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Helping Military Families Inflation-Proof Their Budget


For over two years, U.S. inflation rates have exceeded their long-term average of about 3%. Like all Americans, military families have experienced a loss of purchasing power as their income cannot buy as much as it did previously. Individuals cannot stop inflation but they can mitigate its impact.

Below are six inflation-fighting strategies for Extension professionals to discuss with Service members:

  1. Needs Versus Wants Analysis- During inflationary times, it is more important than ever to prioritize spending on basic needs and practice smart spending habits. A useful activity for financial education briefings is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Reflecting on Needs Versus Wants worksheet. Another, for use with small groups, is The Bean Game with beans representing dollars available for various household expenses.
  2. Food Substitutions- Some foods have seen especially high price increases, including baked goods, non-alcoholic beverages, and eggs. Many people now prepare their own baked goods and substitute applesauce for eggs in recipes. Swapping tap water or jugs of bottled water for canned or bottled sodas is another money-saving idea. Water can be placed in refillable insulated water bottles for easy carrying.
  3. Buying in Bulk- When cost-effective, buying larger quantities of food and household supplies may save money. Some families share the cost of a warehouse store membership and combine shopping lists. Warehouse stores often have less expensive prices than traditional supermarkets. Another bulk shopping strategy is buying produce in season at a supermarket or farmer’s market and freezing it for later use.
  4. Eating Out Practices- This is a “touchy” topic because eating out is an important social activity. Instead of “stay home and eat,” suggest money-saving strategies at restaurants. Examples include separate checks (to avoid subsidizing big spenders), ordering water as a beverage, ordering appetizers (vs. entrees) as a meal, and “early bird special” meals during off-peak hours. In addition, taking leftovers home to save on later meals.
  5. Shrinkflation Work-Arounds- Shrinkflation, a hidden form of inflation, occurs when consumers buy a package of food with less food in it than before. As a result, they pay more per unit (e.g., pound or ounce). A good way to fight back is to compare unit pricing across product brands and package sizes. Store brands may have less shrinkflation than national brands and large packages may have lower unit prices than smaller sizes.
  6. Managing Rental Inflation- Rents remain high in many parts of the country. Strategies to manage housing costs include: asking a landlord to continue a current lease, negotiating rent reductions for services (e.g., lawn mowing, snow shoveling) performed by a tenant, considering less populated areas, adding a roommate, limiting amenities, and reassessing space needs and downsizing to a smaller living space.

For additional information, review this OneOp on-demand webinar.

Written by:
Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, AFC® and Martie Gillen, Ph.D., MBA, AFC®, CFLE
Edited by Kristen Jowers, MS MFT

Photo courtesy of AdobeStock_70713883

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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and membership funding. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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