It’s been a year of wild inflation, with the best news being that for a brief moment — July — prices for typical consumer goods didn’t rise. Then they started ticking back up in August, albeit at the slowest pace all year.
Maybe that’s a glimmer of hope that things are turning around … and maybe not. But certain price hikes are likely to stick with us for a while.
If you’ve read anything about inflation in recent months, you’ve probably heard of the Consumer Price Index — that’s how the federal government gauges the overall inflation rate of the goods and services we buy. Less discussed is the more specific , which measures inflation among items where prices tend to “stick,” or change more slowly.
Items in the sticky category tend to be those where frequent price changes would be too costly to pursue. So companies tend to guess what inflation will look like and price things for the medium- to long-term instead of adjusting quickly to economic conditions, experts say. Haircuts and coin-operated laundry services are examples of “sticky” stuff.
Here’s a look at several sticky things which are probably not going to get cheaper quickly, even when the overall inflationary trend reverses.
This category includes beverages people consume at bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as those brought home. Beer, ale, wine and spirits such as whiskey are all part of the measurement.
From August 2021 until August 2022, there’s been a 4.3% increase in prices — far lower than the 13.4% change in nonalcoholic beverages.
Stationery and gift wrap
This category covers many paper goods such as notebooks, index cards, greeting cards and envelopes. It also includes certain office supplies such as tape, staples and glue.
For the year, this bundle of goods has seen a 9.3% price increase.
This might sound like buses — which the category does include — but it’s also airfare, passenger ferry, commuter train and light rail, subways, ride-shares (but not limos) and the like. This category is up a whopping 21.1% over the past year, but down 6.3% from July to August.
One reason this category might seem less sticky than usual is the dramatic, record-breaking shift in gas prices, which rose by about 50% in the first half of 2022.
This category is technically called “food away from home” and includes not just restaurant fare but catered events and the “board” part of room and board.
This category has risen 8% over the past year, less than the 13.5% we’ve seen the category “food at home” move during that timeframe.
Medical care services
This broad category breaks down into two sub-categories: “physicians’ services” and “hospital services.” It includes most office-based physicians but excludes dentists, ophthalmologists and other people who provide health care services but lack a doctor of medicine degree.
Medical care services as a whole have risen 5.6% year over year.
Water, sewer and trash collection services
These residential services have collectively risen 4.6% since last August. There’s a lot you can do to lower your water bill, though.
Motor vehicle fees
As you might guess, this includes the stuff you pay at the DMV, tolls and parking fees. It does not include auto insurance, maintenance or repairs.
Since last August, this category has risen just 2.4%.
Haircuts and other personal care services
In the “other” personal care services category, we find tanning salons, coloring, mani-pedis and other spa services. It doesn’t include the products you might buy at any of those places, just the services. This category could use a trim — it’s up 4.4% since August 2021.
Miscellaneous professional services
This hodgepodge category covers legal, funeral, bank, accounting and even dry cleaning services.
Averaged together, these are up 6.7% for the year. But laundry and dry cleaning services are up 7.9%, in case you were wondering.