What has inflation forced you to give up this summer?

How rising prices turned up the heat on millions of Americans already reeling from the pandemic — and how they could cool off

When we asked you to share how inflation had disrupted your plans heading into the summer, we expected to hear about struggles with things like gas, groceries and vacations. But we also heard something else. Many of you vented your frustration that the world was opening back up and people were being pushed to return to "normal" — to gather and connect — but you literally cannot afford to do so. The common answer to our question of “What are you giving up?” was essentially: seeing family and friends. After two years of social isolation, this moment of separation feels especially hard.

Making this high-inflation experience — an unwelcome novelty to anyone under 40 — particularly disheartening is that we seem to be caught in unstoppable economic trends. The pandemic’s unending freight costs, congested ports and labor shortages are being greeted by a war in Ukraine that’s pushed global oil, fertilizer and food prices further up. The Federal Reserve System, trying to stave off the worst of inflation, is jacking up interest rates so mortgages and other loans become costlier.

The good news is that, should the Fed succeed in cooling off the economy or should pressure from any of the other big pieces of the puzzle ease (as is starting to happen with fuel prices), we’ll feel some letup for pretty much anything we consume. And each category of costs has other glimmers of hope for relief.

Until then, as Ellen H. of Bradenton, Florida, sadly put it, “The last three years have been a nightmare I could never have envisioned in spite of decades of saving and budgeting.” We are still waiting to see how the country wakes up from this ordeal — and when we'll be able to reunite with those we’ve been missing. 



The Russia-Ukraine war shows no sign of abating. So the West’s sanctions taking some Russian crude oil off the market, and pushing gasoline prices near $5 a gallon in some U.S. states this summer, aren’t easing up any time soon. On the upside, prices this high could persuade U.S. refiners to engage in the costly reopening of plants, thereby increasing supply and lowering prices. One thing has so far driven down prices: concerns about an economic recession, which would take road trips off the table for millions of people in the United States.



The U.S. Department of Agriculture sees food prices rising as much as 9.5% this year, the most since 1979. Commodity markets are global, so ingredient and animal feed prices depend on the rest of the planet. Last year, bad weather in big farming countries resulted in poor harvests. Today, countries such as Australia and Brazil anticipate good years, which would offset the missing Ukrainian food exports and allow prices to drop.



The cost of health care in the coming months is a bit of a wild card. Price increases have been surprisingly subdued, probably because prices paid by insurers (especially Medicare) were negotiated before inflation was front and center. Providers will now seek to have their rising costs — from wages to equipment — covered, though so far insurers are balking at the demands, which could help limit inflation. The Inflation Reduction Act tries to keep drug costs down, but even if successful, that won’t happen in the short term.

Home ownership


The Federal Reserve has made it clear it’s planning to continue to raise interest rates to make borrowing costs higher still to fend off inflation, now more than triple its target. That will make it more expensive to borrow money, which will slow down demand and push down prices, but also hurt economic growth. Already, 30-year mortgage rates are almost twice as high as a year ago, and sales of previously owned homes are down. This is helping slow down price increases after an unfettered pandemic run. Still, they probably won’t fall too much — except in a few places that showed signs of speculation — since there are so few properties for sale.



From dining out to attending concerts, ballooning bills reflect high production and transportation costs plus pent-up demand. But these are ultimately nonessential expenses, and businesses will need to adjust if consumers’ leisure budgets shrink. For restaurants, which don’t have much wiggle room to lower prices after boosting wages to lure reluctant workers back, automation and artificial intelligence could ease the staffing headache and enable more affordable menus.



Going on a holiday combines all the high-inflation items into one. In July, airline tickets alone were 28% more expensive than a year ago. Higher fuel prices are only partly to blame: It’s hard to see why airlines and hotels wouldn’t try to make up for business lost over the pandemic. With inflation eating into savings, consumer demand slowing and economists saying a recession is increasingly likely, though, the cost of a holiday rental or of a weekend getaway may be down before long. But will we be in a position to afford them?

Jhodie-Ann Williams is an NBC News THINK editor.

Sandrine Rastello is an independent journalist, writer, and moderator. For two decades, she covered business and economics for Bloomberg News as a correspondent based in Paris, Washington, Mumbai and Montreal.

Design and development:

JoElla Carman and Anjali Nair

Art director:

Chelsea Stahl