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How some Americans are beating inflation

An aisle of a Ralphs grocery store, which is owned by Kroger Co, in Altadena, California
Savvy shopper.
  • Nate DiCamillo
By Nate DiCamillo

Reporter

Published

US consumers trying to catch a break from inflation didn’t get much respite over the past year—except if they happened to be vegetarians, dislike lemons, or commute by bus.

Over the past year, inflation has spread from a few products made scarce by the pandemic—used cars, electronics, or furniture—to practically everything. In March, annual inflation hit a 40-year high of 8.5%. Still, prices for some items have held relatively steady, or even dropped.

Here’s a look at how Americans could have bypassed inflation over the last year, with the caveat that it would involve spending on a pretty narrow set of products and activities.

Public transit vs. driving

Take mass transit. Fare prices in major cities moved up by only 1.9%. Compare that to the 48% year-over-year increase in gas prices that drivers are paying. Of course, people who walk avoid inflation altogether.

Meanwhile, people who keep animal products out of their diet did better than meat lovers. Tomatoes saw one of the smallest price increases, just 1.7%.  Other fruits and vegetables went up more. Potatoes—the infamous Depression-era food which is making a comeback—moved up by 3.4%, causing food banks to request more funds.

Bananas went up by 6.3%, while apple prices rose 7.2%. Those are hefty hikes, but still well below meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, the prices for which rose by 14%.  The one exception to the food inflation trend: citrus fruit prices, which jumped nearly 20%.

Homebodies and bookworms avoid inflation

Those who chose to drink at home paid only 2.7% more for a drink than in the previous year, while those who drank at a bar faced a 4.9% increase. Prices for distilled spirits—like brandy and rum—inched up by just 0.8% in the past year, though whiskey lovers had to pay a bit higher.

People who continued spending on pandemic indulgences like personal care products and ice cream saw prices go up less than 3.5%.

Meanwhile, those who relied on reading for entertainment didn’t spend much more than last year: 1.1% for recreational books and  2% for newspapers and magazines.

Prices for sewing machines, fabric, and supplies rose less than 2%, even as sewing machine sales soared during the pandemic. Prices for televisions actually dropped, by 1.5%.

While Americans who chose to get on a plane and stay at a hotel paid 20% or more than last year, people boarding cruises got a deal ship fares dropped by 1.6%. Of course, that’s probably because until last month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was recommending against boarding cruise ships.

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