# Understanding Purchasing Power and the Consumer Price Index

Last updated 04/09/2024 by

SuperMoney Team

Edited by

Fact checked by

Summary:
In today’s world, it is important to understand the concept of purchasing power and the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Both are essential tools for measuring the economic well-being of individuals and the economy as a whole. This article will explain the basics of purchasing power and the CPI, and why they are important for consumers and investors.

Purchasing power refers to the amount of goods and services that can be bought with a given amount of money. In other words, it measures how much real value an individual can obtain with their income or savings. Purchasing power is affected by the inflation rate, which is the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising.
When inflation is high, the purchasing power of money decreases, and it takes more money to buy the same amount of goods and services. For example, if the inflation rate is 3% and you have \$100, your purchasing power decreases by 3%, and you can only buy goods and services worth \$97. On the other hand, when the inflation rate is low, the purchasing power of money increases, and it takes less money to buy the same amount of goods and services.

## What is the consumer price index?

The CPI is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a basket of goods and services. It is used to calculate the inflation rate and is considered one of the most important economic indicators. The CPI is calculated by collecting data on the prices of a fixed basket of goods and services, such as food, housing, transportation, and medical care.

## Understanding inflation

Inflation is the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising, and it is typically measured by the CPI. Inflation can be caused by various factors, such as an increase in demand for goods and services, a decrease in the supply of goods and services, or an increase in the cost of production. When inflation occurs, the value of money decreases, and it takes more money to buy the same amount of goods and services.
The effects of inflation on the economy and consumers can be significant. High inflation can lead to a decrease in purchasing power, a decrease in savings, and an increase in interest rates. In addition, it can lead to economic instability, unemployment, and a decrease in the standard of living for many people.

## Relationship between purchasing power and CPI

The CPI is closely linked to purchasing power because it is a measure of the general level of prices for goods and services. When the CPI rises, it means that the cost of the basket of goods and services has increased, and the purchasing power of money has decreased. Therefore, when inflation is high, it is important to keep an eye on the CPI and adjust your spending and investment strategies accordingly.

## Illustrative examples

1. Purchasing power example: Let’s say you have \$100 to spend on groceries. In 2021, you could buy about 54 pounds of ground beef with that \$100. However, if inflation causes the price of ground beef to rise by 10%, in 2022 you would only be able to buy about 49 pounds of ground beef with that same \$100. This illustrates how inflation can erode purchasing power over time.
2. CPI example: Imagine you’re a college student living off-campus in a small apartment. Each month, you pay rent, utilities, and buy groceries. You notice that over the past year, your monthly expenses seem to be increasing, even though you’re not buying anything extra. To investigate, you look at the CPI for the categories that make up your expenses. You see that over the past year, the CPI for housing, utilities, and food has increased by an average of 5%. This helps you understand why your expenses have been going up and allows you to adjust your budget accordingly.
3. Inflation example: Suppose you have \$1,000 in a savings account that pays 1% interest. Inflation is running at 2% per year. After one year, you will have earned \$10 in interest, but the purchasing power of your \$1,000 will have decreased by 2%, meaning you can buy 2% less than you could a year ago. This means that even though your account balance has increased, the real value of your money has decreased.

## How to protect purchasing power

There are several strategies that individuals and investors can use to protect their purchasing power in times of inflation. One way is to invest in assets that tend to increase in value during periods of inflation, such as real estate, precious metals, and commodities. Another way is to invest in inflation-protected securities, such as Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) and inflation-indexed annuities.

## FAQ Section

### What is the difference between nominal and real values?

Nominal values are not adjusted for inflation, while real values are adjusted for inflation.

### How does inflation affect interest rates?

Inflation can cause interest rates to rise because lenders require a higher return on their investment to compensate for the eroding value of money due to inflation.

### Can inflation be beneficial for the economy?

Yes, a moderate level of inflation can stimulate economic growth and investment by encouraging spending and discouraging the hoarding of money

## Key takeaways

1. Purchasing power is the amount of goods and services that can be purchased with a specific amount of currency.
2. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change in prices of goods and services purchased by households over time.
3. Inflation can erode purchasing power by causing the prices of goods and services to rise.
4. Understanding purchasing power and the CPI is important for making informed decisions about spending, saving, and investing.