The Government's decision last month to hike petrol prices, followed by an increase in electricity rates at the beginning of this month, is adding to the cost of almost all of consumer goods. Meanwhile, the falling value of the Vietnamese dong has also caused importers to raise the prices of many necessities, including milk and other food items.

For middle-income earners, the rising cost of living means less money to spend right at a time when most haven't been promised any wage rises.

Thirty-eight-year-old Pham Thuy Lan, an employee of a State-owned company in Hanoi , said she began planning to cut her household budget when rumours about price hikes hit the media months ago.

"It might sound a bit ridiculous, but I stockpiled a certain amount of consumer goods, such as rice and cooking oil," Lan said. "Not too much, but enough for two or three months of household use, which has given me a lot more confidence."

She also revealed that she had become more watchful not to waste electricity at home in order not to drive her bill up for the month.

"Unlike before, I always remember to turn off the light and other electronic appliances before leaving a room," Lan said.

Some other middle-income workers have chosen to bring a lunch box to the office instead of eating out. Others asked for a lift to their workplace to economise on petrol costs, while others have made use of vacant land around their home to plant vegetables rather than accepting higher price in markets.

To other urban dwellers who live on running small business, cutting down daily expenses is a good way to manage their family's budget.

Vuong Thi Nhan, 45, the owner of a fruit stall at Long Bien Market in Hanoi , disclosed that she was weighing whatever she bought for her family during the "price storm."

"Our spending on food must be lowered a little bit, but spending on education for our kids can't be changed," Nhan said. "Members of our family are spreading the word to conserve power, gas and water."

Rural residents seem to be less disturbed by the recent price hikes.

"We just spend what we have. We don't need to," said farmer Nguyen Van Chu of Duc Chinh Commune, Cam Giang District, Hai Duong Province, about 50km east of Hanoi.

Another farmer from the northern province of Nam Dinh, Hoang Phu Sang, said that price hikes, particularly the higher electricity rates, were still acceptable to his family and neighbours.

"It's because we still get financial support from the Government," Sang said.

"Despite being painful, everybody must accept the need to tighten their belts and limit unnecessary demand," said the head of the Institute of World Economics and Politics' International Economics Department, Bui Ngoc Son. "In return, we will have a more balanced economy."

Son said current high inflation stemmed largely from the domestic situation rather than international influence.

"In my opinion, the Government's economic stimulus package during 2008 financial crisis went on longer than it needed to. As a result, our economy has gone like mad, with too much money poured into the market and a large number of people turning to stocks or real estate investments."

Son said he hoped that now, as the Government has introduced tighter fiscal and monetary measures to stabilise the economy, including State budget cuts, the Vietnamese dong would regain its faith./.