It’s no secret that inflation hit many bank accounts last year. Some prices have been falling recently, like gasoline, but others, like food prices, are still climbing.
If you want to save money, here are some money-saving tips for six areas of your spending life.
Anti-inflation tips: Remember, you always pay for convenience.
Convenience costs more for just about any purchase you make, but it’s especially expensive when you’re traveling. John Shrewsbury, a financial advisor and co-owner of GenWealth Financial Advisors in Bryant, Arkansas, who travels frequently, said he observed a situation many of us might have: ” Convenience comes at a price.”
He points out that staying in a hotel near a destination is usually much more expensive than staying in a lower-priced hotel a little further away.
“Most airlines charge for luggage, so packing effectively can save you $30 to $50,” Shrewsbury said. “And, on that rental car, filling it up yourself before you get back can save you a few dollars rather than having the rental company fill it up and charge you.”
He has other examples. “Eating at a hotel can be more expensive than eating at a nearby restaurant. Also, food at airports is usually more expensive because they have a captive audience, so if possible, eat before you go to the plane.”
Granted, many travelers are willing to pay more for convenience, and that’s okay if you want to. But keep that in mind if you want to save money while traveling. If you’re willing to inconvenience you a little, you might be able to go farther for less.
Anti-inflation tips: Shop strategically for your food.
That might not sound like a tip. We all know we need to shop strategically, don’t we? Still, we can always use pep talk. Buying food strategically is not easy. We may not hunt and gather like our ancestors did, but you still have to haggle and scour the landscape for deals. It can be numbing and stressful.
But U.S. News writer and shopping consultant Andrea Woroch from Bakersfield, Calif., has plenty of good ideas. First, go to the store with a list and plan as many meals as possible between now and your next grocery store trip.
You should also be strategic in your meal plan. “When choosing recipes, look for those that use overlapping ingredients and check local announcements to determine which stores have the lowest prices on their shopping lists,” Woroch said.
She says you can save about 70 percent if you look for fresh food close to its expiration date. Just make sure to consume these items as soon as possible so these savings don’t end up in your trash.
“Lastly, shop at grocery stores that offer fuel rewards programs because you can redeem points at the gas station,” Woroch said. “For example, Kroger Fuel Reward Programs offer 1 point for every $1 spent on food, which you can redeem at participating Shell gas stations.”
Even online grocery shopping, plus shipping, is cheaper than going to the store, Woroch says, because it helps you avoid impulse buys — and, she adds, offers great deals on deal aggregators like www.CouponCabin.com Vons.com is $20 off, $25 off Safeway, $30 off $100 at Stop & Shop.
Shopping for food and constantly looking for deals and steals is a lot of work, and it’s a reasonable feeling if you feel your time is too precious to go to the trouble. But with Woroch’s way, you’ll save even more on your supermarket trip.
Anti-inflation tips: Plan your drive ahead of time.
It’s certainly not groundbreaking advice, admits Fabio Fernandez, communications director for consumer advocacy group and nonprofit Center for Consumer Choice.
“Unfortunately, gasoline prices remain high in many parts of the United States, and there is little way for car-dependent consumers to minimize the impact on household budgets,” he said. Still, he recommends planning your driving route before you run errands, so you can figure out the shortest path from point A to point B.
Of course, you probably don’t have to plan your drive too much. If you have an app on your phone that can tell you the fastest route, use it.
If you plan ahead, you may want to talk to family, friends, or neighbors about carpooling errands. For example, maybe you alternate trips to the grocery store, where your friend drives one week and you drive the next. It might only save a little money, but it might be a more enjoyable way to shop.
“The other obvious suggestion is to drive less,” Fernandez said. “The work-from-home trend is stronger than ever, and if your job allows it, ask your employer to stay at home a few days a week.”
Anti-inflation tips: Don’t be complacent about your utility.
We tend not to compare utility stores because there is usually only one utility available to you. But that’s not always the case, and Fernandez points out that even when there are options, it’s easy to get caught up in a routine and completely forget that you might have other options.
“Consumers who have been using the same providers for electricity, gas, and especially broadband services tend to feel too comfortable,” Fernandez said. “If there are multiple providers of these services in your area, don’t hesitate to call them and take their offer. New customers get great prices and benefits that older customers don’t, so looking at the competition might save you money.”
Another area of complacency that could cost consumers is forgetting to change the way you use your appliances, Fernandez said.
“When it comes to inflation in household goods, the biggest villain is utilities,” he said. “Consumers can save energy by doing less laundry or using the dishwasher, or even changing the thermostat a few degrees.”
Anti-inflation tips: Check out those insurance policies.
Spend a day analyzing your insurance premiums. “By bundling services, increasing deductibles and upfront costs, you can reduce your premiums by 5% to 20%,” Woroch said.
Of course, you can also compare cheaper insurance plans. In these inflationary times, we should all analyze all of our bills, Woroch said.
“Look for savings by canceling unnecessary services, add-ons or unused subscriptions. You can even suspend memberships you don’t really need right now,” she says.
Anti-inflation tips: Get rid of some things, but not all.
This is always a tricky question. You are human. Whether it’s TV, music, movies, books or video games, entertainment brings joy. Some people think it’s boring, while others may think it’s very important, says Brian Walsh, a certified financial planner with online bank SoFi.com.
“Early in my career, I was working on a financial plan for a client who was going to retire. He had a golf membership, which I classified as a discretionary membership in his retirement plan,” Walsh Say. “He quickly corrected me that it was his main source of enjoyment and relaxation. He explained that he would rather retire a few years later than not spend the money. After that, I realized what I thought was discretionary Something 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 enjoy doing it, go ahead. It’s even better if you play golf or tennis because it’s a good workout that may help you a lot in the long run. Look elsewhere in the budget to make cuts.
But if you live on a paycheck, it doesn’t hurt to double-check your entertainment expenses. Are there any streaming services you added but rarely watch now? Do you have the habit of buying books while borrowing them for free at the library? In fact, you can often check out a lot of free stuff in your library, from movies to music to video games. If you want entertainment on the cheap, the library should be your go-to place.
If you and your friends go to expensive restaurants and bars, you can try going to cheaper alternatives, or maybe during happy hour or other deals of the week. If you’ve done enough scrutiny of your budget, there should be some areas in your budget where you can cut back on entertainment.
The bottom line against inflation
“It probably doesn’t make sense to drive an extra half hour to save a few cents per gallon. The same goes for buying low-quality or nearly expired groceries that you might throw away before meals,” Walsh said.
At the same time, you shouldn’t think you can do anything about inflation by not doing anything to cut spending. The middle ground between driving half an hour to save a few cents on gas and not bothering to save money at all is probably where you want it to be.