Nowadays, everything you buy comes from everywhere. That means events anywhere can affect price and supply. Consider these stories from the last month.
Walmart is lowering prices on staples in at least 1,200 Midwest U.S. stores to compete with other grocery chains, which is causing a price war in Iowa and Illinois. At some stores a gallon of milk costs around $1 and a dozen large eggs cost less than $1.
A proposal by U.S. House of Representatives republicans to tax imports but not exports most likely won’t change things much. However, it might hit your wallet, starting with increasing costs in clothes and shoes. Ninety-seven percent of clothes and 98 percent of shoes sold in the U.S. are imported.
Experts are predicting a global olive oil shortage, as poor growing weather in olive oil-producing countries coincides with rapidly growing demand.
British supermarkets started rationing lettuce, and other fruits and vegetables have been limited, thanks to bad weather in southern Spain. Some people there are worried this could be a taste of the future, as Brexit forces changes to trade agreements.
Increasing water prices could cause water to become unaffordable for a third of Americans in the next five years, according to a Michigan State University study. The major driver for the rise is the cost of replacing aging pipes.
Shelves aren’t necessarily going to empty overnight – unless there’s a nearby natural or human-caused disaster. However, price increases could make goods less affordable than they are now.
Here are some ways to prepare for price hikes.
Stock up on staples when they’re on sale. Some grocery stores have case lot sales a couple of times a year. Save a little bit of money from your grocery budget every month to shop those sales. If you’re one of the about half of Americans who will get an income tax refund this year, consider using some of it on food storage.
Or use a tax refund to repair plumbing. Just fixing leaks can reduce water use, which will help your budget if water prices increase.
“One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year,” ready.gov said.
Once you’ve taken care of leaks, consider installing a low-flow showerhead or toilet. The largest indoor water uses are flushing the toilet and bathing, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Most new toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush. Older models use about 4 gallons. Old show heads allow flow of up to 5 gallons of water per minute. Water-saving shower heads use about 2 gallons per minute, according to the USGS.
Of course, if you want to get really local, try planting a garden.
Natural disasters, corporate decisions, government policy… So many factors can affect the prices you pay for the goods you need. So prepare by stocking up on staples and reducing costs when prices are low and you have a little money. Otherwise, you could end up paying more when you have less.