A report released by the Census Bureau shows that income dropped for U.S. families and more families were living at or below the poverty line in 2010 than in previous years. In fact, 2010 marked the third consecutive year that the poverty rate increased; since 2007, the total has crept up by 2.6 percent.
The Census Bureau further reported that:
- Between 2009 and 2010, the poverty rate increased from 14.3 percent to 15.1 percent.
- Last year, 46.2 million Americans were living in poverty.
- 2010’s numbers mark the highest poverty rate the country has seen since 1993.
- About 16.7 percent of Americans are now either unemployed or “marginally attached to the workforce” (i.e. underemployed).
One interesting side note about these numbers is that the unemployment rate has not changed significantly in the last year, even though the number of people living in poverty has. This suggests, according to sources, that the high unemployment rate has pushed wages down.
Perhaps contributing to the nation’s rising poverty rate is a steady upward movement of consumer prices. Last month’s numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the energy index rose 1.2 percent and the food index increased by 0.5 percent, its largest jump since March.
Even without the volatile energy and food price changes, other prices rose 0.2 percent, largely driven by apparel and housing costs.
Saving Money in the Thick of It
So what can a cash-strapped consumer do when times get tough? Spend more carefully, for one thing. Here’s a look at some tips for keeping bills lower, even as prices creep up and income falls.
- Use the freezer. While you might forget leftovers in the fridge, you can store them in all their first-night freshness in the freezer. Bonus: freezing food for later saves time when you defrost it.
- Learn sneaky food-saving recipes. Stale bread can be a real bummer – nobody wants to spend money on something and throw it out. But recipes for bread pudding and homemade croutons are both super-easy ways to rescue stale bread. Soup stocks are a great way to rescue vegetables past their prime.
- Buy in season. Summer’s bounty means prices on produce are often at their lowest in the hot months. To take advantage, stock up and either freeze, dehydrate, or can the extras.
- Check your bills carefully. Small mistakes may end up costing you over the long run. Make sure you’re paying only what you truly owe on bills. And vigilance can help you detect any suspicious activity (like possible identity theft) before it becomes a major problem.
- Downgrade. Cable and Internet services can be pretty costly. If you aren’t watching all your channels or using your Internet for work, consider trimming the extras to save every month.
- Go green. Three small steps can help you save serious money on electric bills. First, unplug electronics when you’re not using them. To make this easier, install surge protectors that you can switch off or unplug easily. Next, replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, which use less energy and last about ten times longer. Finally, opt for natural light and air whenever possible.