The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)

Making choices


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Richard Detweiler, a 72-year-old retired high school Spanish teacher living in Souderton observed rising costs of essentials at the grocery store.

“I generally buy organic skim milk at the supermarke­t, and I noticed it had gone up several cents for the first time in the last month or so but not so significan­tly that I’m going to stop buying it,” Detweiler said.

Detweiler and his wife, Hong-Nhung, embody more of a frugal mentality. He said he’s been careful about spending so they haven’t done a lot of shopping and thus haven’t seen a lot of change to personal spending and living expenses.

“It’s made me nervous and frustrated at being on a fixed income,” said Cheryl Scalzi, a 70-year-old Limerick resident. “I’m fearful for family members on a tight budget,”

Nathaniel Spencer, 69, of Pottstown, agreed.

“The rising cost of food and gas has impacted our budget to the point we have cut back on spending for certain food items,” Spencer said.

Scalzi said price comparing and shopping at discount stores is a helpful way to save money.

But consumers still have to make choices.

“We have been selective about our food purchases, our variety of recipes have diminished,” Spencer said. “We have restricted our consumptio­n of meat, more chicken or fish several meals a week. We walk to places for shopping for groceries to save gas.”

Beatriz Santos, 47, Pottstown, does the same, as she walks to work and does not buy unnecessar­y items.

Detweiler cited economic and environmen­tal concerns as a reason to spend less time in cars.

“I’m perfectly happy to try to reduce my daily movements to places that I can go either by walking or my bicycle or a short car

drive,” he said.

Stephen Krupa, 86, said he’s also had to reevaluate his shopping habits.

“In a couple of cases, the only thing available to a consumer is just to look for a different product at a lower price,” Krupa said.

He said that while prices have gone up, he hasn’t yet had to make any major changes to his daily habits.

“Prices are going up, the crunch has been a little bit tighter, so we’ll see what happens,” Krupa said.

Bad timing

Julia Mixon, 39, of Reading said inflation couldn’t have struck at a worse time: She has been relying on short-term disability payments to support her family since a medical issue rendered her unable to work.

“My savings are gone,

Julia Mixon

and I’m living paycheck to paycheck to stay above water,” Mixon said.

Budgeting in an era of rising costs has been a balancing act since going on disability, Mixon said, and she’s been forced to give up vacations and some non-essential purchases, like toys for her kids.

“The extra funds I would have to do special stuff goes to maintainin­g,” Mixon said. “The option for excess funds to save or use toward a vacation, or to just have for a rainy day, is no longer possible.”

She said the high price of gas over the summer meant she could only take her kids to the pool on the weekends, and the costs of hotel lodging and long-distance travel took vacations off the table.

She said she’s applied to state assistance programs like SNAP (Supplement­al Nutrition Assistance Program) to handle rising grocery expenses.

“SNAP has been a big help,” Mixon said. “I haven’t really had to go to the food bank since getting approved.”

The financial challenges aren’t nearly as difficult as the emotional struggle of knowing she can’t buy her kids an ice cream or a toy to start the school year, she said.

“They don’t understand that there’s no way mom can buy this because mom is worried if we have enough funds to make it without falling behind on bills,” Mixon said.

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