Struggling to save: A summer of inflation

A student reflects on the struggle of saving money as gas prices and inflation increases.


I’ve always worked two or more jobs, including being a barista, cater waiter, hostess, lifeguard and retail sales associate, all grueling days that included morning and afternoon shifts.

I changed outfits in my car going from opening the coffee shop I worked at to closing for my job at a retail store. The days were long but I was earning more than I was spending, which allowed me to save money for the upcoming semester and freely spend what I had left. 

However, this year has required me to become more intentional with my spending, while learning how to properly budget my income and time. 

The rise of inflation has set the tone for my summer, not only have I been stressed about rising gas prices but just the simple cost of living, like getting food for lunch or buying clothes. 

Prior to committing to only one job, I used to work long hours without breaks and worked with bosses who prioritized profit over staff well-being. Deciding not to work at these places allowed me to create a better work-life balance for myself and budgeting has helped me save more and remain less stressed. 

I recently received a promotion at the retail store I started working at two years ago, and I was ecstatic about the new position which included a moderate pay raise, landing me at $15 an hour, when I previously only made $13. 

However, the promotion involved a lengthier commute because I transferred from a store in Bridgewater, New Jersey, to a location in Short Hills bumping my 30 minute commute to 50 minutes. I don’t mind long drives, but the financial stress of constantly buying gas became increasingly frustrating. 

I knew accepting the offer would be a financial burden due to the commute, but it felt good knowing that I was moving up in my workplace, even if it hurt my wallet it would at least benefit my resume. 

While working roughly 30 hours, I fill up my tank about once a week, which costs me around $65 per fill totaling to $130 per pay period. When I worked closer to my house, I only bought gas once roughly every two weeks, which would only total $40 per pay period prior to the inflated prices. 

When I pull into the gas station, I strategically choose the one that is three cents cheaper than the others in my area. Although three cents off the gallon barely made a difference, I feel relaxed knowing that the total would be slightly cheaper. 

However gas prices are up nearly 50 percent compared to last year and I usually pay $4.80 per gallon

Normally, I would spend the summer visiting family down the shore, and going on thrift trips with my friends. However, every trip feels a financial burden.

Spending less time being out on the road and staying at home allows me to save on gas, but learning to limit where I go and what I do has been especially frustrating.

I’ve learned spending money on little things like coffee before work, or buying lunch on my break adds up quickly. Paying for everything I need during the week in cash allowed me to leave my debit card at home and strictly use the money I had with me, instead of aimlessly spending and neglecting to check my bank account.

I know I am not alone in my struggle to save money and enjoy my time as I normally would in lieu of the increase in inflation. However, budgeting has given a new perspective on saving up for experiences and things that I really want. 

Even when I have to budget my time and money I find that the money and time that is spent is worthwhile and fulfilling. 

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