We have been completely out of debt for the past year. The mortgage is gone, we have one credit card that we use for gas and larger expenses than the debit card will cover (and which is paid off in full every month), and we'd owed nothing else.
That brings...a lot of security. I don't have to worry about keeping creditors off my family's back while I stretch what we have to make sure to keep a roof over my head, lights and water on, and food on the table (damn good food, too, even with a minimal grocery budget). We are not to that point, but so many are...and the hell of it is that it's entirely because nobody taught them how to manage...well, life.
And we are in for one hell of a ride, coming up. I'm seeing prices climbing--not in obvious ways, but because I'm paying attention. Even when prices aren't going up, package sizes are shrinking.
I have been actively avoiding the news, because I don't need the stress when there's not a damn thing I can do to fix things. All I can do is worry, and keep doing what I've been doing anyway.
I have some bits of advice for people who are only just now starting to wake up.
First: learn the differences between need and want. That, for some reason, seems to be damn hard for a lot of people. It's something I've been working on teaching my kids, and it's...not easy for them to pick up. Then again, they're 12 and 10, and have never gone without because of their parents' stupid choices. I'd be willing to bet that a lot of kids out there who get most of their nutrition through free school meals are going to grow up to keep a lot of food in the house...and will learn to cook. I did, after all (and I only had one year in that situation, early on in my childhood memories). Everybody needs a basic phone; nobody needs the latest, greatest, biggest smart-phone on the market.
If you want it, and can afford it after all needs (shelter, food, water) are met, more power to you, but it's not a need.
Not every home needs a gaming computer, the newest laptop, the biggest cable package (or even a cable package). Not every home needs a gaming system.
Thing is...it's gotten to the point where a basic something (desktop, laptop, netbook and internet connection) is kind of necessary. It's getting harder all the time for people who haven't learned the difference between need and want in the past to figure it out now (and harder for those of us who have).
And the hell of the matter is that it's getting harder and harder to meet basic needs, between prices going up, and availability of some things going down.
Second: break the habit of pulling that credit card out to pay for everything. Interest rates are going to have to go up. Government "help" is going to force the issue, no matter what Wall Street wants. If you have any debt, look up Dave Ramsey, and start working on his program. Hell, if you have an adjustable rate mortgage (and some do, because it looked like the wiser option at the time) refinance to a fixed rate mortgage. Do it now, before rates start climbing in an effort to combat the coming stagflation that'll make the 1970s look tame. If you don't own a home, don't start looking now--everybody else already is, and the prices in real estate are already jacked up from government "help." Because they didn't learn the first time.
Third. If you own a home, do any needed repairs that you've been putting off now. Remember inflation? It's already hit things like building materials. It's one of the reasons (but only one of them) why we got the roof replaced now, rather than saving a little longer.
If you've been putting off any necessary purchase and have the cash to do them, do them now. Otherwise, there's no telling how long you'll have to stretch things. Just...do not go into debt over a computer for the household...or a cookstove...or anything. Remember the interest rates. Yeah, you may have to settle for something different from what you'd planned because the Covidiocy shut down the wrong factory at the wrong time and what you want isn't available (see: last summer's dishwasher debacle). But now is the time do do any purchases for durable goods.
Oh. Yeah. And build up a stockpile of food, if you can. Go for basics: legumes, base ingredients, etc, rather than packaged food. God alone knows how bad it's going to get before people get pissed off enough to make it better.