Shaken once again: family budget as LPG breaches ₹1,000 mark

The Hindu speaks to Parmendra Singh, a courier agency owner, on how his family of seven is coping with rising prices of essential commodities

Updated - May 20, 2022 01:39 am IST

Published - May 20, 2022 12:50 am IST - New Delhi

As unsubsidised domestic LPG cylinder price crossed the ₹1,000 mark in the Capital on Thursday, 42-year-old Parmendra Singh, the sole earning member in a middle-class family of seven, let out an exasperated sigh.

“The price of LPG cylinders has been increasing for the past few months. One cylinder takes us through a month only. How do we cut down on LPG consumption when we have to cook three meals a day for the entire family?” he asked.

Mr. Singh, who lives with his wife, three children and his parents in a 1 BHK flat in south-west Delhi’s Mehrauli, said he meticulously plans his budget every month but the calculations go awry by the third week due to the spike in the costs of basic essentials.

Budgeting food items

Fruits, vegetables and milk products, which were regular food items for the family till a few months ago, are now being cut down to balance the monthly budget and pay bills, education fee on time, said Mr. Singh, who runs a franchise-based courier and cargo agency in South Extension.

Eating out has become a rarity, so has online ordering of non-vegetarian food, which only Mr. Singh and his father consume.

Sitting in his flat in Garhwal Colony, populated mostly with middle-income group families, he said it was the same story across homes. “Be it groceries, household items or clothes, we now think twice before buying anything. It is not easy to manage a big family with depleting income and rising cost of things.”

Before the pandemic, Mr. Singh made around ₹50,000 on a good month. However, in the last two years his earnings have dwindled by two-thirds.

“Though courier delivery was categorised as an essential service, I had almost no work when the pandemic struck. Now the inflation has further impacted my business as fuel prices are rising and so are rates of stationery products but my franchisers continue to offer me a fixed price for delivering parcels,” said Mr. Singh.

Education cost

For Mr. Singh’s family, hailing from Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh, the primary expenditure involves children’s education fees, which has seen a gradual increase of around 30%.

“My two daughters study in Class XII and Class X and my younger son is in Class V. Their education is my priority; shifting them to a government school is not an option as I am not sure if the teaching there would be better than private schools,” said Mr. Singh, who also pays a monthly rent of ₹15,000 for his office space.

His wife Antima Singh, 39, a housemaker, said her kitchen budget is worst hit. “We used to buy apples regularly but even their price has shot up in the past few days, so I have to think twice before buying them. The price of vegetables like lauki (bottle gourd), a regular vegetable item in our dinner, has also increased. I struggle every day thinking about what to cook for our meals,” she said. Adding to Ms. Antima’s woes is the gradual rise in the price of cooking oil. “Its cost has gone up by 25% in the past few months. We are now trying to cut down on its use further to balance the budget.”

One expenditure the family has successfully managed to strike out of monthly budget is new clothes and footwear. “Earlier we could make these purchases often; now we buy them only when there is a need to attend a wedding or a family function,” said Ms. Antima.

Daily commute from house to office has also become a costly affair for Mr. Singh. Travelling in the Metro is not an option due to lack of last-mile connectivity, he said. He has a CNG car, which he is finding difficult to afford due to the continuous rise in CNG price. “Earlier, it used to cost me ₹300 to fill five litres of CNG, now I pay close to ₹400 for the same quantity,” Mr. Singh rued.

Medical expenses are also adding to the family’s financial burden. His father, Dayanand Singh, suffered a heart attack six months ago and has been prescribed medicines that cost him ₹3,000 a month. “I was admitted to Fortis Hospital for stent insertion; the medicines are expensive and eat into the family’s income,” said the septuagenarian.

Shattered house dream

The pandemic and the inflation have struck a double blow to on Mr. Singh’s plans of shifting to a bigger house.

“We were supposed to move into a 2 BHK in 2020. Then the pandemic struck and our plan went for a toss. Now the price of flats is rising as the cost of raw material has gone up. We have put the plan on hold for the time being,” said Mr. Singh.

“I fear the prices of essential goods will keep skyrocketing and hamper the lives of middle-class families like us. But can we do anything about it, other than make do with whatever we have?” he said.

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