Have you heard of the sequester? Think of it as Fiscal Cliff, Part 2. When Congress couldn’t make a deal to raise the debt ceiling back in 2011, they came up with a fail-safe plan called “The Sequester," a series of severe budget cuts to be implemented on March 1, 2013, which experts say will include huge cuts to just about every government-funded agency (including education and defense). The sequester was never supposed to happen; in fact, it was supposed to provide incentive for Congress to make a deal. But now the deadline is quickly approaching with no sign that Congress will actually compromise on a budget.
“It looks more and more likely that the sequester will be happening since Congress won't come back from their winter break until Monday, and Republicans are hell-bent on not accepting a budget that raises taxes," says David Kautter, managing director for the Kogod Tax Center at the Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington, D.C. "That being said, it's likely that we won't know exactly where the cuts will be coming from until mid-March. Washington hasn’t made it clear exactly where the cuts will come from, but they’ve identified the most sensitive areas that middle-class families will certainly identify with, including food inspectors, Head Start and the TSA."
No one knows for sure which programs will be affected, but currently, after defense, the second biggest category for cuts ($28.7 billion!) is Domestic Discretionary Spending, according to the Washington Post.
This spending category includes many programs that will impact American families in everyday ways.
Food: Higher grocery prices and even shortages of meats and dairy in some places.
Preschool: No preschool or daycare for about 70,000 children enrolled in Head Start programs. Special education programs could also be downsized.
National Parks: Campgrounds and picnic areas could close. And put that Grand Canyon trip-of-a-lifetime on hold: some parks, including the West Rim Drive in the Grand Canyon, will be closed or see their hours reduced.
Airport Delays: Lines, already a challenge with kids, could be longer since furloughs could mean fewer TSA workers. And fewer air traffic controllers could mean more delays.
Unemployment: If you’re getting unemployment benefits, like 3.8 million other Americans, you’ll see your check decrease about 9.4% (which is about $400 between March and September).
Dreading the pinch on your purse? Parenting magazine advisory board members Joanie Demer and Heather Wheeler, the Krazy Coupon Ladies, have some tips on how to adjust your family’s budget without feeling the squeeze:
Change the way you shop: Cook according to what’s on sale. Plan your meals in advance with the week’s brochure from your local grocery store. Consider shopping at multiple stores to get most of your groceries at a discount.\
Stockpile: Everything from cereal to chuck roast – if it’s on sale and you have the space, get it at rock-bottom price and buy multiples.
Rediscover the library: Your local library has way more than just books. Check out DVDs, audio books, and tap into activities for preschoolers and up, like storytime and other fun crafts. Your library might also have fun classes for date nights that are way cheaper than dinner and a movie.
Shop for clothes seasonally: And by that, we mean the opposite season. Bathing suits are way cheaper at the end of the summer than they are in May. That winter coat? Get it in March for a fraction of what you’d pay in November.