August 16, 2022

How Inflation Is Altering People’s Behavior

Tobias Pratt, a 31-year-old mortgage underwriter in Atlanta, decided to look for his first home in the spring of 2021. He had a well-paying job and a solid down payment, and his rent was ticking higher. Getting preapproved for a mortgage seemed like a wise move.

“I finally felt like I was in a good space to do it,” Mr. Pratt said.

But with housing prices so inflated, Mr. Pratt was quickly squeezed out of the market. He decided to try again in March because his lease was about to expire and the rent on his one-bedroom was about to rise by another $200, to $1,900. This time, high mortgage rates, which began climbing earlier this year, have narrowed his prospects even further. Instead of looking solely at single-family homes, he started considering condos — but those are expensive now as well.

“I can afford maybe two-thirds of what I could afford last year,” Mr. Pratt said, adding that the monthly mortgage payment could be as much as $700 higher, depending on the size of the loan. “But with housing prices still soaring, the inventory is limited.”

He also noticed that his grocery bill, which reliably cost about $225 for an online order placed every two weeks, had jumped to $300 in mid-March. “I was like, ‘Whoa, back up a minute,’” he said. “I looked at my last bill and I ordered pretty much the same groceries.”

That was when he decided to start tracking his spending more closely, noting expenses in a journal, looking for places to trim. He eliminated several recurring subscriptions, including Spotify and Experian’s credit tracking service; negotiated a lower-priced plan with his cellphone company; and started ordering less takeout from Uber Eats. To reduce his grocery bill, he swapped name brands for generic products, eliminated bottled water and cut back on extras.

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