FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — If it feels like everything is more expensive lately, that’s because most things are.
This winter, you’ll be ponying up more for heat.
“For many of us, we’ve never seen this kind of level of inflation in our lifetimes,” said Rachel Blakeman, the director of Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Community Research Institute. “This is stretching our dollars, we’re having to make our dollars go further, or our dollars don’t go as far as they once did, so… the cost of living has gone up.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the last 12 months, the consumer price index in the Midwest has increased 5.7%.
“5.7% is a lot,” said Blakeman. “When we think about that… Did you get a raise of 5.7% of the past year? For most of us, we did not.”
The report also said used car prices are up about 24% from last year. The cost of meat and poultry has increased 10.5%, and in Indiana, drivers are paying about $1 more per gallon of gas.
Blakeman explained that inflation is impacting the supply chain and manufacturing is trying to catch up to skyrocketing demand. This leads to skyrocketing prices. And for those who use natural gas to heat their homes, life isn’t going to get any cheaper this winter.
On Wednesday, NIPSCO announced natural gas customers could expect to see increased costs this winter compared to last year, which would drive up energy bills. The company said this is a trend across much of the country.
“The last few years we really enjoyed low natural gas costs and so now we’re seeing an uptick in that,” said Wendy Lussier, NIPSCO’s communications department.
NIPSCO said it considers Nov. 1 through March 31 “winter heating season.” During that season, the average natural gas residential customer should expect $590. This is a $168, or 40%, increase from the $422 average cost last winter.
According to Lussier, NIPSCO’s roughly 850,000 customers across northern Indiana will be seeing the price increase because natural gas prices are 92% higher than last winter and the U.S. storage balances are behind last year’s total.
Blakeman said economists believe the inflation we’re seeing right now is going to be short term. In the meantime, she said in some instances consumers have choices about what they buy.
“We have that opportunity as consumers to redirect some of our spending,” Blakeman said. “Someone may say, ‘you know what the cost of meat has gone up the cost of poultry has gone up, so maybe this month I’m going to do more meatless meals. I’m going to be more vegetarian choices. I’m going to focus my diet on, let’s say, whole grains.'”
Customers struggling to pay their heating bills are encouraged to visit NIPSCO’S website or call its Customer Care Center.