the web. Mobley also contributes to several area community groups. She sings tenor with World House Choir (Yellow Springs), she’s a board member of the Beavercreek Community Theatre and volunteers with two community television operations, DATV (Dayton) and MVCC (Centerville).