As I was standing in line at the grocery checkout lane this week, I, of course, perused the headlines on the tabloids staring me in the face. Nothing really of great surprise. Unless you’re Britney Spears. She’s apparently pregnant again at age 40, having rid herself of any barriers to that condition by virtue of winning her battle against conservatorship last fall. I’m sure there was some story having to do with a Kardashian as well, but I tend to blip over that stuff.
However, what really struck me as interesting had nothing whatsoever to do with the fun and frolics of the rich and famous. It was the scene that played out right behind me, so it was quite local indeed.
There was a woman with a loaded shopping cart just waiting for me to put up the little hard plastic barrier to separate our foodstuffs. As I did so, she began taking items out of her cart and placing them on the conveyor belt. Nothing unusual there. But then I noticed a man behind her with a calculator in his hand taking note of everything leaving her cart. She’d pick up an item and he’d say something such as, “Are you sure you need that soda?” Or “Isn’t that ice cream a luxury item?” Or “Maybe that yogurt can wait until next week.”
Thinking the man might have been her husband, I just kind of surmised they were being frugal and trying to stick to a budget. Turns out I was in error. No, the man with the calculator was from a local bank. It seemed the woman buying groceries was taking out a loan to pay for her weekly bread and butter and the man was doing due diligence on behalf of his lending institution.
I’m kidding of course. But with the price of food and everything else skyrocketing, the scenario above doesn’t seem too far-fetched. The inflation rate was reported this week to be over 8% when measuring the cost of goods and services from March 2021 to March 2022. That will come as a shock to absolutely no one. Except maybe to certain politicians who have insisted for a few months that the rising prices are transitory. Kind of hard to agree with that from where I’m sitting.
To give you a real-life example of what’s happening, I’ll tell the true tale of a couple near and dear to me who has been looking to buy a house recently. They’re moving to another state shortly and thought they had a few weeks to complete the process. They were wrong.
They contacted a realtor in the new city who sent them a short list of some possible places on the limited market. A lot were new-builds. But then about two weeks ago, the realtor STRONGLY suggested the couple plan a visit sooner than later. So, they cleared their schedules, hopped in the car, and took off. After spending an entire day with the realtor, this is what they found: Negotiating is almost non-existent. For older homes, you can expect to pay well over asking price in a bidding war. And the numbers just keep going up. As do the interest rates.
Fortunately, the couple did find a place to buy. A new home not even totally built yet. The report was the attempted negotiations went like this: “Do you want Floor Plan A or Floor Plan B? Do you want the gray inside package or the blue inside package? And here’s the price. Take it or leave it. There are people waiting in line behind you if you don’t want it.”
That was bad enough. But when the couple asked if they could think it over, the reply was, “You can, but chances are the price will be about $5,000 more Monday, and the interest rates will be up another half-percent.”
The seller had been wrong. I checked with the couple, and the very next week, the price had risen $10,000 and the interest rate had gone up almost a full percentage point. Fortunately, they had gone ahead and bought the place the day they saw it. One member of the couple had looked at the interest rates of an online lender in the morning and again that afternoon. They had jumped in a six-hour span.
One more inflation example: Have you priced a used car lately? Another couple I know very well ended up buying a brand-new car (which they won’t get until July at the earliest) because it was cheaper than a used one of the same make and model.
Something tells me none of this is going away any time soon. Better stock up on that mac and cheese now – before all you can afford is the mac.
©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer
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