For some of us?
The higer prices out there ARE going to cut into our buying gifts….
November has been busier than expected at the Langham Hotel in Boston as luxury travelers book rooms in plush suites and hold meetings in gilded conference rooms. The $135-per-adult Thanksgiving brunch at its in-house restaurant sold out weeks ago.
Across town, in Dorchester, demand has been booming for a different kind of food service. Catholic Charities is seeing so many families at its free pantry that Beth Chambers, vice president of basic needs at Catholic Charities Boston, has had to close early some days and tell patrons to come back first thing in the morning. On the frigid Saturday morning before Thanksgiving, patrons waiting for free turkeys began to line the street at 4:30 a.m. — more than four hours before the pantry opened.
The contrast illustrates a divide that is rippling through America’s topsy-turvy economy nearly three years into the pandemic. Many well-off consumers are still flush with savings and faring well financially, bolstering luxury brands and keeping some high-end retailers and travel companies optimistic about the holiday season. At the same time, America’s poor are running low on cash buffers, struggling to keep up with rising prices and facing climbing borrowing costs if they use credit cards or loans to make ends meet.
The situation underlines a grim reality of the pandemic era. The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to make borrowing more expensive and temper demand, hoping to cool the economy and bring the fastest inflation in decades back under control. Central bankers are trying to manage that without a recession that leaves families out of work. But the adjustment period is already a painful one for many Americans — evidence that even if the central bank can pull off a so-called “soft landing,” it won’t feel benign to everyone….
Many working-class households fared well in 2020 and 2021. Though they lost jobs rapidly at the outset of the pandemic, hiring rebounded swiftly, wage growth has been strong, and repeated government relief checks helped families amass savings.
But after 18 months of rapid price inflation — some of which was driven by stimulus-fueled demand — the poor are depleting those cushions. American families were still sitting on about $1.7 trillion in excess savings — extra savings accumulated during the pandemic — by the middle of this year, based on Fed estimates, but about $1.35 trillion of it was held by the top half of earners and just $350 billion in the bottom half.
At the same time, prices climbed 7.7 percent in the year through October, far faster than the roughly 2 percent pace that was normal before the pandemic. As savings have run down and necessities like car repair, food and housing become sharply more expensive, many people in lower-income neighborhoods have begun turning to credit cards to sustain their spending. Balances for that group are now above 2019 levels, New York Fed research shows. Some are struggling to keep up at all.
“With the cost of food, the explosive cost of eggs, people are having to come to us more,” said Ms. Chambers of Catholic Charities, explaining that other rising prices, including rent, are intensifying the struggle….