THE RISING COST OF EVERYTHING: Casper Family Relies on Resourcefulness Amid Record-High Gas Prices and Inflation

Casper mom leans on domestic skills to keep family out of debt

By Jennifer Kocher

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Laura Redmond’s house is more crowded these days. Two of her five children—Josette, 22, and Easton, 19—moved back into their Casper home in the wake of high gas prices and soaring inflation. Redmond, 44, recently picked up a second job while trimming the family budget to keep them out of debt.

Casper mother of five Laura Redmond enjoys a night of skating with her sons Gavin, 10, (left) and Garret, 13. In the wake of record inflation, Redmond is finding cheaper ways to feed and entertain her family. (Courtesy photo from Laura Redmond)

And though Redmond is happy to see gas prices dip slightly in recent weeks, which saves the family about $70 a month, she keeps their grocery bill to $150 per week—a 50% rise since inflation took hold—by clipping coupons and purchasing on-sale or generic brands. Where the family dined out once or twice a week, they now rely heavily on her garden and canning to prepare meals.

“We don’t drink much milk,” Redmond said, noting that the price has skyrocketed to $4 per gallon, “and birthdays are a little slim.”

Instead of buying presents for her two youngest boys, Gavin, 10, and Garret, 13, the family celebrated their birthdays at the Wyoming State Fair. This outing cost $200 for four admission tickets and food, and it took the place of their annual vacation to Yellowstone National Park for a fraction of the cost. Gas alone to Yellowstone would have run $150, not including lodging at $150 to $300 per night, and the food prices at the park would have been exorbitant. 

The family also eliminated discretionary travel—the biggest sacrifice for Redmond, who enjoys visiting parks with her children and shooting photos for her photography business.

Redmond’s husband Jason, 46, is an overnight FedEx driver who hasn’t seen a raise or bonus for two years. Increased fuel costs are hitting business owners, who are passing their overhead on to their employees instead of their customers, Redmond noted.

But between their incomes and spending cuts, the couple stashes money into a savings account each month for emergencies. They refuse to use credit for monthly expenses, apart from their 15-year mortgage. 

“Most people live paycheck to paycheck or on credit,” said Redmond, who sells DoTERRA essential oils full time and just started a second part-time job with AmeriCorps VISTA. “And with interest rates going up, I don’t know how they are making it.”

Redmond blames the Biden Administration for the sagging economy, though said she prefers not to waste her time being angry.

Instead, she appreciates her cooking and gardening skills now more than ever, as her resourcefulness saves the family about 30% each month. Last week, when her two youngest children wanted to order a pizza—at $12 for a small, gluten-free one to accommodate Gavin’s wheat allergy—Redmond prepared one from scratch for $4.

Her two older children, however, are having a rougher time adjusting.  They want to be out on their own, but can’t afford to do so despite working more than one job. Josette works three part-time jobs as a server, bartender and liquor store clerk, while Easton works full time in construction.

“They’re frustrated because they miss their independence,” Redmond said.

Having two adult children move back home also creates cramped quarters and tension.

“They don’t have the same clean standards I do,” she said with a laugh. “They still want a mom to cook and clean up after them, but they don’t want to be told what to do.” 

Redmond’s eldest daughter, 24-year-old Liz Bowers, also just started a second job to make ends meet. In addition to working full time as a digital marketing specialist, she now waits tables five days a week at a local pub, so she can afford the new house she bought in Evansville last year.

Despite the cutbacks, Redmond indulged in a treat this past weekend: She and her best friend traveled to Gardiner, Montana, to help raise money for flood victims.

“I won’t let inflation get the better of me,” Redmond said. “Yes, I allow a splurge, but I choose to spend my money with intention.”

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