Duke professor shares how to manage costs when dealing with inflation

From Duke dining to gas prices, students are feeling the cost of inflation, and Duke professor Emma Rasiel offered ways to deal with it.

At the Sept. 13 seminar, “Inflation: Understanding Rising Costs,” hosted by the Bureau of Student Loans and Personal Finance, Rasiel, Richard Y. Li Professor of Practice, spoke about how students can manage their finances while using cope with inflation. Rasiel recommended cutting back on grocery expenses, planning grocery trips, and creating budgets.

As COVID-19 disrupts supply chains and the war in Ukraine affects fertilizer and crop supplies, food prices have risen 11.4%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Food prices have increased, especially for beef, poultry, milk, eggs and fruit.

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“Being a vegetarian right now is probably a pretty good thing because meat prices are crazy,” Rasiel said. “So if you’re not a vegetarian but can handle less meat, you’re saving money.”

The consumer price index, which measures annual inflation for common goods, was 8.3% at the end of August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but Rasiel believes that figure could be misleading.

“Different industries or types of things that we buy all have different levels of inflation,” she said. “The two most volatile sectors are food and energy.”

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After removing these two sectors, inflation falls to 6.3%. “On average, it’s still not a big number,” Rasiel said. “But it helps us bring the magnitude of inflation into a slightly more manageable range.”

For example, to cut spending, Rasiel recommended avoiding impulse buying by shopping earlier in the day.

“After you get a good night’s sleep, you have more mental self-control,” she said.

Buying in bulk and finding items with a longer shelf life can also save money, according to Rasiel. She also recommended planning meals ahead of time and avoiding bargains down the aisle.

Rasiel took suggestions from viewers on how to save money. One viewer suggested comparing prices online before shopping, while another suggested finding damaged fruit in grocery stores.

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Rasiel warns inflation could linger.

“Inflation in Europe is much worse than ours,” she said. “It doesn’t help that another part of the world that we do a lot of transactions with has really high inflation. I don’t necessarily think that means ours will rise much more, but it could slow down [prices] come down.”

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