To quote the poet, "The times, they're a-changing", and it doesn't seem like that is a positive thing for most Montanans.

My father recently passed away and that meant I had to return to my hometown to take care of some family business and attend the services. I made the 20-hour drive each way and had a whole lot of time to think about life, the past, the present, and the future.

I'll be honest, I'm a little worried.

I'm worried for those of us living here in Montana that are barely making ends meet as it is. Throw in the fact that house prices continue to rise, gas is over 4 bucks a gallon, and the cost of groceries and everything else is going up.   Just how bad is it?  According to data from CNBC, we haven't seen price hikes this high in over 40 years.

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CNBC is reporting that in March alone, prices for everyday items increased 8.5 percent from this time last year. That is the biggest hike that we've seen since 1981.

As mentioned, I took a pretty big road trip last week and spent a whole lot of money on gas. I drove through Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri.  Montana was the most expensive for fuel at right around 4.05 a gallon.  Missouri was the cheapest and I was able to find fuel for 3.68 a gallon. Don't get me wrong, I think 3.68 a gallon is highway robbery, however, it seemed like a bargain compared to what Montanans are paying every day.

I was able to see a whole lot of friends and family while I was there and they all wanted to know what it's like to live in Montana (many of them are big fans of Yellowstone). Of course, I told them how beautiful it was and talked about all the really cool things we have to do here, and then I would tell them how much my wife and I pay in rent.

The look of horror on their faces was priceless.

"How do people afford to live there?" they would ask. I was honest, I told them that many can't and they're leaving, or even worse, some folks have gone to living in a beat-up RV on a side street somewhere.

Photo by Gabriel Meinert on Unsplash
Photo by Gabriel Meinert on Unsplash
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I realize that there are several people that reside in Montana that don't have to worry about money or how they're going to get from this paycheck to the next, however, many Montanans do. Those are the folks that I'm worried about.  Those hard-working folks are out there every day busting their butts and just can't seem to get ahead. How will they deal with all of this?  What will they have to sacrifice to make ends meet? How do folks decide what is essential and what they can do without?

These are all tough questions and I'm afraid they will require tougher answers. The worst part of all of this? It doesn't look like there is much light at the end of our current tunnel. Luckily, there are organizations and groups out there that are willing and able to help Montanans that might find themselves struggling. However, they can only do so much and as prices continue to rise, those resources will be stretched thin.

Let's all hope something changes for the better.

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