That’s no secret inflation has plundered many bank accounts in the last year. Some prices have fallen recently, such as gasoline, but other prices, such as groceries, are still rising.
If you’re looking to save money, here are some saving tips in six areas of your spending life.
Anti-inflation tip: Remember, you always pay for convenience.
Convenience costs more when it comes to virtually every purchase you make, but it’s especially expensive when you travel. John Shrewsbury, a financial advisor and co-owner of GenWealth Financial Advisors in Bryant, Arkansas, is a frequent business traveler and says he’s observed what many of us probably have: “Convenience comes at a significant price.”
He argues that staying in a hotel close to your destination is often much more expensive than staying a little further away at a lower price.
“Most airlines charge for baggage, so packing efficiently can save $30 to $50,” says Shrewsbury. “And with that rental, pumping your own gas to fill up right before you return saves you several dollars than letting the rental company fill it up and charge you.”
He has other examples. “Eating at the hotel is probably more expensive than at a nearby restaurant. Also, airport food tends to be more expensive because of the captive crowd, so eat before boarding the plane if possible.”
Granted, many travelers are willing to pay more for convenience, and if you are, that’s fine. But it’s something to remember if you’re looking to save money while traveling. If you’re willing to be a little fiddly, you can probably go further for less.
Anti-inflation tip: Buy your groceries strategically.
That might not sound like a big tip. We all know that we have to shop strategically, right? Still, we can always use a pep talk. It is not easy Buy groceries strategically. We may not hunt and gather like our ancestors did, but you still need to go bargain hunting and scour the countryside for bargains. It can be numbing and stressful.
But Andrea Woroch, a US news editor and shopping consultant from Bakersfield, California, has many good ideas. For starters, head to the store with a list after planning as many meals as you can until your next one shopping spree.
And you should also be strategic about your meal planning. “When selecting recipes, look for recipes that use overlapping ingredients and check local newsletters to find out which stores have the lowest prices for the goods on your shopping list,” says Woroch.
She says if you’re looking for fresh groceries that are nearing their sell-by date, you can save about 70%. Just make sure you use up those items as soon as possible so those savings don’t end up in your trash can.
“Finally, you shop at a grocery store that offers a Fuel Rewards Program because at the pump you can redeem points for savings,” says Woroch. “For example, the Kroger Fuel Reward Program offers 1 point for every $1 spent on groceries, and you can redeem those points at participating Shell gas stations.”
Woroch says that even online grocery shopping, with its delivery fees, can be cheaper than going to the store because it can help you avoid impulse grocery shopping — and, she adds, there are coupons that can be purchased from deal aggregators like www. CouponCabin.com available savings like $20 off Vons.com, $5 off $25 at Safeway and $30 off $100 at Stop & Shop.
Grocery shopping and constantly finding deals and bargains is a lot of work, and if you feel like your time is too valuable to bother, that’s a reasonable feeling. But you’ll save more on your supermarket trips if you do it Woroch’s way.
Anti-inflation tip: Plan your trips in advance.
Admittedly, this isn’t groundbreaking advice, concedes Fabio Fernandes, communications director at the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy and nonprofit organization.
“Unfortunately, gas prices are still high in many parts of the United States, and there are very few things car-dependent consumers can do to minimize the impact on household budgets,” he says. Even so, he suggests planning your trips before running errands so you can figure out the shortest route from point A to point B.
Of course, you don’t have to plan your ride too much. If you have an app on your phone that can show you the quickest route, use it.
And if you’re planning ahead, you might want to talk to a family member, friend, or neighbor about carpooling. For example, maybe you alternate driving to the grocery store, with your friend driving one week and you driving the next week. It might just save you a bit of money, but it might be a more enjoyable way to shop.
“Another obvious suggestion is to drive less,” says Fernandes. “The work-from-home trend is stronger than ever, and if your job allows it, ask your employer to stay home a few days a week.”
Anti-inflation tip: Don’t be complacent with your utilities.
We tend not to do a utility comparison search as there is often only one utility you will be working with. But that’s not always the case, Fernandes points out, and even when there’s a choice, it’s easy to slip into a routine completely forgetting you might have other options.
“Consumers who used to use the same providers for electricity, gas and especially broadband feel too comfortable,” says Fernandes. “If you live in an area with multiple providers for any of these services, don’t hesitate to call them and hear what they have to offer. New customers enjoy special prices and perks that old customers don’t, so looking at the competition can save you money.”
Another area of complacency that can cost consumers is forgetting to change the way they use their devices, Fernandes says.
“When it comes to household item inflation, utilities are the biggest villains,” he says. “Consumers can save energy by doing less laundry or running the dishwasher or even changing the thermostat by a few degrees.”
Anti-inflation tip: Check those insurance bills.
Spend a day analyzing your insurance premiums. “You can reduce your insurance premiums by 5% to 20% by bundling benefits, increasing deductibles, and paying upfront,” says Woroch.
Of course, you can also look for cheaper insurance rates. Woroch says we should all analyze our bills in these inflationary times.
“Look for ways to save by canceling unnecessary services, add-ons, or unused subscriptions. You can even pause memberships that you don’t really need right now,” she says.
Anti-inflation tip: Get rid of some things, but not all.
This is always a tricky matter. You are a human being. Whether it’s television or music or movies or books or video games, entertainment is fun. And what some people see as reckless, others may see as very important, says Brian Walsh, a certified financial planner at SoFi.com, an online bank.
“Earlier in my career, I was working on a financial plan for a client who was preparing for retirement. He has a golf membership, which I have classified as discretionary in his pension forecast,” says Walsh. “He quickly corrected me that this was his primary source of pleasure and relaxation. He stated that he would rather retire years later than forgo those expenses. After that, I realized that what I consider discretionary is essential to another person because we all have different priorities.”
In other words, if you go to the movies a few times a month and love it, keep going. If you play golf or tennis, even better, because it’s good exercise that will probably help you a lot in the long run. Find another spot in the budget to cut it.
But if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, there’s no harm in checking your entertainment expenses. Are there any streaming services that you’ve added but rarely watch now? Do you have the habit of buying books when you would be just as good at borrowing books from the library for free? In fact, there are many free things that you can often borrow from libraries, from movies to music to video games. If you want to be entertained cheaply, the library should be a regular spot for you.
If you and your friends go to expensive restaurants and bars, you might try going to cheaper alternatives, or maybe during happy hour or other offers throughout the week. If you scrutinize your budget, there should be some areas in your budget that you can cut back on when it comes to entertainment.
Conclusion on fighting inflation
“Driving an extra half hour to save a few cents on a gallon of gas probably doesn’t make sense. The same goes for buying substandard or near-expired groceries that you’re likely to throw away before you eat,” says Walsh.
At the same time, you should not feel powerless against inflation and do nothing to cut back on your spending. That middle ground between driving half an hour to save pennies on gas and not bothering at all about saving money is probably where you want to be.