CPI inflation hits 40-year high; how you can save money on essential items

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The U.S. Department of Labor said Tuesday its Consumer Price Index jumped 8.5% in March, the sharpest year-over-year increase since 1981.

"I have a small child so I'm definitely thinking about savings a lot, every day," said Chicagoan Constance Longmore.

The ABC7 Data Team reviewed the Consumer Price Index summary and found that gasoline shot up 48% compared to March 2021, which includes price spikes due to the war in Ukraine.

Grocery store food prices surged 10% compared to March 2021. Airline prices are sky-high, up 10.7% in the last month.

Economists said the pandemic, supply chain and the war in Ukraine are all to blame, with Ukraine being a global supplier food and soybeans. However, some of the surge is fueled by our spending.

"There are a lot of positives back in the economy. Consumerism is very strong," said Dan George, who works in downtown Chicago. "Strong balance sheets. I've saved a lot over years of not going out."

"The answer would be all of us need to moderate our expectations," said Tassos Malliaris, who has been a Professor of Economics at Loyola University in Chicago for 45 years.

Malliaris said when we spend more now thinking inflation will get worse, the problem multiplies.

"We do not allow these inflation numbers to influence our psychology and become worried about further inflation, we need to moderate," he explained.

Malliaris also said the slow and steady interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve should bring inflation down by slowing down the real estate boom and all of the spending that comes with a new home.

"They are very careful. They are like surgeons. If they increase rates very slowly and we grow at 2% with low inflation below 2%," he said.

However, he said another possible scenario could be a light recession if interest rates shake the economy up too much.
Experts advise thinking twice before you buy something you don't need now. For groceries, try to take advantage of loyalty programs and shop around based on price. Get meat at one place and dry goods at another. Also use apps to find the cheapest gas in your neighborhood and consolidate errands.

The latest inflation data from the ABC7 Data Team

  • All items rose 8.5%--the third month in a row we've surpassed 40-year high.

  • Gasoline prices rose 18.3% between February and March, and 48% compared to March 2021. This includes price spikes due to the war in Ukraine.

  • Grocery store food prices rose 1.5% between February and March and 10% compared to March 2021.

  • Airline fares are up 10.7% in the last month

  • Used car prices are down 3.8% in the last month

  • 'Core inflation' (all items except food and energy) was up 0.3% in March (from Feb), a slowdown from previous months. That said, it is still up 6.5% from March 2021.
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