This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
A dollar doesn’t stretch like it used to and Utahns are feeling it.
In Utah, AAA reports gas averages $4.30 a gallon— the state’s highest gas price on record. Within the last year, inflation rose 7.9%—the highest rate since 1982, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
What the BLS considers the mountain region (Utah, Wyo., Colo., Mont., Kan., Mo.) saw the biggest Consumer Price Index (CPI), or inflation, increase in the nation, hitting almost 10%.
The Salt Lake Tribune recently asked readers how inflation has impacted them and how they’ve adjusted to rising prices.
Here’s what they had to say:
Price at checkout
The most common price increase that survey respondents named was groceries. Overall, the price of groceries are up 8%, according to BSL, with the biggest increase being meat products, which is roughly 13% more expensive than it was a year ago.
Greg Schulz, a Magna resident, said basics like eggs, milk, beef and vegetables have added an average of $5 to $10 to each of his grocery store trips.
He’s been able to absorb the additional costs without cutbacks, he said, but “I hope the increases are making it to the workers.”
Others, like Salt Lake City resident Nilda J. Davila-Marcano, said she wishes more coupons were available because after paying for her groceries and other bills, her income is practically gone.
“I received a salary increase of 2% last year but it is not sufficient [to cover everything],” she said.
Draper resident Brett Coffin added that meat prices have increased; for instance, steaks are $1 to $2 more a pound than they used to be. He now goes to discount grocery stores more often than he used to, he said.
And Luke Kay in Vernal said while he used to spend between $250 to $260 every two weeks on groceries for his family of six, that amount has now increased to about $300.
“Luckily [I] was able to get a small pay raise to start this year, but [we’re] cutting back on the nonessential items to help cover the other costs,” he wrote.
Big jump in rent
Several survey respondents also talked about the burden of higher rent costs. The BLS reports the cost of rent rose 3% from last year, but Utah’s market is hotter than ever, putting a higher cost burden on renters.
Lehi resident Felicia Lee said her monthly rent has gone up $300, while Amy Stringfellow in West Jordan said her rent for a three bedroom apartment has increased from $1,1176 in 2015 to $1,958 now.
“I use every penny of my disability check for rent,” she wrote, adding that she’s been dieting and clipping coupons to cut her grocery bill in half.
The average cost of rent in Utah County jumped more than 50% within the last two years, according to a report by the Utah Foundation. The report also showed year-over-year appreciation of housing in Utah is up 29% as of Sept. 2021. However, Utah wages aren’t keeping up with the rising costs of rent.
Logan resident Steven R. Jerman said inflation rates forced him to move to where he could afford a house.
“I saw the writing on the wall,” he said. “It’s made me sad for the people [still] there.”
Fuel, utilities and basic necessities
Inflation has hit utilities the hardest. BLS data shows energy costs are up 27% from last year. The cost to heat a home has also spiked nearly 24%. The price of utilities are up so much that Utahns are juggling side gigs to subsidize the increase in cost for basic needs.
Salt Lake City resident John Peterson said that while groceries have been noticeably more expensive, the biggest shocker has been his winter gas bill — it almost doubled.
“I actually had to check to make sure I didn’t miss a payment, it was that high,” he said.
However, the biggest sticker shock is at the gas pump. Since 2021, the price of fuel has jumped nearly 50%, according to BLS. For the first time since 2008, the average gallon of gas in the US is above $4 a gallon, according to AAA. Gas of all kinds is up 40%.
Carolina Wibiral, a West Bountiful resident, said she’s working two jobs to cover gas, electricity and other expenses. Gas is much more money than it used to be, she said, and food costs as much as three times more.
“I’m working 14 hours a day to pay my bills,” she said.
And Richard P. Stevenson, who lives in Cottonwood Heights, said his gas bill has gone up at least 150% and his food expenses have increased by as much as 200%. He’s also seen smaller increases in other categories, like natural gas for heating homes (up 15% for him) and furniture (up 20%).
Stevenson said he’s using coupons and price shopping more often, but he also wants to vote for change.
“[I] plan on voting out politicians who ignore these issues and blame supply chain issues and energy price increases on previous administrations,” he wrote.
Other services hit by inflation
While groceries, rent and utilities were among the most common price spikes felt by survey respondents, BLS tracks the price fluctuation of a series of services.
Here’s what else you’ve been paying a little (or a lot) more for:
The price of new apparel is up 5%
Used cars and trucks are 40.5% more expensive
Alcohol prices have increased nearly 3%
Hospital services are up about 4%
Plane tickets prices have risen by 5%
The cost of car insurance is up 4%