Household budgets never seem to tally these days. Even small things like replacing bulbs or switches, buying basic canvas shoes for children, and changing spark plugs and gear cables for two-wheelers cost more than they did last year.

Just as prices of vegetables, rice, pulses and other essential commodities have been on the increase, items classified as non-essential and yet are necessary from time to time have shot up. The cost of transportation, an increase in labour rates and rentals has contributed to this, say merchants and trade bodies.

“An increase in rates of cotton yarn has only led to an across the board increase in materials thereby leading to 30 per cent hike in rates. We are forced to pass this increase on the customer. However the profits of traders have not gone up as rentals and salaries have been hiked,” said A.V.S.Marimuthu, of the North Chennai Cut Piece Traders Association.

Shahul Hameed a dress material merchant of Ranganathan Street said an increase in cost of packaging materials had also contributed to the price hike. “Not just cottons but even synthetic materials including chudidhar material and saris cost more.”

The school season saw many families, especially those in lower middle classes thinking twice before ordering an extra set of uniform for their children.

D.Seenivasan, an autorickshaw driver, whose son has joined LKG this year, said he paid Rs.700 for the pre-KG uniform last year, but this year he had to shell out Rs.1,000.

M. Vaithianathan, proprietor, Kumaran Dresses said there was a 10 per cent increase in uniform materials this year. Canvas shoes and socks prices have gone up by 10 and 5 per cent respectively.

Individuals constructing houses too felt the pinch due to fluctuating cement, steel and brick prices. Anuradha Gopalan, who recently constructed a house, said when the rate of cement came down she channelized the money meant for electrical works to lay the ceiling. Similarly when bricks became costlier she decided to have a single brick compound wall.

Madurai, an electrical contractor, said that after the recent budget, there has been a 20 per cent increase in rates of electrical goods including switches, CFL bulbs and battery cells.

Along with prices of building materials, labour wages too have increased, said builder R. Madhavan. “Within the last five years there has been a doublefold increase. In 2005 I used to pay Rs.190 per day for a mason, now it is Rs.425. Similarly a male helper used to get Rs.110 now it is Rs.300.”

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