Most of the time, inflation is an economic concept without much direct relevance to the daily lives of the American public. But lately, it’s begun to impact consumer’s wallets in a very real way.
If you’re starting to feel the burden of inflation, you might be looking for ways to keep your budget under control. Here are some budget friendly swaps and strategies to cut costs while you wait for inflation to level out.
Research Gas Prices
Gas prices have outpaced inflation, and in some parts of the country, a gallon of gas now costs more than $5. If you’re driving to work every day or running lots of errands, you may be able to save a lot of money at the pump.
Before you buy gas, use the GasBuddy app to find the cheapest gas station near you. Just make sure you’re not driving so far out of your way that you end up spending more than you save. When you do fill up, try to do it on a Monday. Studies show that’s the cheapest day of the week to buy gas.
Some grocery stores also offer discounts at their affiliated gas stations. If you’re a member at a warehouse club like Costco, you may find better gas prices there than at other chains.
Sign up for Internet Savings
If your family earns below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, you may qualify for cheaper internet from the government. You can apply through the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program. If you’re approved, contact your internet provider and they will reduce your bill. You may be able to save up to $30 a month.
If you don’t qualify for this program, contact your internet provider to negotiate a lower price. Mention if you’ve had any financial difficulties and ask about your options.
Pro-tip: Check out Mint’s bill negotiation service to help save.
Consider Switching Banks
One of the easiest ways to save money is to change banks. Log onto your bank account and see if you’re being charged any account maintenance fees. If you are, switch to an online bank like Ally or Chime that doesn’t charge any fees or have any minimum balance requirements.
Check the interest rate on your savings account. If it’s below .40% APY, then you should switch to a high-yield savings account to earn more interest.
Here’s how the difference might play out. Let’s say you have $5,000 saved in a traditional savings account that pays .01% APY. After one year, you would earn 50 cents in total interest.
If you switch to a high-yield savings account that offers .50% APY, you could earn $25.06 in interest after one year. Changing banks alone won’t be enough to combat inflation, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Buy Frozen Produce
Every year, the average American family of four wastes about 32% of its food. And a large portion of that is likely fresh produce.
If you’re always throwing away expired spinach or rotting tomatoes, try switching to frozen produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often cheaper than their fresh counterparts, and they contain just as many nutrients. Because frozen produce lasts longer, you’re less likely to waste it.
If there are certain foods you prefer buying fresh, look up ways to extend their lifespan. For example, keep ripe avocados in the fridge. Rinse fresh berries in a vinegar-and-water mixture to kill mold. Plan meals around perishable items.
Eat More Veggie-Based Meals
The cost of meat and fish has risen 12.5% recently compared to an increase of 7% for food overall.
“The changes we’ve made so far to combat inflation is to make meat the sidekick, not the hero,” said Jessi Fearon, author of “Getting Good with Money: Pay Off Your Debt and Find a Life of Freedom.”
If you still want protein in your diet, add beans and legumes that are usually less expensive than meat. When you shop for meat, stock up on your favorite cuts when there’s a sale.
Get a Library Card
If you find yourself spending more money on streaming services and books than you care to admit, it’s time to get a library card.
Not only does a library card let you access free physical books and DVDs, but your membership could also come with free access to apps like Libby, Hoopla and Kanopy.
Hoopla offers free access to streaming movies, TV shows and audiobooks. Libby lets you check out audiobooks and ebooks.
Kanopy is a free movie streaming service where you can watch up to 20 movies free each month. While you won’t find the same selection on Kanopy as you will on Netflix or Hulu, you may be pleasantly surprised at their selection of classics, foreign films and documentaries.
Your library card may also include free access to tools, baking equipment and more. My local library has a free puzzle stand, where people can donate and exchange jigsaw puzzles.
Join Your Local Freecycle Group
Freecycle.org is a site where people join to get rid of stuff they own. Instead of throwing those items away or donating them, they make a post and wait for others to respond. Popular categories include furniture, media, electronics, clothes and more.
Before you buy something, check your local Freecycle site to see if someone is giving away a similar item. You can also sign up for email notifications.
Some neighborhoods have their own special Facebook groups where people post about items they’re getting rid of. Search around to see if there’s one for your neighborhood.
Buy Clothes at Consignment Stores
If you’re not already shopping at consignment stores, you’re missing out. Consignment stores are like thrift stores in that they sell pre-worn clothes. But unlike regular thrift stores, consignment stores often carry name brands. They also have higher standards than thrift stores in terms of quality.
To save even more, check if your local consignment store has regular sales. For example, my favorite local consignment store offers a 10% discount on Wednesdays if you shop with a reusable bag.
And when you wear out your own clothes, bring them into the consignment store where you may be able to sell them for cash or store credit.
Look for Free Fun
Allison Baggerly of Inspired Budget said she’s worked hard to save money on entertainment, especially with her kids.
“It can be expensive to take them to a new museum, jump place, or movies every weekend,” she said. “To help keep our spending lower, we’ve started checking out parks in the area. We also love going on hikes at nearby state parks. To keep it fun we let them invite a friend when we go to the park.”
Get creative and find free ways to have fun, whether you’re taking your whole family or just going with a friend.