BYU students are dealing with inflation

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Jessica Smith
A BYU student grazes the produce aisle at the Creamery on Ninth for her weekly groceries. Inflation, including at grocery stores, has put a strain on students. (Jessica Smith)

BYU students have been budgeting and cutting costs to cope with inflation spikes.

Paul Conrad, manager of the BYU Financial Fitness Center, said the country has not seen inflation like this since the 1970s, and it can be easy to feel helpless with price increases and companies laying off workers.

Because of inflation, BYU students are dealing with increased prices for rent, gas and food. Conrad recommended students look for ways they can act in these circumstances to combat feelings of helplessness, including ways to meet their needs less expensively.

Paul Conrad discusses how students can meet their needs less expensively. Conrad suggests looking back at spending patterns to do so. (Annika Ohran)

Conrad suggests renting textbooks instead of buying, renting laptops or other equipment from the university, being careful with spending on housing and food and using public transportation. 

Dallin Gillespie, a BYU senior from St. George studying human resource management, said gas prices have had a big effect on him, as he drives home to visit and commutes for work. Now, he tries to be strategic with his traveling and uses public transportation when he can, although that takes more planning. Being able to use Utah Transit Authority services and other public transportation for free as a student has been helpful, Gillespie said. He also tries to carpool with coworkers if public transportation will not work for something. 

Conrad said there is a shuttle service to campus that passes most of the main apartments nearby, giving students another option to travel more economically. 

Jared Bingham, a BYU senior studying psychology, said he knows inflation is affecting him but he is not always aware of it besides groceries and things being more expensive.

“Food is where I see it,” Bingham said.

Going to restaurants and buying groceries are both more expensive, according to Bingham, as prices have slowly gone up over the past year and a half.

Gillespie said he has learned to bargain shop for food to deal with rising costs and found different grocery stores that are cheaper or offer deals. He also frequents events on campus that have free food.

Conrad said it is important for students to have a plan for their meals; that way, if they end up eating out it will be more intentional than if they ran out of food or did not have a plan of what to cook. The Financial Fitness Center also collaborated with BYU Dietetics to create a cookbook for students focused on how to eat healthy on a budget.

Gillespie also noticed rent and housing costs greatly increasing with inflation and said his rent has increased around $170 since January 2020. 

Conrad advised students to focus on finding housing that is clean and safe, and to look carefully at their expenses to see what they can afford. 

Additionally, students should try to avoid student debt as much as possible, according to Conrad. The BYU Financial Fitness Center has a variety of resources students can use to explore options for paying for school and how much student debt they can reasonably take on. 

If students are experiencing food or housing insecurity, they can contact the Dean of Students Office for support, and any student can get help from the Financial Fitness Center to better manage their finances. If students are struggling with increasing prices from inflation, they should look to those resources, Conrad said.

In Gillespie’s experience, Utah does not typically increase wages for entry and mid-level positions to match inflation rates. These factors can make it difficult to make ends meet and save money, and Gillespie said he has considered moving out of Utah if wages do not improve.

“It’s more kind of like living from paycheck to paycheck and maybe borrowing money from from parents when needed,” Gillespie said.

To try to save some money, another thing Gillespie does is sell clothes or other items he no longer needs. After going on a study abroad to Italy, Gillespie realized he did not need much after making do with just a suitcase, so he said he is selling some of his belongings to have a little extra cash. 

Bingham tries to budget to deal with inflation but said he could give it more thought.

“If I’m not careful about where I save my money … as inflation goes up … I’ll be losing money. So I think it will have an impact on me in the future,” Bingham said. 

Conrad said this is a good time for students to develop budgeting skills and manage their spending better.

“That’s important right now because of the situation, but it’s also important practice for the future,” Conrad said.

While inflation and economic conditions are outside of students’ control, they can focus on what they can do to combat it.

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