Managing costs in a time of uncertainty

The rate of inflation in the future is likely to be determined by different influences as some factors become stronger and others weaken, an expert has said.

For consumers struggling with the effects of inflation, the task of managing money has not been easy, but the sort of issues that may face people in the future might be somewhat different than those in the recent past.

Commodity price rises hiking the cost of food and fuel, the increase in domestic energy bills and the higher rate of VAT have all contributed to a Consumer Prices Index rate that now stands at 5.2 per cent.

Of these, VAT is one factor sure to drop out of the equation just a couple of months from now. The impact of other elements, however, is less well known.

This point was made by British Retail Consortium (BRC) director general Stephen Robertson, following the publication of the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index for October. This showed shop price inflation last month was 2.1 per cent, plunging from 2.7 per cent in September, a situation brought about partly by widespread discounting of food products.

BRC director general responded to the figures by saying: "It's clear inflation is not coming from shops. Rising utility, fuel and insurance bills are the big pressures on household budgets.

"The euro zone debt crisis will continue to make currency markets volatile. The impact on sterling and so import inflation, makes judging the future path of prices a tricky business."

Such uncertainty may grow, not least with the situation in Italy as the country's ability to pay its debt has been doubted and bond yields have soared, forcing Silvio Berlusconi to quit in a way all kinds of other scandals have failed to do.

A budget planner may be ideal to help people track how changing inflationary effects are hitting their pockets. The planner is not just designed to show how much things cost in isolation in any given month, but can be used to show where some areas of expenditure are rising and others are not.

For instance, a family may find this month that their energy bill has jumped, but their food costs are lower because they have been able to make the most of discount offers.

So whatever future price trends may transpire, having a budget planner can enable people to swiftly work out how they need to adjust.

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