It’s no secret that inflation has hit a lot of bank accounts over the past year. Some prices have fallen lately, such as gasoline, but other prices, such as food, continue to rise.
If you’re looking to save money, here are some money-saving tips in six areas of your spending life.
Advice against inflation: Remember, you’re still paying for convenience.
Convenience costs more when it comes to virtually every purchase you make, but it’s especially expensive when you’re traveling. John Shrewsbury, financial adviser and co-owner of GenWealth Financial Advisors in Bryant, Arkansas, often travels on business and says he’s observed what many of us probably have: “Convenience comes at a significant price.”
He cites that staying at a hotel near your destination is often a much higher price than staying at a lower price a little further away.
“Most airlines charge for baggage, so packing efficiently could save $30 to $50,” Shrewsbury says. “And, on that rental car, pumping your own gas to fill up just before you return will save you several dollars by having the rental company fill it up and charge you.”
He has other examples. “Eating at the hotel is likely to be more expensive than at a nearby restaurant. Also, food at the airport is usually more expensive as they have a captive audience, so if possible, eat before you leave for the plane.
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 on travel. If you’re willing to be a little inconvenienced, you can probably go further for less.
Advice against inflation: Shop strategically for your food.
It may not seem like a tip. We all know we have to shop strategically, right? Yet, we can always use a pep talk. It’s not easy to strategically shop for food. We may not hunt and gather like our ancestors did, but you still have to negotiate the hunt and scour the landscape for deals. It can be mind-numbing and stressful.
But Andrea Woroch, a US News contributor and shopping consultant based in Bakersfield, Calif., has plenty of great ideas. To get started, head to the store with a list, having planned as many meals as possible between now and your next grocery trip.
And you also need to be strategic in planning your meals. “When choosing recipes, look for ones that use overlapping ingredients and check local flyers to determine which stores have the lowest prices for items on your shopping list,” says Woroch.
She says that if you’re looking for fresh food that’s nearing its best-before date, you can save around 70%. Just be sure to consume these items as soon as you can, so those savings don’t end up in your trash.
“Finally, shop at a grocery store that offers a fuel rewards program since you can redeem points for savings at the pump,” says Woroch. “For example, Kroger fuel reward programs offer 1 point for every dollar spent on food and you can redeem those points at participating Shell stations.”
Woroch says that even grocery shopping online, with its delivery charges, can be cheaper than going to the store, as it can help you avoid impulse buying of food — and, she adds, it are coupons available from deal aggregators like www.CouponCabin.com offering savings such as $20 off Vons.com, $5 off $25 at Safeway and $30 off $100 at Stop & Shop.
It’s a lot of work buying food and constantly finding deals and flights, and if you think your time is too valuable to bother, that’s a reasonable feeling. But you’ll save more on trips to the supermarket by following Woroch’s method.
Advice against inflation: Plan your trips in advance.
It’s certainly not groundbreaking advice, admits Fabio Fernandes, communications manager at the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group and nonprofit.
“Unfortunately, gas prices are still high in many parts of the United States, and there is very little that car-dependent consumers can do to minimize its impact on household budgets,” says -he. Still, 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 might not have to plan your trip too much. If you have an app on your phone that can show you the fastest route, use it.
And if you’re planning ahead, you might want to tell a family member, friend, or neighbor about your carpool errands. For example, maybe you alternate trips to the grocery store, with your friend driving one week and driving you the next week. It may only save a little money, but it could be a nicer 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.”
Advice against inflation: Don’t be complacent with your utilities.
We tend not to compare utilities because often there is only one utility you will be working with. But that’s not always the case, Fernandes points out, and even if there’s a choice, it’s easy to fall into a routine where you completely forget you might have other options.
“Consumers who use the same providers for electricity, gas and especially broadband tend to be 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 listen to their offers. New customers get special pricing and perks that old customers don’t, so looking at the competition could be a money saver.
Another area of complacency that can cost consumers dearly is forgetting to change how you use your devices, Fernandes says.
“When it comes to household inflation, the biggest villains are utilities,” he says. “Consumers can save energy by reducing the number of times they do the laundry or run the dishwasher, or even by changing the thermostat a few degrees.”
Advice against inflation: Examine those insurance bills.
Spend a day analyzing your insurance premiums. “You can reduce your insurance premiums by 5% to 20% by bundling services, increasing deductibles and paying upfront,” says Woroch.
You can also, of course, compare cheaper insurance plans. Woroch says we should all analyze all our bills in these inflationary times.
“Look for opportunities to save by canceling unnecessary services, add-ons or unused subscriptions. You can even pause subscriptions you don’t really need right now,” she says.
Advice against inflation: Get rid of some things, but not all.
It’s always tricky. You are human. Whether it’s television, music, movies, books or video games, entertainment brings joy. And what some people consider frivolous, others may consider very important, says Brian Walsh, certified financial planner at SoFi.com, an online bank.
“Early in my career, I was working on a financial plan for a client who was about to retire. He has a golf membership that I classified as discretionary in his retirement projection,” says Walsh. “He quickly corrected me that it was his main source of pleasure and relaxation. He explained that he would rather retire years later than go without this expense. After that, I realized that what I might consider discretionary is essential for another person because we all have different priorities.
In other words, if you go to the movies several times a month and enjoy doing it, keep going. If you play golf or tennis, that’s even better, as it’s good exercise and will likely help you a lot in the long run. Find another place in the budget to cut.
But if you live paycheck to paycheck, it can’t hurt to look at your entertainment spending. Are there any streaming services you’ve added but rarely watch? Do you usually buy books when you might as well borrow free books from the library? In fact, there’s a lot of free stuff you can often check out in libraries, from movies to music to video games. If you’re looking for inexpensive entertainment, the library should be a regular place to visit.
If you and your friends go to expensive restaurants and bars, you can try cheaper alternatives, or maybe during happy hour or other deals during the week. If you look at your budget enough, there should be some areas in your budget that you can cut in terms of entertainment.
The basics of fighting inflation
“Driving an extra half hour to save a few cents on a gallon of gas probably doesn’t make sense. throw away before eating,” says Walsh.
At the same time, one should not believe oneself powerless in the face of inflation and do nothing to reduce one’s expenses. That happy medium between driving half an hour to save pennies on gas and not caring about saving money at all is probably where you want to be.