With consumer price rates reaching highs not seen since 1981, Cooperative Extension Service agents at New Mexico State University are providing information to help New Mexicans learn more about inflation and save money.A team of Bryce Jorgensen, Family Resource Management Extension specialist; Dianne Christensen, Bernalillo County Family and Consumer Sciences agent; and Extension agents from around the state created and conducted a four-part weekly webinar series called “Living Well with Inflation.” The goal was to provide practical strategies to manage the numerous impacts of inflation and leverage them toward positive growth in people’s lives.
While the webinar was held in October, recordings are still available at inflation.nmsu.edu. “Sometimes in Extension, programming stems from our own life observations,” Christensen said. “I began to observe in my own life, and in the lives around me, the very real impact of inflation. More month left than money.” With current rates for an average family of four, it now takes from $500 to $700 more per month to maintain the same standard of living. “This is a significant impact that calls us all to be more intentional and strategic in how we manage our money,” Christensen said. “It is a great time to implement some new financial tools to negate some, if not all, of the impacts inflation has in our lives.” Session one of the series explained inflation and how understanding the concepts can help to manage the impact. “We encouraged participants to see this time as an opportunity to build resilience in their lives emotionally, mentally and financially,” Christensen said. “We are faced with new stressors that used to be normal daily activities. Now going to the store or the gas pump causes us all stress. Learning to shift to a positive growth mindset helps manage the impacts.” The second session focused on spending habits. The third and fourth sessions featured managing debt and investment topics, respectively. “This is a great time to look at how we can better manage our money,” Christensen said. “It is no longer optional but essential to look at spending leaks, ways to save and manage the money we do have, as well as managing debt. The series talked about money-saving tips on expenses such as food, clothing, utilities and insurance. Often, we might be ‘leaking money’ such as too many internet subscriptions, our daily stop for coffee, that we can cut back on and discover a savings. “Managing debt and investments were also covered. Lastly, we encouraged people to still have fun and build life memories. Ways to save money on travel was a great session,” she said. On a post-series survey, all of the participants agreed that the inflation series helped them to better understand the impacts of inflation on their lives. Participants also stated they had started using or planning to use tools and strategies mentioned in the series such as tracking and analyzing spending to cut costs where feasible; contacting utility companies to inquire about help; reviewing insurance policies for possible cost reductions; prioritize purchases and reducing waste; using suggested websites and apps that help save money; conducting an energy audit to evaluate how to minimize utility costs; looking at current investments; starting a long-term emergency fund and adding to short-term emergency fund; and paying extra toward debt to lower cost of interest. Christensen said she was pleased with how well the inflation series was perceived. “We had great engagement, questions and comments on how helpful the series content was to participants lives. I sensed they were genuinely encouraged that inflation can be managed,” Christensen said.