Prices Too High? This Is Where Americans Are Turning For Relief

Zinger Key Points
  • Searches for "electric car” were already on the rise since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • As overall prices rise, some consumers may be prone to stop eating out and prepare more meals at home.

With inflation in the U.S. reaching historic highs, many consumers are looking for strategies to curb its impact on their monthly balances.

While inflation decelerated in July to 8.5%, June’s yearly inflation rate marked the highest in more than four decades. June’s peak of 9.1% is enough to cause anyone to double check their spending habits, regardless of economic status or purchasing power, in a trend that continued throughout July.

Mobility: Inflation for energy commodities, including gasoline, held the highest rate amongst all categories in the Consumer Price Index of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Gasoline was up 44% this July against last year but showed a big decrease from the 59.9% yearly rise registered in June. Nonetheless, yearly inflation around gas prices is causing all types of consumers to check for alternatives.

Electric Cars: Searches for "electric car” were already on the rise since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, most likely due to growing infrastructure around the technology, environmental concerns amongst consumers and electric cars becoming more and more ubiquitous.

But what seemed like a steady upwards trend peaked suddenly in March and again in June as gas prices soared, heavily impacted by a disruption of supply chains caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The trend continued showing record interest during July and August, though it’s starting to show a slight downwards pattern as gas prices began to cool down in July.

The price of new vehicles had yearly inflation of 10.4% in July — slightly above the overall rate of 8.5% — while used cars were up in price by 6.6%.

Trains and Buses: As soaring gas prices make the cost of driving impossible to afford for some people, commuting or traveling via public transportation has seen increased interest.

Google showed a noticeable rise beginning in July in the search for “bus route,” especially in New York, Washington, Hawaii and Washington D.C.

Searches for the word “train” were on the rise since the beginning of the year. This steep climb started in July, along with the rise in searches for bus routes, most noticeably across the Northeast, where the country has the best-developed train system.

Food: July inflation rates for food were higher than the overall average with 13.1% for food at home and 7.6% for food away from home.

These rates could have two different impacts on consumer habits. As overall prices rise, some consumers might be prone to stop eating out and prepare more meals at home. Consumers tend to go into savings mode as a normal result of high inflation rates.

Cooking at Home: Looking at trends in Google searches for terms related to cooking at home, there were relevant increases in interest for the keywords “recipe” and “how to cook.”

These keywords tend to peak around two specific dates: Thanksgiving and Christmas. The terms also rose significantly (and stayed up) during April and May 2020, as the pandemic hit and people found themselves at home with too much extra time and not many restaurants to go to.

While current interest in recipes for cooking food at home is not nearly as high as during the holidays, July levels this year are about 10% higher than on the same dates last year and in the years prior to the pandemic.

Eating Out: On the other hand, cooking at home is normally considered a cheaper alternative to eating out, but the current price of cooking ingredients for home use has risen almost twice as much as the price of eating out. Consumers who have perceived this difference might be prone to the opposite trend, replacing some of their at-home meals with take-outs and restaurant dinners.

Searches for the keyword “restaurant” are currently at record highs since 2004 when Google’s search data began. This peak could also have other explanations, as the search for restaurants also peaked in the summer of 2021 when restrictions around the pandemic started to loosen. People might also be more drawn to eating out during the summer months, and not entirely in relation to inflation rates.

Photo: Shutterstock

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Posted In: NewsTop StoriesEconomicsCPIInflationU.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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