Nobody knows how much of a financial impact the drought will have in the coming months and even years, but unless the weather changes drastically, the effects are likely to be well into the billions of dollars. Some economists fear that the drought may have significant impacts on the economy, affecting middle class consumers barely getting by in this already challenged economy.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released food inflation forecasts that suggest that consumers won't feel the effects of the drought until 2013 but without knowing what those effects will be, lifestyle changes may be necessary. Think about these basic ways of fighting the effects of the drought.
Change What You Eat
The USDA predicts that the price of food could increase from 3% to 4%. If farmers harvest fewer crops this fall, that will affect almost all food products. With the price of meat already more expensive than other foods, consider eating less expensive cuts of meats and compare the price of frozen vegetables to their fresh counterparts. The price of pasta will likely rise, but it will still be cheaper than meat.
Change Where You Eat
Regardless of how much your grocery bill increases, it will still cost less than eating out. Some restaurant owners are already looking for ways to mitigate the effects of rising food prices without a significant rise in prices, but that may be nearly impossible.
Cut Your Home Energy Consumption
It's not only dry, but it's hot and that causes a rise in energy bills. Look for small ways to save on electricity, like turning off computers and TVs when not in use, unplugging cable boxes on seldom-used TVs, making sure your dishwasher and washing machine are full before running them and switching to energy efficient bulbs. Little actions add up.
SEE: Ways To Slash Your Home Energy Bill
Rework Your Budget
First, if you don't have a household budget, it's time to make one, but if you do, you likely have a line built in for unexpected expenses. Since nobody knows the effects of the drought, consider upping that unknown line, increasing your emergency fund and finding other places to trim.
Make Your Home Fire Safe
If you live in a drought-stricken area, is your home as fire-resistant as possible? Don't smoke outside where grass may be water-starved, keep foliage clear of your air conditioner, double-check your smoke alarms, keep recreational fires in fire pits placed on cement or asphalt and make sure a fire extinguisher is close by if you're doing anything outside that's potentially flammable.
Stop Worrying About Your Lawn
You may love your beautiful lawn, but fighting the effects of a drought this severe can be costly and even illegal. There will be future years to be the pride of your neighborhood, but for this year, let things go a bit and save that money for other expenses.
Eliminate the High Priced Vacation
It might be too late for this year, but going to a more local vacation spot could put money back into your budget for rising food and energy costs. If the effects of the drought are less severe than expected, you can go on a dream vacation next year.
SEE: 7 Ways To Save On Summer Getaways
Take Care of Yourself
It's hot and dry and that has a taxing effect on even the most physically fit of individuals. Stay inside and do outside activities later at night or earlier in the morning. A trip to the hospital for dehydration is expensive, so be mindful of the dangers presented by the drought.
The Bottom Line
History shows that many doomsday forecasts end up being far less severe than predicted, but when preparing financially, it's much better to have too much money saved than not enough. If it ends up not being as severe as expected, use that extra money to pay down debt or put a little extra money toward your retirement plans.