As inflation ramps up in the Seattle area, here’s how 6 residents are coping

These are the times that consumer bank accounts try.

Amid growing signs of an economic slowdown, Washingtonians are still grappling with price hikes that are starting to look as permanent as the pandemic that fueled inflation in the first place.

True, the price increases for some items, such as gasoline, have fallen slightly in recent weeks. But they remain painfully high on everything from groceries to housing to home repairs.

And as the following six stories make clear, that meant new worries, tough choices, and even sacrifices for many Washingtonians, especially those who were struggling before COVID or who took a hit at the start of the pandemic and still haven’t got back on their feet. Stress is also increasing for entrepreneurs, especially smaller ones, caught between rising wholesale prices and dissatisfied customers.

‘Survive in this town’

After customers complained that his $ 17 appetizer was too expensive, Kottu’s food cart owner Syd Suntha slashed prices by $ 2 to appease the tech operators on Expedia’s Interbay campus who they were lined up for his Sri Lankan street food.

Yet customers still complained that $ 15 was too much for lunch. So Suntha, who had already absorbed gas and food cost increases, returned fire on Instagram:

NO MORE EXPEDIA SHIFTS FOR ME.

IT IS NOT FUN TO HEAR FROM PEOPLE WHO DO MUCH MORE THAN YOU THAT YOUR PRICE IS TOO HIGH.

COOKS NEED TO SURVIVE IN THIS CITY ALSO.

Rising prices have crept into the often overlooked mobile food circuit, which was already skating at low margins during the pandemic because employees worked remotely instead of in office buildings, a big source of revenue for food trucks and carts.

To keep costs down, Suntha tows her cart mostly around North Seattle near her Ballard home. The single father of two daughters spends up to $ 80 on gas and propane per outing to power the SUV and portable grill on which he fries flatbread with meat, vegetables and curry.

Since launching her business in March, Suntha said, she hasn’t raised prices even though food costs have risen at least three times, including a 45% increase in cooking oil.

Tan Vinh

‘Should I just give up?’

Y’ana Goddard, 28, wonders if she should drop out of school.

A math graduate from South Seattle College, she knows a bachelor’s degree is the key to a well-paying job as a data analyst someday.

But rising prices added pressure to Goddard’s already tense financial situation. Goddard’s bank account is regularly overdrawn, he said, “and that’s through fixed bills only,” like utilities.

Goddard does a job on campus and about half of his income goes to rent. He relies on his school’s free food pantry for staples like vegetables and eggs. When he goes shopping, the sticker shock is intense. Pork chops, his affordable choice of meat, have nearly doubled in price. Across the Seattle area, overall meat prices rose nearly 14 percent in June from a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Milk and cheese had risen even faster, increasing by 21% in one year.

His breaking point came three months ago, he said, when his car broke down. He couldn’t afford the $ 600 repair estimate. Now he takes the bus from his home in Beacon Hill to school three days a week. Even if he could afford to fix his languishing car in the driveway, Goddard said he’d probably take the bus to school anyway: gas is just too expensive.

As his money problems pile up, Goddard said he finds himself wondering if he’s making the right choice to focus on school.

“You start to feel hopeless,” Goddard said. “Should I just give up and get an entry level job to make money and survive, rather than follow my dreams?”

– Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks

‘A constant need’

A can of Progresso cost $ 1.99. Now her chicken noodle soup costs $ 4 at some stores and is no longer on Ashley Johnson’s grocery list.

Johnson, 34, is a single parent of a future 10-year-old girl and recently moved to Kirkland, where she grew up. Her rent is $ 2,200 and is expected to increase by $ 100 to $ 300 upon renewal of her lease. She knows that her rent is high, but she feels lucky that the increases are not as severe as those of the other tenants in the area.

Gas is expensive, but prices are falling. Rising costs of groceries, such as canned soup, have a bigger impact on her family.

“Children don’t stop eating and with how much they eat during the summer holidays, it’s not something you can necessarily adapt,” she said. “We can always choose to carpooling or not to take day trips, but shopping is a constant need.”

To make ends meet, he works for a grocery delivery startup and has side jobs like taking care of pets, making deliveries and arranging homes. She also started a job in a small logistics warehouse in Seattle at the end of the school year, so she had to factor in highway tolls and extra fuel.

“It’s helping when at least I don’t have to go to the grocery store and think, ‘How much can I get with $ 60 to get us through the week? I can put gas in the car And shopping? ‘”he said.

He told his son that for his birthday, instead of renting a space for a party, they will invite some friends to their apartment.

There is a lot more to say “no” than before.

Think about inflation at least every time you go to the supermarket and every payday. “You get the money in your account and it’s so cool, and it’s gone in a few hours, between bills, groceries, and refueling the car,” she said. “There’s nothing left.”

– Paige Cornwell

‘You’re running someone for the fish’

Inflation hit Dave Franklin even before he could get his trawler out of the Seattle fishing terminal and departing last week for the Alaska season.

Diesel Franklin, 67, buys 6,000 gallons at a time for his 58-foot purse seine costs twice what it did a year ago. The $ 10,000 he just spent on repairs is roughly double what it would have been three years ago, and insurance has increased 35% to $ 30,000.

Franklin’s main hope now is that prices for the pink salmon and chum he nets all summer will remain high enough to do better than break even. “Catching fish is fun,” says Franklin, who has been fishing commercially since 1980. “Going bankrupt is not.”

Across much of the Seattle-based commercial fishing fleet, operators large and small are experiencing sharp increases in everything from fuel to bait, packaging materials and groceries for their crews.

This is likely to squeeze profits and change the way fishing crews operate. To save expensive fuel, boats will likely travel slower and may stay in fishing grounds a few hours from the port, instead of making trips of 12 to 14 hours. Instead of returning to port whenever regulators temporarily close an area, “now some of the kids stay on the ground,” says Franklin.

But in business that is often highly competitive, some costs are unavoidable, Franklin says. Slowing down to save more expensive fuel isn’t an option when “you’re competing with someone for fish,” she says.

– Paul Roberts

‘I had to bear the brunt’

Security Officer Kayla Haughey can spend up to $ 100 per day commuting from Kent to her job at Amazon’s Blackfoot building in South Lake Union. Three days a week, she can carpool for 30 minutes with her boyfriend. But on Mondays and Tuesdays, the car-free Haughey has two options: a combination of bus, light rail and walking, or a service like Uber and Lyft.

Neither is a perfect option. The journey to downtown Seattle by bus and train can take three hours, and in recent months, an Uber per job has gone up to at least $ 50 each way as the transport company has added fees to cover rising fuel prices. .

Haughey’s costs add up quickly. Ubers didn’t get cheaper, and with gasoline above $ 5 a gallon, she spent $ 70 to $ 90 every other week to fill up her boyfriend’s tank. Neither her employer nor Amazon compensates for her transportation costs, she said, even though transportation costs rose 22% over last year in the Seattle area.

“I had to bear the brunt of this every single day on my own,” she said.

Haughey, 31, says the price of reliability is worth it. Her employer has a strict delay policy that doesn’t take delays in traffic or transit as an excuse for being up to a minute late on her 2pm shift. He said managers tell laggards who blame commuting, “Well, you should have planned better.” If she is late for work three times, she could be fired.

“It’s something I don’t like to play with,” he said.

– Maya Miller

“A vicious circle indeed”

A few years ago, Diane Coate recalls: “I was doing pretty well.” By earning $ 17 an hour at Walmart, she could cover her monthly needs.

Then, Coate says, she was diagnosed with cancer, lost her job, and was left unable to walk. Out of work, she is left behind with months’ rent for her two-bedroom apartment in Tukwila. This year, the owner raised the $ 1,220 rent by an additional $ 80.

By relying on social security payments and food assistance, 69-year-old Coate earns less than the cost of rent each month. Hiring movers and paying the deposit in a new location seems out of reach. And anyway, nothing seems affordable. The apartments he has rated nearby are rented from $ 1,200 to $ 1,400.

“It’s a vicious circle we’re entering right now, and I never thought I’d get in the way,” Coate said.

Rising rents are a key part of the inflation measures that have risen in recent months, crushing tenants across the region. An average one-bedroom apartment in King County now rents for nearly $ 1,700, up 9% year-to-date and 13% over the same period in 2019, before the pandemic, according to Apartment List.

Add to that the increased cost of food and essentials. Like others, Coate has taken into account price spikes.

The Oven Joy loaves of bread that once cost 88 cents now ring at $ 1.89. A jar of cherry jam for $ 2.88 now costs $ 4.29. Coate has cut down on extras, such as soft drinks and food from the deli. Use cleaning products sparingly.

“Get off every lane there is,” he said, “and everything is fine.”

– Heidi Groover

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