How to Survive the Inflation Monster

A few months ago, you nervously clutched your credit card as you watched the prices in your favorite restaurants and shops rise faster than your wage growth. The end of the world seemed close when even the trusty government announced that on Jan. 19, the government reached its debt ceiling of $31.4 trillion. As scary as the fate of the economy might seem, perhaps, the economy has the potential for recovery. The debt ceiling is the cap for all government borrowing. Historically, the US debt has grown since the 1700s, but according to NPR, the term, “debt ceiling,” was officially coined to limit Congress from issuing additional war bonds during World War I. Ever since 1960, the ceiling has been lifted 78 times, and from President George W. Bush to President Joe Biden, the limit went from $11 trillion to $31.4 trillion. Even if the government is still bickering over whether to raise the ceiling for yet another time, one fact will always remain true: the United States has never and will not default on its debt. The entire world favors the American dollar because of the government’s credibility. As of now though, the treasury can only rely on “extraordinary measures” to keep the economy afloat. 

As interesting as the debt ceiling might be, there are other pending matters on the minds of high school students such as combating inflation. The USDA admits that while food prices are slacking their growth compared to last year, they are still higher than average. Life is not cheap. estimates that the average living cost for a college student this year would be around $14,435, which still pales in comparison to any accompanying tuition fees. US News reports that during the past 20 years, the costs of private universities have increased by 134% to an average of $44,433. A few years in college would be the price equivalency of a house. Well, the price of a house a few years ago. During the pandemic’s onset, people clamored after new houses to and fro because Federal Reserve rates were near zero. When Federal rates are low, banks borrow money much more readily leading to lower mortgage rates. Of course, the housing euphoria did not last long. The Federal government persisted to hike up the interest rates again and again to curb inflation. CNBC reports that the ideal interest rate for 2023 appears to be a cheery 5.1% to achieve the desired 2% inflation rate. CNN, however, insists that the current rate of inflation is low enough to disappear from the headlines. Currently, the US Consumer Price Index has tagged inflation close to 5%. As a result, the housing crisis is somewhat convalescing. In February of 2023, the National Association of Realtors noted a 0.2% drop in the median price of homes to a perfectly reasonable $363,000. Nonetheless, the low supply of houses ever since the 2008 housing bubble means that the high school students of today might have to compete for decades to come in order to secure their dream houses. For now, just keep in mind that the average student loan debt, $37,584, might be the real root of all those gray hairs.

In recent years, there have been countless improvements to existing forms of public transportation, but without a doubt, cars hold a special place in the bosoms of high school students. Driving is a rite of passage, so naturally, cars have earned the status as the emblem of freedom and opportunity. With the rise in the production of electric vehicles, personal transportation appears to head towards a future blessed with affordable prices and sustainability. Unfortunately, news flash, now is not the time to buy a car. Whether it be a beat-up Jeep or a brand-new Tesla, those prices are still going to reflect the existing struggles within the supply chain and the effects of rapid inflation since 2020. In fact, CNN details that based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the prices of cars have been climbing much more rapidly than at any other point in the last three decades. The entire country might be easing off the pandemic, but the consumer price indexes for all cars are still considerably above pre-pandemic levels. BLS data does note that the costs of secondhand cars have cooled off a bit since December 2022, but the average transaction price alone of a new car still stands at $12,000, more than $9,000 higher than it was in 2018. If those numbers are not enough to repel prospective car buyers, perhaps the fact that the average new car costs about $48,000 in contrast to the $36,000 from five years prior might do the job.

The world might be improving but after so much is said and done, the world is still a daunting place for upcoming adults. Even so, it would be too soon to call it quits just yet. listed that in July 2022, the unemployment rate fell to pre-pandemic levels. Every month since, there have been hundreds of thousands of new jobs added to the market for anyone to partake in. People do not need to invest in Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities or commodities to stay afloat in a world rife with inflation. There are numerous alternatives that are much more friendly to those with shallower pockets. As a young adult, you should always look out for scholarship opportunities even when your eligibility might seem uncertain. It is always a commendable idea to talk to your friends and family about the best way to approach college or any future endeavors that you want to pursue because there are always ways to save even more money. It might be a stretch, but perhaps, after a few years of modest living and a side job or two, then you can even start saving up for that dream house that you have always wanted or that dashing car just calling out to your soul. CBS News considers people in their 70s to be “old.” Any day before, you should not squander a day of your youth.