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Ukraine-Russia conflict will likely impact Americans’ money: What you can do to save right now

NBC News senior business correspondent Stephanie Rhule has five tips to save money as gas and other prices potentially rise due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine could impact Americans' wallets everywhere from groceries to the gas pump.

With oil prices reaching their highest level since 2014 after Russia attacked Ukraine on Thursday, the effect could potentially be felt in higher gas prices that may come as the U.S. is already experiencing its highest level of inflation in 40 years.

NBC News correspondent Tom Costello outlined the potential effects of the conflict on American finances on TODAY Friday, and NBC News senior business correspondent Stephanie Rhule shared tips on how to save money during a turbulent time.

Oil on the global market temporarily topped $100 a barrel on Thursday, and experts say that for every $10 increase per barrel, gas prices can jump 20 cents per gallon.

The current national average is $3.55 per gallon, up from $2.66 a year ago, with a high of $4.77 in California.

"California is going to be probably paying $5 a gallon in a matter of one to two weeks," Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told NBC News correspondent Tom Costello on TODAY Friday. "And potentially this summer, California could hit $5.50, with some stations nearing six or even $7 a gallon in parts of rural California."

The rising global oil prices also could mean significant increases among home energy costs for Americans. U.S. households would spend $750 more this year on gasoline and home heating oil than last year if oil stays at $100 a barrel, EY-Parthenon chief economist Gregory Daco told The Wall Street Journal.

Russia is the second-largest exporter of oil and natural gas in the world, and prices are set globally. While the U.S. does not import a significant amount of oil from Russia, a rise in global prices causes a rise at American gas pumps.

President Joe Biden said the administration is working to limit the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the finances of Americans.

"We are taking active steps to bring down the cost and American oil and gas companies should not exploit this moment to hike their prices to raise profits," Biden tweeted on Thursday.

The Biden administration has issued sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion, but they have primarily targeted Russia's financial sector, not its fuel and oil sectors. Russia could also potentially retaliate against any sanctions by cutting off its oil and gas exports to certain countries while benefiting from higher global prices.

"There's a lot of fear out there that in retaliation for these sanctions that we're putting on Russia, they could could decide to cut off supply," Rhule said on TODAY. "Now that's not something people should freak out about. We have ample supply here in the U.S., we're not going to run out. However, prices are going to go up."

The invasion of Ukraine could also potentially mean higher food prices because Ukraine is a major global exporter of wheat. Experts say the duration of the conflict will determine how much it impacts food prices.

"There will definitely be an impact on Americans pocketbooks from this, but the question is what is the cost of defending democracy?" CNBC senior economics reporter Steve Liesman told Costello on TODAY.

Russia is also a primary producer of metals, so cutting off imports in that sector could also mean higher prices for manufacturers. Russia is the largest producer of palladium, a metal used in products like catalytic converters in automobiles to jewelry and dental fillings.

With prices potentially rising across several sectors due to the conflict in Ukraine, Rhule shared five tips for how to save money in multiple areas.

  • Use gas station apps to find the best local prices instead of driving around trying to find them yourself.
  • Check to see if your credit card has any deals on gas, as some cards will give you double points or cash back for gas purchases.
  • Keep your thermostat down as temperatures start to rise with spring approaching, as just a couple of degrees can make a huge difference on your bill. Also make sure to check the filter in your furnace and replace it if necessary.
  • Conduct a home energy audit to see how to heat and cool your home efficiently, which you can do through a professional or on your own to learn where draft or unsealed areas could be insulated to reduce energy consumption. You can call your local utility or go to

Don't panic about your 401(k) balance and do not sell. While there may be some short-term fluctuations, investing stocks is a long-term strategy. You should not be investing money that you will need in less than a decade.