Shopping in Buenos Aires is a sport. We’ve learned the hard way that if you put off buying something today, you are likely to pay more for it tomorrow and definitely more for it next week. Inflation here is a bit out of control. It’s a cycle here they seem to have become accustomed to.
Allow me to share a not-so-proud moment (we’re friends after all).
Two weeks ago, we were at one of the local, mini grocery stores (informally referred to as Chinos) and noticed that the brand of bottled lemonade we like was on sale. Three bottles for $40 pesos. Usually, they’re about $20 pesos each. Score!
Foolishly we didn’t buy them that day. Instead, we went back the next day (mistake – see comments above). It was near impossible to get to the shelf because they had just received several pallets of sandpaper (or toilet paper – I seriously can’t tell the difference). I could still see a bit of the sale sign taped to the shelf. I was able to squeeze my arm behind as best I could to liberate three bottles.
I moseyed up to the check out counter. The cashier asked for $45 pesos. I told her they were on sale for $40. She told me they were on sale for $45. I told her we were there yesterday and it was $40. She told me it is NOW $45. I was sure she was wrong.
I marched my smug ass down to the obscured lemonade shelf, reached in and yanked off the sale sign – only to discover that the price had gone up by $5 pesos overnight. *Gulp*
I had two options: find a back door, skulk away and never return; or, apologize, ante up the extra $5 pesos and walk home with my tail between my legs. Did I mention that we really like this lemonade? I paid and she actually apologized that it was more than before.
The only thing to lift my spirits in that whole ordeal was that I was able to have a somewhat heated exchange, in Spanish, with a Chinese cashier. Small mercies! Always find those silver linings.
There was a time not so long ago when we didn’t look at prices. Sure, when it came to big ticket items like a television, furniture and vacations we would shop around for the best price. But for the most part, when we were both working full time, if we needed (aka wanted) something, we wouldn’t really think twice about slipping out the credit card and going about our merry consumer lives.
Since we’ve been in Argentina, we have adopted a peso-only approach to paying for things (like overpriced lemonade). For now, our credit cards are tucked away safely.
We keep track of our spending each day. Yes, we’re those people.
I’m pretty sure our friends who have visited us think we’re a bit obsessive, but the honest truth is that to make this indefinate sabattical work, we need to have a clear idea of what’s coming out of our pockets each month – this is new territory for us.
That doesn’t mean we’re living miserly. We eat out – lunches more than dinners. But we have come to enjoy preparing meals at home. That means we spend more time than we’d like at the grocery stores.
Since arriving, we have seen the price of certain things we buy weekly go up – in some cases by as much as 30 per cent. It didn’t happen overnight, but a few pesos added on here, and then a few more the next time and before you know it, you’re looking at the coffee pods you buy and asking yourself if it’s time to kick caffeine.
Dining out is no different. We have a few favourite restaurants where the menu isn’t extensive so you get to know the prices – or so you think. An excellent tenderloin dinner creeps up each week in 10 peso increments. Sometimes restaurants reprint the pages of their menus so new visitors are none-the-wiser, others simply put stickers with the new price over the old prices – a neat layer of stickers with each increase. The good news is that even with inflation we can still enjoy a great steak dinner for two, with wine, for under $30 Canadian.
On one recent outing, we were sitting at one of our regular lunch places. As we were trying to decide what to order, one of the service staff was going from table to table replacing the laminated cards that described their regular brunch options. In that moment the price for brunch went from $190 pesos to $210. You snooze, you lose. We should have arrived 10 minutes earlier.
I wish I could provide a simple explanation of what has caused this recent bout of inflation. But it’s complex and has been a long time in the making. In a nutshell, it appears the previous government didn’t have a clue about money management – spending way more than they brought in – and printing more money each time they ran out. After more than 12 years of that pattern, Argentines voted in a new government at the end of the year. And, sadly, Argentines now have to pay for the fiscal mismanagement of the previous government.
We hope they get it figured out, soon!