Inflation ran at an annual rate of 8.6% in the second quarter, hitting 9.1% in June. The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates four times so far this year.
Not surprisingly, this has resulted in more Americans running up debt to make ends meet.
Household debt topped $16 trillion over the last three months — a record high — the New York Fed reported Tuesday.
“Americans are borrowing more, but a big part of the increased borrowing is attributable to higher prices,” the New York Fed said in a blog post.
“The $46-billion increase in credit card balances this quarter was among the largest seen in our data since 1999, at least partly reflecting inflation on consumer goods and services purchased using credit cards.”
This is understandable. When the going gets tough economically, the tough put stuff on plastic.
For millions of households getting by paycheck to paycheck, what else can you do? Rents have to be paid. Food needs to be put on the table.
That’s why credit card debt is now rising at the fastest clip in 20 years.
But rising debt will come back to bite many people if they’re not careful.
The consequences of higher debt are already being seen in the number of delinquencies — that is, borrowers unable to meet their financial obligations.
“The recent uptick in delinquencies in some households suggests that many communities or individuals are experiencing the economy differently,” The New York Fed observed.
“We are seeing a hint of the return of the delinquency and hardship patterns we saw prior to the pandemic.”
Which is to say, lower-income households are digging themselves into a fiscal hole, often through no fault of their own. In many cases, these are folk just trying to get by.
If this includes you, here are some tips:
Get control of your finances by making a weekly or monthly budget. Lay out your income and expenses, and look for areas where you can economize.
Do you really need four streaming services? Is there a cheaper cellphone plan? Will issuers of home or car loans be open to renegotiating rates or temporarily deferring payments?
Dining out is expensive. Focus instead on family meals at home.
Make a point of seeking sales and discounts when making purchases. Many retailers, from Amazon to Walmart, are slashing prices to clear out inventory.
Above all, teach the family to view purchases in terms of “want” versus “need.” Sure, we all want stuff. But during rough times, basing purchases primarily on need can make a big difference.
Keep in mind, rising interest rates mean the cost of running a credit card balance will grow more expensive.
Getting your spending under control will spare you much hardship down the road.