The people fighting price rises by trying to buy nothing
Prices in the US soared 7% last year - the biggest annual increase in nearly four decades. Now US consumers - whose spending powers the world's largest economy - are starting to signal they have had enough.
"I find now, that I'm constantly tracking the cost of certain items," Sevan Tavoukdjian says. "It's changed which items I buy."
The 34-year-old actor moved into his own apartment in New York City last month and when he saw how much it would cost to furnish it, he was shocked at the prices being charged.
So, he scrapped plans to buy furniture and instead sent a message to his neighbourhood “Buy Nothing” Facebook group, where people offer unwanted items for free.
The average American family had to spend roughly $3,500 more last year than in 2020 for the same goods and services due to inflation, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School.
Housing costs were up 4.2%, grocery bills jumped 6.3% and clothing prices were 5.8% higher. Living and dining furniture - like Mr Tavoukdjian was seeking - saw one of the biggest spikes, rising more than 17%.
But salaries have not kept up with the increases, pushing people to forego purchases, substitute cheaper alternatives, or - like Sevan - hunt for something free.
The situation has driven a surge in activity on neighbourhood exchanges such as the Buy Nothing Project, building on growth since the start of the pandemic.
Membership in the group has more than doubled over the past two years to more than 5.3 million globally. It recently added an app to cope with demand.
At Freecycle, a similar site where participants typically offer up some 20,000 items each day, the number of posts each day has increased by about 15% in recent months, driven by the financial concerns, founder Deron Beal says.
Mr Tavoukdjian says he's been amazed by what people are offering in his local Buy Nothing group: everything from never-been-used pillows and plates, to hand-me-down children's toys and clothes - and sometimes more off-beat items such as breast milk.
His own plea for help was amply answered. Within days, he had transformed his bare-bones New York City studio into a home, adding five chairs, two small tables, two lamps, a sofa, rug, microwave, toaster, several sets of dishes, paintings and half a dozen throw pillows.
But the shock of the prices from his initial search has lingered.
When his vacuum cleaner broke recently, he didn't pull out his wallet for a new one. He headed to Buy Nothing for help.
"They’ve made a massive difference,” he says. “It’s amazing what’s out there.”