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The short answer is that it largely relies on a variety of factors influencing today's record-high inflation — post-pandemic consumer demand, ongoing supply chain shortages, geopolitical events, the war in Ukraine — and there are various viewpoints on how most of these factors will unfold.
Here's what the experts say about when prices may level out.
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Pinpointing how soon prices will go down again entails estimating large-scale contributors, such as when global supply chain issues will be resolved and when the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes will slow the economy enough to lower inflation. For this reason, and because think tanks, research organizations and economists use varying reasoning, it's difficult to give a clear answer.
Some, like Alan Blinder, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton and former vice chairman of the Fed, suggest that inflation will not last for years. "One day, hopefully soon, food and energy prices will level off and the supply chain problems will dissipate," Binder writes in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. When that happens, says Binder, "...inflation will fall as quickly and dramatically as it rose. We've seen it happen before."
In other words, prices could drop all of a sudden. Blinder also adds that raising interest rates won't be the end-all solution to lowering inflation.
Investment research firm Morningstar gives a more granular prediction, saying that prices will fall precipitously by next year.
Morningstar looks to the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index, also known as the PCE Price Index, which is the Fed's preferred measure of inflation. You may have otherwise heard of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to gauge inflation, but PCE captures a wider scope and better reflects the change in consumers' spending habits when accounting for rising prices.
The Fed uses the PCE Price Index when it refers to its target inflation rate of 2%, Preston Caldwell, head of U.S. economics for Morningstar, tells Select. For context, latest PCE Price Index data shows that the year-over-year inflation rate is at 6.3% as of April 2022.
But in Morningstar's second quarter "U.S. Economic Outlook," researchers predict that 2022 will have the highest rate of inflation, as measured by the PCE Price Index, at 5.2%, before dropping. Caldwell estimates that the inflation rate will average around 1.5% between 2023 and 2025.
"While consensus has largely given up on the 'transitory' story for inflation, we still think most of the sources of today's high inflation will abate, and even unwind in impact, over the next few years," Caldwell says. "This includes energy, autos and other durables. Worries about inflation broadening out into the rest of the economy, including via high-wage growth, look overblown."
So consumers can expect that this year will be the worst for inflation, with prices estimated to go down by 2023, according to the latest Morningstar research.
While the effects of inflation are mostly unavoidable, there are some areas where you can cut back to lessen its impact on your wallet. For example, meats, poultry, fish and eggs are among the foods with the highest price increases, so you may consider implementing a meat-free meal one or more days a week, or substitute some meat in a dish for less pricey ingredients such as vegetables.
There's only so much you can avoid when grocery shopping, however. That's when a rewards credit card can come in handy. This way, you're at least earning something in return for spending so much.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a top choice for offering supermarket rewards. Cardholders earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). You'll also score at the pump with 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit, which lowers your credit card bill. The card is also offering a welcome bonus of a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first six months of card membership — a notably longer time frame than most welcome offers.
6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months.
$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers from the date of account opening
Balance transfer fee
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee
See rates and fees, terms apply.
To minimize your gas spending, look to apps such as GasBuddy that can help you hunt down the cheapest gas prices near you. GasBuddy also has a rewards card that connects to your bank account and offers up to 25 cents off a gallon — it's not a credit card and won't affect your credit score.
You can also use a gas rewards credit card like the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card, which offers the highest rewards rate on gas. Cardholders earn 5X points on gas purchases at the pump and electrical vehicle charging stations. In addition to earning at gas stations, cardholders also benefit from unlimited 3X points for supermarket purchases. Keep in mind that PenFed is a credit union, so membership is required to open this credit card. Anyone can join by completing a few extra steps: apply, open a savings account with a $5 deposit and maintain a $5 account balance.
5X points on gas purchases at the pump and electrical vehicle charging stations, 3X points on supermarket purchases, 1X point on all other purchases
15,000 points when you spend $1,500 in the first 3 months from account opening
0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made in the first 90 days after account opening.*
16.49% to 17.99% variable on purchases; 17.99% non-variable on balance transfers
Balance transfer fee
Foreign transaction fee
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, click here.