Valerie Betton is on the hunt for a discount on clothes. She is an amputee, and has to buy two pairs of shoes each time, because her prosthetics are not the same size. Lately, that is getting harder to do.

“It's crazy expensive. I can’t even eat like I used to," Betton said. "So I’m losing a lot of weight, because you have to change your eating habits."

The mother of two lives on a fixed income and says she is struggling to keep up with the rising prices for just about everything, thanks in part to the inflation and the tumbling stock market — and she is not alone.

What You Need To Know

  • According to the Community Service Society of New York, one in three low-income households have less than $100 in savings

  • New Yorkers on fixed incomes were already struggling due to the pandemic. Conditions have worsened due to inflation

  • Experts say the high cost of living is leading to changes in consumer behavior

The Community Service Society of New York, which tracks conditions and advocates for low-income New Yorkers, says the economic turmoil is especially hurting people who were already struggling before the pandemic.

“Inflation is at a record high — 8.6% — and New York is already among one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in," said Emerita Torres, the organization's vice president of policy, research and advocacy. "It’s especially damaging for low-income New Yorkers, because they already spend a higher share of their household income on necessities."

Torres says one in three low-income households have less than $100 in savings. So to survive the high cost of living, they are depending more on public services like food pantries. The smaller household budgets are also bad for business, as consumers are buying less than they used to.

“We didn’t expect it to be this bad for this long,” said Michael Brady, the CEO of the Third Avenue Business Improvement District.

“They’re buying more conservative. They’re buying on a budget," said Johnny Marrero the owner of People’s Choice Meat Market and Grill. "If they used to buy maybe $200, they’re buying $100. And they go little by little."

Economist and Fordham University professor Dr. Giacomo Santangelo agrees. He says the combination of inflation, supply chain issues and uncertainty about future corporate profits can mean big trouble if the Federal Reserve and the Biden administration don’t act fast.

“We are like a gigantic car, and the car is going too fast, and that’s the Federal Reserve’s fault. So they need to slow down, put their foot on the break, but the problem is, the car is so large, and we have to apply so much break that there’s a chance the car is just going to stop,” Santangelo said.

Economists expect that the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates. People like Betton hope that helps ease some of the burden. Until then, she’ll be extra careful with every dollar she spends.

“You have to be careful and buy what you’re going to use, because once it goes bad, that’s it for the month,” Betton said.