News - Kane County

Kane County residents sound off on how they’re coping with record-high inflation

Batavia resident Alan Spear is not letting the nation’s inflation rate affect his upcoming trip to Maine on his recreational vehicle.

With inflation hitting a 40-year high this summer, consumers are faced with hard choices about cutting costs to make ends meet.

The government’s consumer price index soared 9.1% over the past year, the biggest yearly increase since 1981, with nearly half of the increase due to higher energy costs. Rent and grocery prices are also on the rise, squeezing consumers even more.

Shaw Local News Network asked readers a series of inflation-related questions in an unscientific survey conducted in June, including how they feel about their current financial situation, what they have done to cope with soaring prices and what they might do.

Respondents were only allowed to weigh in once per device or email address. When asked if their financial situation was better or worse compared to six months ago, 39%, or 448 of the 1,146 responses, considered themselves much worse off. Meanwhile, 1%, or 15 respondents, said they considered themselves much better off.

According to the survey, 95 respondents, or 8%, said they or a spouse had lost a job in the last six months and 170, or 15%, said they have adjusted their spending habits as a result of rising costs or inflation. Regarding how they feel about the next six months, 36%, or 411 of the 1,146 people who responded, said they thought they would be much worse off financially. Of the total people who replied, just 2%, or 18 of the respondents, said they felt they would be much better off.

The survey also asked participants to consider their own decisions and rank what they were most likely to cut. Concerts or sporting events were first on the list of things to cut for 70%, or 807 of the 1,146 respondents.That was followed by alcohol/smoking/gambling, 59%; travel, 58%; newspapers or magazines, 48%; dining out, 44%; clothing, 40%; groceries and streaming services, 36% each; and gas was last at 25%, according to the survey.

Despite the higher costs, Alan Spear isn’t letting the high price of gas stop him from taking his RV to Maine this summer. The Batavia resident acknowledged that the trip will cost him several hundred dollars more this year, but is still planning to go.

“The inflation isn’t stopping me from going. I go every year, for a month,” he said. “I think folks were trapped [during the pandemic] and the fact that things cost more isn’t enough to stop them from going it. I think the driving factor [for the record inflation] is people can now go out and do things and will do that, if they’re able to. They can spend again, and they’re spending faster than the economy can keep up.”

But for West Dundee resident Elizabeth Clarke, the higher prices have impacted how her family shops.

“We’ve been limited travel and we try to condense our trips to the grocery store to once a week to save gas,” she said. “It is helping by not going out as often. If (the inflation) continues, we’ll have to try to find other sources of income to make up for it.”

Colin Campbell of Geneva said he and his wife don’t go out for dinner as much, but overall, inflation hasn’t impacted them as much as it has others. He said that they’re “just riding it out.”

“I was born in the Great Depression,” he said. “We’ve had recessions and inflation and all sorts of economic stuff ever since, and the way to deal with it is to keep calm and soldier on and don’t take unnecessary risks. It’ll end. Gas prices are already beginning to come down now.”

Jack McCabe of Batavia said he and his wife receive free delivered food through Kane County Senior Services, for which they are able to give a small donation.

“Which has been a life saver,” McCabe said. “There’s just two of us and we’ve ben going thorugh $300 a month on groceries – cereal, bread, milk, eggs.”

McCabe said they shop at discount grocery Aldi for better pricing as well.

“Six month ago, butter was a buck and a half. And now it’s almost $5 – which affects everybody. And we are on a fixed income,” McCabe said.

One thing he has not bought in weeks is a head of iceberg lettuce.

“In the past couple weeks, it has gone to $3 to $4 a head,” McCabe said. “I’ve had 16-inch softballs bigger than that. We haven’t had bacon in probably a couple of months.

“With gas at $5 or more a gallon, McCabe said they are lucky all their shopping and doctors’ appointments are close by.”