Faced with inflation, local consumers are rethinking their discretionary spending | Business

ELWOOD — Before Abby Ripberger can start turning a profit in her meal prep and food truck business, she must first fill up her gas tank.

As gasoline prices have soared past $3.50 a gallon in recent weeks, Ripberger said its weekly fills have topped $100.

“It’s $400 (per month) upfront,” Ripberger said. “It’s just to exist. It is to bring my child to school every day. And that’s in my offseason – it’s not towing the trailer. It costs more when pulling a trailer behind you. »

Tipton-based Ripberger’s For the Love of Food Meal Prep service added a food truck last year with routes that include Elwood. As a single mother and small business owner, she said she is feeling the effects of the country’s ongoing inflation fight in multiple ways.

The annual inflation rate in the United States hit 7.5% in January, its highest level since February 1982, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. generational.

“I think Madison County residents face the same challenges as everyone else across the country,” said Lonnie Leeper, an associate professor of finance at Anderson University. “Rising prices for goods and services have outstripped wage increases. This certainly puts challenges on people’s budgets and their wallets.

As a consumer, Ripberger said she’s started to rethink even small purchases.

“I have an Amazon Prime subscription, but I haven’t had an Amazon package on my porch in two months, because it’s like I really need one?” said Ripberger. “It’s a ‘Do you need this’ and ‘Can you live without it’ mentality.”

As a business owner whose income depends on discretionary spending, Ripberger also understands that even its most loyal customers are cutting back on spending.

“Their money should go to their children and their money should go to their husbands and their homes and their grocery bill and their gas bill,” she said.

Ripberger’s friend, Morgan Jackman, faces similar circumstances. A makeup artist who owns a boutique specializing in facial products, spray tans and other services, Jackman said several clients have canceled appointments in recent weeks, which reportedly generated hundreds of dollars of income.

Although she hopes to postpone some of those appointments once federal income tax refunds start hitting consumers’ bank accounts, Jackman said she’s taking a conservative approach to her own spending.

“Usually when that money comes in, that’s when I finally get that little bit of free spending,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll be able to do that this year. It won’t be the new washing machine we might need. We’ll just have to wait for another one this year.

Reducing discretionary spending has been a logical path consumers have taken, but with the prices of basic necessities like groceries, fuel and durable goods also rising, families are making difficult decisions more frequently.

Anderson resident Justine Young and her husband have six children, three of whom participate in school sports. Six months ago, his bi-weekly trips to the grocery store cost between $200 and $250. Last week, she said, the bill was $440.

“My husband is going to have to take more hours to keep up with the bills and extra expenses now,” Young said. “It’s not just our grocery bill that’s gone up. The utility bill has gone up, the gas bill has gone up, the cost of gasoline in our vehicles has gone up. We’re going to have to work a little more to close the gap.

To follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.