Even for base shoppers, struggle is real
By Gina Tabonares-Reilly
Friends and families used to say that those of us who have access to commissaries were lucky to have the privilege of shopping on base. The Defense Commissary Agency boasts of having lower prices for groceries at the Navy Exchange and Air Force Commissary than their off-base competitors.
Some mistakenly assume that we are immune to the mounting inflation. Well, not at all.
Lately, military families have been feeling the same pain experienced by civilian households. The difference in gas prices is not that much. The price of regular gas on base was $5.15 per gallon as of the last week of June, compared to $6.30 per gallon at the local pumps.
Hidden surcharges continue to creep in, making prices of basic commodities spiral out of control. The price of rotisserie chicken, for example, went up from $6 to $13.
On top of tripled prices, commissaries on Guam are not immune to supply chain disruptions. Compared to other defense installations, they have it worse given that the island is at the end of the supply chain for U.S. distributors. Delayed shipments result in empty shelves.
I used to take it for granted. I used to not mind the shortage of baby formula and certain brands of pet food for my four dogs. I bought a different brand that ended in the garbage because my furry brats were not touching it.
I check the commissary shelves at least three times a week for their latest restocking. Most of the time, we end up being frustrated when no one at the stores could tell when the next shipment would arrive.
To avoid hoarding, the commissaries have imposed purchase limits on certain items, specifically basic commodities. We can buy only a maximum of five per rationed item every shopping trip.
Because consumer prices have ballooned, we have cut back on grocery shopping and given up our indulgences. We started buying cheaper cuts of meat. We have become prudent shoppers by comparing prices at different stores and using coupons if they are available. We try to drive less by carpooling.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual inflation rate in the U.S. accelerated to 8.6 percent in May, the highest since December of 1981. Energy prices rose 34.6 percent. Economists attribute the surge in energy prices to several factors, one of which is the increase in the cost of crude oil resulting in large part from the war in Ukraine.
As if we’re not hurting enough, the Guam Power Authority advised us to brace for another power rate increase this year.
Effective July 1, the levelized energy adjustment clause on LEAC increased from 20.9 cents to 25 cents per kWh. For residential customers, this represents an average increase of 13.72 percent or $42.12 on their total power bill.
Then, effective Sept. 1, the LEAC will increase again to 29.6 cents per kWh, an additional 12.72 percent increase, or $44.41, to the average residential power bill.
“Our island is certainly not alone in experiencing the financial strain from the rising cost of fuel - the country and the world share this struggle. And it is true that the cost of fuel is anticipated to rise further in the coming months," Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero recently said.
We don’t know when this is going to end, if at all. In the meantime, we are all compelled to tighten our belts.