Consider This Your Permission to Spend More Money in 2022
Inflation and other factors likely mean you’ll spend more in 2022. Here’s why that’s OK.
Inflation and other factors likely mean you’ll spend more in 2022. Here’s why that’s OK.
Here’s a prescription for money happiness in 2022: Accept the fact that you’ll likely spend more money than you did in 2021.
With inflation driving up the cost of food, rent and more, pressures are mounting on our wallets, so expecting your spending to stay in line with the past year is both unrealistic and a recipe for feeling guilt and self-recrimination. The key, financial planners and researchers say, is thinking ahead about where that extra spending will happen and quieting the voice in your head comparing your expenses from one year to the next.
“What’s going on right now that is so crazy is that no one even has an idea of what the baseline should be. The past may or may not be relevant to the future,” said Abigail Sussman, associate professor of marketing at the University of Chicago who studies how consumers make judgments.
Financial experts advise that future budgets allot more to needs, such as higher rent, as well as wants, such as travel. Here are some ways to do just that.
Keep on Saving
You may have saved a lot of money in the past year, thanks to a strong labor market, rising wages and record-high savings rates. You can save more in 2022.
Adding more to your existing savings can calm a lot of fears people may have about spending more money in other expense categories, said Sarah Behr, financial planner and founder of Simplify Financial in San Francisco. As you’re watching that savings account grow, you can relax knowing that should catastrophe strike, you have a cushion.
Check in on your savings progress from the previous year. Are you happy with the amount you set aside? Do you want to increase your savings rate or maintain the current one? Even as you expand your budget, save first before spending on other things. You can set up regularly scheduled withdrawals to automate the process and eliminate stressful decisions.
Stop Thinking in Dollars
Having frugal habits helps ward off lifestyle creep. Yet you may be hanging on to outdated ideas about how many dollars to spend in different areas of life. The past two years may have reduced your spending on travel, going out and entertainment, but those circumstances aren’t permanent.
Spending more money than you have previously can lead to feelings of shame or embarrassment, Ms. Behr said. She’s previously talked to clients who have moved up from meagre means and struggled to adjust to the new latitude more money affords them.
“I’m the one saying, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, you can afford to go out to eat, you can afford a new car, you don’t have to drive your 2015 Prius,’” Ms. Behr said. “[Clients] are saving, and they’re squirrelling away, but there’s no change in perspective.”
Malik Lee, a managing principal and adviser at Felton & Peel Wealth Management Inc., recommends looking at budgets in terms of percentages of your overall income, rather than dollar amounts.
He points to the 20-30-50 model, a tenet of personal finance that encourages putting at least 20% of your take-home pay into savings; allotting 30% for “wants” like travel and socializing; and designating the final 50% to fixed expenses such as housing and bills.
“Thinking in percentages of income makes this a lot easier, and it makes it flexible,” Mr. Lee said. “As you’re increasing your income, that will ensure that your savings will increase with that, and the other ‘good’ categories will increase, too.”
Pick Your Splurges
Most of us have practice downsizing budgets and cutting expenses. Fewer of us have spent time planning what we’ll spend more on, especially in terms of luxuries like travel or entertainment, what Ms. Sussman refers to as “pre-committing to indulgence.”
This doesn’t mean splashing out on everything, but thinking carefully about the spending that will have the most positive impact, such as setting aside money for a long-awaited vacation.
Instead, consider the spending that brings you the most satisfaction, such as vacations, home-fitness equipment or some other priority. Allotting more money to items like those can make your budget feel rewarding, Ms. Sussman said, so that when you’re making trade-offs in other areas of your life—like cutting back on going-out expenses to put more toward your new, bigger apartment—it feels less like a loss and more like a pivot.
Allot money to those savings goals—“I’ll spend more on travel in 2022” or “I want to save for a bigger apartment”—by creating a separate bucket for these funds. Name it something fun in your preferred budgeting app or spreadsheet. This way, as you’re watching the money grow in the account, you can sprinkle some extra anticipation on the future fulfilment.
Last, a Piece of Advice
Whichever budget works best for you, Ms. Behr warns against measuring your own spending or saving against peers’.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘Do we spend too much money?’ or ‘How much do other people spend?’” she said. Worrying about spending is natural, but comparing the size of your savings with others is often unproductive, she added. “It’s like that old saying: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’”
Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: December 30, 2021.
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Food prices continue to rise at a rapid pace, surprising central banks and pressuring debt-laden governments
LONDON—Fresh out of an energy crisis, Europeans are facing a food-price explosion that is changing diets and forcing consumers across the region to tighten their belts—literally.
This is happening even though inflation as a whole is falling thanks to lower energy prices, presenting a new policy challenge for governments that deployed billions in aid last year to keep businesses and households afloat through the worst energy crisis in decades.
New data on Wednesday showed inflation in the U.K. fell sharply in April as energy prices cooled, following a similar pattern around Europe and in the U.S. But food prices were 19.3% higher than a year earlier.
The continued surge in food prices has caught central bankers off guard and pressured governments that are still reeling from the cost of last year’s emergency support to come to the rescue. And it is pressuring household budgets that are also under strain from rising borrowing costs.
In France, households have cut their food purchases by more than 10% since the invasion of Ukraine, while their purchases of energy have fallen by 4.8%.
In Germany, sales of food fell 1.1% in March from the previous month, and were down 10.3% from a year earlier, the largest drop since records began in 1994. According to the Federal Information Centre for Agriculture, meat consumption was lower in 2022 than at any time since records began in 1989, although it said that might partly reflect a continuing shift toward more plant-based diets.
Food retailers’ profit margins have contracted because they can’t pass on the entire price increases from their suppliers to their customers. Markus Mosa, chief executive of the Edeka supermarket chain, told German media that the company had stopped ordering products from several large suppliers because of rocketing prices.
A survey by the U.K.’s statistics agency earlier this month found that almost three-fifths of the poorest 20% of households were cutting back on food purchases.
“This is an access problem,” said Ludovic Subran, chief economist at insurer Allianz, who previously worked at the United Nations World Food Program. “Total food production has not plummeted. This is an entitlement crisis.”
Food accounts for a much larger share of consumer spending than energy, so a smaller rise in prices has a greater impact on budgets. The U.K.’s Resolution Foundation estimates that by the summer, the cumulative rise in food bills since 2020 will have amounted to 28 billion pounds, equivalent to $34.76 billion, outstripping the rise in energy bills, estimated at £25 billion.
“The cost of living crisis isn’t ending, it is just entering a new phase,” Torsten Bell, the research group’s chief executive, wrote in a recent report.
Food isn’t the only driver of inflation. In the U.K., the core rate of inflation—which excludes food and energy—rose to 6.8% in April from 6.2% in March, its highest level since 1992. Core inflation was close to its record high in the eurozone during the same month.
Still, Bank of England Gov. Andrew Bailey told lawmakers Tuesday that food prices now constitute a “fourth shock” to inflation after the bottlenecks that jammed supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic, the rise in energy prices that accompanied Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and surprisingly tight labor markets.
Europe’s governments spent heavily on supporting households as energy prices soared. Now they have less room to borrow given the surge in debt since the pandemic struck in 2020.
Some governments—including those of Italy, Spain and Portugal—have cut sales taxes on food products to ease the burden on consumers. Others are leaning on food retailers to keep their prices in check. In March, the French government negotiated an agreement with leading retailers to refrain from price rises if it is possible to do so.
Retailers have also come under scrutiny in Ireland and a number of other European countries. In the U.K., lawmakers have launched an investigation into the entire food supply chain “from farm to fork.”
“Yesterday I had the food producers into Downing Street, and we’ve also been talking to the supermarkets, to the farmers, looking at every element of the supply chain and what we can do to pass on some of the reduction in costs that are coming through to consumers as fast as possible,” U.K. Treasury Chief Jeremy Hunt said during The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit in London.
The government’s Competition and Markets Authority last week said it would take a closer look at retailers.
“Given ongoing concerns about high prices, we are stepping up our work in the grocery sector to help ensure competition is working well,” said Sarah Cardell, who heads the CMA.
Some economists expect that added scrutiny to yield concrete results, assuming retailers won’t want to tarnish their image and will lean on their suppliers to keep prices down.
“With supermarkets now more heavily under the political spotlight, we think it more likely that price momentum in the food basket slows,” said Sanjay Raja, an economist at Deutsche Bank.
It isn’t entirely clear why food prices have risen so fast for so long. In world commodity markets, which set the prices received by farmers, food prices have been falling since April 2022. But raw commodity costs are just one part of the final price. Consumers are also paying for processing, packaging, transport and distribution, and the size of the gap between the farm and the dining table is unusually wide.
The BOE’s Bailey thinks one reason for the bank having misjudged food prices is that food producers entered into longer-term but relatively expensive contracts with fertilizer, energy and other suppliers around the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in their eagerness to guarantee availability at a time of uncertainty.
But as the pressures being placed on retailers suggest, some policy makers suspect that an increase in profit margins may also have played a role. Speaking to lawmakers, Bailey was wary of placing any blame on food suppliers.
“It’s a story about rebuilding margins that were squeezed in the early part of last year,” he said.
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