ST. CLOUD -- With the inflation rate at 8.6%, the highest since 1981, financial councilors have seen more families worried about their household budgets.

Emily Bezdicek is a HUD-certified Financial and Housing Counselor with Catholic Charities in St. Cloud.

She says the best thing to do now is compare how much your family spends versus last year.

One of my recommendations is to compare your spending during the first five months of last year. Compare it to January through May of 2022. Pull those credit card statements, pull those bank statements, see how much you actually spent on things and see what that difference is. Everyone's going to feel inflation a little bit differently.

Bezdicek suggests the best way to combat inflation is a complete understanding of the family budget, and how it compares to spending. Most are surprised to see how much spending is based on habits.

I think those spending leaks, things you don't think about that are just habits. People are more surprised when they're in our office and we do a budget. We show them that you should have $400 left at the end of the month. So where is that money going?

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Federal officials report the average price of food is up 1.2% since last month and more than 10% from this time last year. Bezdicek suggests

  • Listing what’s in your pantry before shopping
  • Meal planning
  • Sticking to a shopping list
  • Avoid eating out
  • Compare price per unit ($/pound, $/oz)

Energy costs are up almost 35% from last year. Some steps families can take

  • Keeping the house cooler by closing the shades
  • Cooking outside (grilling)

Many families need more specific help, and Bezdicek says that’s a very brave thing to do.

We really commend people for reaching out because finances are a really personal thing. And for someone to be brave and to reach out is always great. But we always start by looking back to those basics: budget, budget, budget. There's really only three things that can be done differently, and it's reduce your expenses, increase your income, or sell your assets.

For more help with family budgeting, click here.

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