Money·7 min read

Skimm Money: Gas Prices, Brittney Griner, and Some Hope for Normalcy

A person getting in a car to test drive
Design: theSkimm | Photo: Pexels
Mar 11, 2022

Yesterday, the US Senate passed a $1.5 trillion spending bill, averting a government shutdown and providing more than $13 billion in aid to Ukraine. This comes as the number of refugees being displaced by the Russia-Ukraine conflict surpasses 2.5 million people. And US companies are stepping up, too. Google is opening its office space in Poland to refugees. And Airbnb is waiving fees for listings in Ukraine, so you can book a stay and pay the host directly.

Headlines, Skimm'd

  • Pressures rising. Inflation hit a 40-year high in February with the Consumer Price Index (hint: like a national price check) rising 7.9% vs. last year. Gas prices were one of the main contributors — and that was before Russia invaded Ukraine. This week, the cost of gas in the US hit a national average of $4.20 per gallon, up from $2.80 a year ago, as the war continues to drive up energy prices. And increasing uncertainty about the situation in Ukraine + rising inflation = stocks swinging wildly this week. 

  • Two cents forward. Equal Pay Day marks how far into this year a woman in the US would need to work, on average, to catch up to a man’s pay from last year. The good news? This year, it falls on Tuesday, March 15. Which is nine days earlier than it was last year. The bad news? The gender pay gap is still significant — and it’s worse for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous women. The encouraging news? Closing the gender pay gap wouldn’t just help women. A new report says it could also boost global GDP by around $2 trillion.

  • Flagrant foul. Speaking of (un)equal pay, news of the arrest and detainment of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia has highlighted how professional female athletes from the US often go abroad for better treatment and compensation. And teams that try to improve player conditions stateside are met with pushback. But women in sports have had some wins lately. Following the US Women’s National Soccer team’s equal pay victory last month, ESPN is launching Fantasy Women's Basketball, just in time for the 2022 WNBA season. Here’s to more Ws, as well as Griner’s safe return to the US.

News to Wallet

Design: theSkimm | Photo: Getty Images

Officially two years since the pandemic hit the US, Americans have continued to quit their jobs at record-high rates, seeking fairer treatment, clearer career advancement opportunities, and better pay. Another thing on many workers’ minds? Returning to the office. If you're heading back, you might have to reintroduce your budget to… 

  • Commuting. If you’re getting behind the wheel, be prepared to pay more at the pump as you burn through gas driving to and from the office. 

  • Child care. Returning to the office could mean that you need to pay for daycare or a babysitter. And that could take a big bite out of your budget. 

  • Eating out. Grabbing that morning coffee is a great way for you to support a local business, but you’ll want to plan for these costs. 

And if you’re still WFH, there could be opportunity costs for your career. And potentially higher energy bills at home. Whatever your plans, here’s what you need to know about RTO

Make Good (Money) Choices

Design: theSkimm | Photo: Pexels

If you need some new wheels…

Tell your budget to buckle up. Especially as prices for new and used cars remain astoundingly high. Your move: Figure out how much you can afford to spend. Hint: Experts recommend putting no more than 15% of your monthly take-home pay toward transportation. And beyond monthly car payments, don’t forget to factor insurance, maintenance (hi, oil changes), and gas — which, ICYMI, is getting more and more expensive — into your budget. We Skimm’d the five most important steps in the car-buying process to get you ready to hit the road.

If your budget is feeling too tight…

Try a side hustle. Because cutting costs is great, but making more money is better. And joining the gig economy can help with that. But burnout is real. And juggling multiple jobs, especially if you’re adding a side hustle on top of a full-time position, can fuel it. The solution? Choosing a gig that’s sustainable, enjoyable, and rewarding — and not just in the monetary sense. A few ideas: Dog walking, writing, and making (and selling) art. Check out the other tips we got from a side-hustle pro.

If you like to ‘buy now, pay later’…

Keep an eye on your credit. Like other loans, buy-now-pay-later (aka BNPL) plans may soon help or hurt your credit score, depending on how you use them. They often come interest-free and without a hard credit pull, making them popular among millennial and Gen Z consumers. And a great option if you’re trying to build credit. But not so great if you’re missing payments. So if you opt into BNPL, be sure to do it responsibly (ie, pay them off in full and on time). To see if BNPL is impacting your score, check your credit report.

Crypto, Decoded

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to lay the groundwork for future cryptocurrency regulations. The main objective? Taking a closer look into crypto's consumer protections, illicit activities, financial stability, accessibility, and plans for responsible innovation. Oh, and to explore a US digital currency (NBD). Bitcoin's value initially jumped with the news — only to fall the very next day as excitement waned.

Also causing volatility: growing concerns that Russia could use cryptocurrency to get around sanctions, continue doing business, and ultimately strengthen President Vladimir Putin’s war chest. Primarily through privacy coins (like Monero and Zcash), which obscure info on the blockchain and make it impossible for any parties outside of the transaction to see the deets. Experts expect more big swings in the crypto market in the coming weeks. 

One Thing You’ve Been Putting Off

Your taxes. There's just over a month until your 2021 taxes are due. Psst…the deadline for most taxpayers is April 18 to file or request an extension. And if the IRS does grant you an extension, that doesn’t mean more time to pay if you owe. It just means you have until October 17 to get all your paperwork submitted.

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