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As Pandemic Eases, Inflation Changes Lives for Minnesotans

For the past few months, Shirley Hatfield has bought mostly generic branded food and has gone so far as to unplug her lights and microwave when not in use.

Hatfield, who is 54 and works in a college nurse’s office in Robbinsdale, has never considered herself a big spender. But now the constant monitoring of his spending has started to get exhausting.

“There are things I never would have thought of before, but now with the price increases…it all adds up,” she said.

Faced with the biggest rise in consumer prices in decades, many residents of the Twin Cities have radically changed their habits to cut costs. This adjustment comes after COVID-19 disrupted daily life and left many people exhausted.

“We’ve had two years of uncertainty, loss, anxiety and fear and now inflation too, so the one thing that’s been stable for 40 years, inflation, is now uncertain,” Mark said. Bergen, a professor at the University of Minnesota. Carlson School of Management.

Consumer prices in January were 7.5% higher than levels a year ago, the largest year-over-year increase since 1982. In the Twin Cities, the jump was 7, 2%. Price increases were led by cars, gasoline, heating and food, especially meat.

At her home in New Hope one evening last week, Hatfield used half the amount of ground beef she would normally cook for her chili because she needed to save it for another meal. Hatfield joked that her tabby cat, whose picky diet leads her to buy brand name cat food, ate better than her.

“I’m sure there’s probably more meat in his food than in this chili tonight,” she said.

When the pandemic first hit two years ago and she couldn’t go out with friends anymore, she would occasionally order out at restaurants to treat herself.

But today, she says, “It’s those little indulgences that just passed by the wayside.”

Hatfield keeps her refrigerator and cabinets meticulously organized, writing out her annual and monthly budgets to include the cost of everything from children’s birthday parties to vet visits. She recently decided not to attend a family member’s funeral because she didn’t know if she could afford gas.

She said her pinch of a penny reminded her of when she struggled to save money as a young mother, a lifestyle Hatfield hoped she had left behind at her age.

“I know how to survive, but I’m sick of surviving,” she said. “I want to live a little.”

Money is one of the biggest stressors, but many people don’t like talking about it and the emotional aspects of why they spend money, said Derek Hagen, a board-certified financial therapist who runs Money Health Solutions in Minnetonka. Change, even for the better, is often stressful, especially when it comes to money, he said.

“Before, I could buy so much and now I have to save a little more. “Anything that threatens that status quo – it’s going to be stressful,” Hagen said.

The pandemic has made consumers’ relationship with money even more complicated. Many people coped with the disruptions and health risks by buying things because it provided a temporary sense of pleasure, Hagen said.

And consumers have more often turned to desktop or phone purchases, which present fewer barriers to shopping, Hagen said. The end result for some was that spending was harder to track.

“We fully recognize that our finances aren’t just numbers. Our feelings are intertwined with our day-to-day financial decisions,” said Kim Miller, financial counselor at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS).

“When we have to cut back, our brains fight us because we don’t love less,” Miller added.

Bridget Littlefield has been living on the edge financially for years, but anxiety over the pandemic and soaring prices have prompted her to focus on building savings for future emergencies.

“I want to get myself in shape and my family in shape and make the best of the situation,” she said.

Five years ago, her husband, Kevin, quit his job to care for his father who had dementia. Since then, things have been tight for the Rosemount couple.

They have two teenage daughters and a niece living with them, all on Bridget’s $35,000 income. The couple’s car died months ago, so she walks or uses public transport. Her stepfather passed away in recent months, as did her mother.

Meanwhile, she sees higher prices everywhere, even the Dollar Tree, which has raised them to $1.25.

“I was floored when I went to get my toilet paper and it was $2.50,” Littlefield said of the two four-packs she buys there. She sometimes stops by the Open Door Pantry food shelf to fill in the gaps.

Still, Littlefield is optimistic about the future. She starts a new job at the airport with a salary of $40,000. Her husband returns to lawn work. They plan to use a tax refund for a car.

“We are in the reconstruction phase,” she said.

Cindy Ferris of Minneapolis has a successful career in digital marketing but, at 65, is intentional to stave off inflation as she prepares to retire.

“I have a good job but my salary doesn’t go as far as it used to, so I cut my expenses because inflation is rising at a faster rate than my annual bonus and raise,” she said. declared.

Ferris reduced costs by around 7%. She used to set her thermostat at 69 and lower it to 67 and, at night, to 64. Ferris also cut her cable bill. No more target execution. She still shops at Lunds & Byerlys but frequently skips salmon and no longer eats sugar, a plus for her health.

Ferris makes a pot of soup every week and freezes portions and she eats produce she grows in her basement.

“Sometimes I’ll even eat eggs for dinner to save money and still get protein in my diet,” she said.

Ferris wants to prepare for the worst. “I took action in all of these areas because I felt it was necessary,” she said. “It wasn’t that there was a crisis in my life. It was that I wanted to be prepared because we are in such a state of the unknown.”

As Hatfield stirred her chili on the stove, she tried to think how far she could stretch the dish. His guess was four meals.

“I find you have to treat it more like a game,” she said. “How much can I save? »

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