Inflation certainly takes some of the joy out of everyday living. When you roll up to a gas pump and the price says $4.35 a gallon for regular, it can put a damper on weekend excursions – or it can totally devastate a budget if you have to fill up your tank more than once a week.
Inflation is higher than it’s been in 40 years – prompting sudden price increases that many people in the U.S. have never seen. In February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index put the yearly inflation rate was 7.9%. Since 1990, the yearly inflation rate has bounced between 1.5% and 3% – sometimes a little lower and sometimes a little higher, but always within a range that most people could handle, reports data firm Statista.
But in the last 12 months, the price of everything has been rocketing higher: food, electricity, new and used cars, plane tickets, rent, real estate, electronics, mortgages, movie tickets, restaurants, memberships, lumber, shingles, clothes, medical care – and the list goes on.
According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are adjusting how they shop and they are rebalancing their household budgets on everyday necessities: 47% are switching to cheaper alternatives; 45% are looking for coupons or sales more often; 41% are shopping at discount stores; 41% are switching to cheaper brands; 40% are cutting back in other areas to afford necessities.
And 58% of all consumers and 72% of low-income consumers (less than $25,000 a year) are dipping into their savings or taking on more debt to make ends meet. Here are some tips that can take some of the economic sting out of living:
Target unnecessary expenses: If you’re unable to increase the amount that you spend, then you have to look for items that you can eliminate or reduce. For instance, you may want to cut back on eating out, streaming services or gym memberships. If you use a landscaping company or someone to clean your home, you may want to do these things yourself. And if you work outside your home, pack a lunch instead of eating out.
Groceries: Switching from brand names to store brands could save you 20-25%, according to Consumer Reports. And frozen fruit and vegetables are just as healthy and can cost much less than their fresh counterparts. Also, consider planting vegetables. Anything that you grow, you don’t have to buy.
Food waste: The average American household wastes 30-40% of its food. The total annual cost is $240 billion or $1,866 per household, Forbes magazine reports. There are many reasons for household food waste. Primarily, though, it’s a matter of examining what you’re buying, the dishes you’re making and trying to do them in portions that can be easily consumed between shopping trips.
Bottled water: If you drink four bottles of water a day you’ll spend over $1,000 a year. But 1,000 gallons of tap water costs between $3 and $4.
Utilities: In 2020, the average U.S. household spent $4,158 a year on utilities: electricity, gas, telephone and water, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Within each of these items there are opportunities for saving money: fix drafty doors and windows so you’re not heating or cooling the outdoors; consider increasing your attic insulation; see if you can find a cheaper phone plan; adjust your thermostat lower in the winter and higher in the summer – and consider putting in a programmable thermostat; replace incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs; take shorter showers; wash clothes in cold water; and fix leaky faucets.
Gas: Depending on your car, filling up can cost between $50 and $100. A little planning can extend the length of time between fill ups. For instance, try shopping for groceries once a week instead of each day. Map out an efficient route so you can combine other errands into one trip. If you reduce your average speed by 5 or 10 miles per hour, you can improve your fuel economy by 14%, the Alternative Fuels Data Center reports. And, if you are waiting in a school pick-up line, turn off your engine. U.S. Department of Energy estimates indicate an idling car uses a quarter to a half a gallon of gas per hour.
Library: Every community has a library – and it’s paid for with your taxes. Visit your local library this weekend and see what money you can save by borrowing books, magazines, movies or music.