The Sequester Hit: Now What?

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Brace yourself and your finances, because the sequester has actually hit. Over the next seven months, the federal government will slash $85 billion in funding to programs across the board, ranging from special education in public schools to border patrol.

And while no one knows exactly in what position these budget cuts will leave the U.S. economy, it is highly unlikely that the uncertainty will inspire confidence in American financial markets.

But even though the eventual $1.2 trillion in cuts to come over the next decade may seem foreboding, there are some things you can do to cushion the impacts at home.

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1. Stock up on meat for the freezer. By the end of March, meat prices will likely rise, when thousands of Department of Agriculture workers are laid off and a projected 2,000 fewer food inspections take place. Analysts say this may lead to processing plants shutting down, and a shortage of steaks and chicken thighs in your local grocery store. It will take at least April 1 for the workers to leave because the government requires giving workers 30 days notice. The sheer possibility may also cause prices to surge, economists say, as supermarkets anticipate a dearth in stocks.

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2. Fly during less traveled days and times. After the Transportation Security Administration takes a $323 million hit, employee layoffs will cause long backups to already lengthy airport security checkpoints across the nation. The department will also have 10 percent fewer air traffic controllers on duty, compounding waits before taking off. We suggest trying to purchase tickets for flights leaving on unpopular travel days like Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Also, look out for flights very early in the morning or very late at night, before the business day starts to avoid getting caught in lines with regular business travelers. Check for flights during lunchtime too, as midday flights also tend to be less desirable.

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3. Take public transportation. The sequester will force oil drilling on American soil and water bodies to slow because of expected bureaucratic delays in permit processing and regulatory decisions. And although the federal government has been looking to increase the country’s energy security, if U.S. oil production drops, American gas prices may rise and more foreign oil will flood the market.

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