Prices are rising at an alarming rate, making it increasingly difficult for households to stay on budget. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your financial life under control. By embracing certain cost-cutting strategies, you’ll have an easier time weathering the current storm. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are ten ways to stay frugal during inflation.
1. Know What Is in Your Pantry
Since food prices are soaring, one way to significantly reduce your grocery spending is to make use of what you already have in your pantry. Many people buy various staples and stash them until they’re needed, which means you may have forgotten about past purchases simply because you didn’t require the item.
Check your cupboards and pantry, writing a list of every food item it contains. Along with ensuring you don’t accidentally purchase a food you already have, you can use this list to create frugal meals, allowing you to reduce what you’ll have to spend.
2. Combine Sales, Coupons, and Rebate Apps
For grocery items and certain household goods, combining sales, coupons, and rebate apps can be a great way to reduce your spending. Generally, there are no rules about using these in conjunction with the others. You can apply a coupon to a sale item and then head to a rebate app to snag cashback if the product is listed. You’re even allowed to use several rebate apps at once, allowing you to potentially get cashback several times.
This approach is particularly effective if you can find a loss leader – a product being sold at a highly discounted price to attract shoppers – and match it to a rebate or coupon. However, loss leaders usually represent great deals on their own, so keep that in mind.
3. Calculate the Cost Per Unit
Even if an item is on sale and you have a coupon, that doesn’t mean it’s the best deal. Similarly, even if a product is a store brand or a package that lets you buy in bulk, it might not represent the best bang for your buck. Usually, if you want to figure out whether a particular product is genuinely a bargain, you’ll want to calculate the price per unit.
Precisely how you approach this can vary. However, when in doubt, going with a price per service is typically an easy way to go. By finding out how much one serving costs, you can compare prices across various product sizes and brands, factoring in savings from sales, coupons, and rebates. Then, you’ll know which item is legitimately going to save you the most.
4. Reduce Your Meat Consumption
The price of meat has been soaring due to inflation. By replacing meat a few times a week with lower costs alternatives, you can bring your total grocery bill down significantly.
Beans are usually a great place to start, particularly if you are comfortable working with dried beans. Lentils are another solid option, and you can even explore eggs to get your grocery bill down.
5. Choose Gas Stations Strategically
Fuel costs are declining a bit, but the cost of a gallon of gas is still far higher than it was a year ago. If you want to keep your budget on target, seizing opportunities to save at the pump is a must.
There are several strategies that can make a difference. Along with apps that let you find the lowest prices in your area, sign up for rewards programs if they’re available. You can use grocery rewards points at certain stations and may qualify for cash back on credit cards, too. With the latter, just make sure you pay the balance off in full immediately, as interest can offset any savings.
6. Eliminate Redundant or Unnecessary Subscriptions
Subscriptions can add up fast. If your budget is getting tight, canceling a few recurring subscriptions is an easy way to free up some cash.
Any recurring subscription is a viable target. In most cases, you’ll want to start with entertainment-oriented ones, like streaming services. Choose just one or two that you use the most and shut down everything else.
For non-entertainment recurring subscriptions, determine if you’re legitimately getting value from the arrangement. For example, a gym membership isn’t worthwhile if you don’t go to the gym regularly or if you can replicate your routine at home.
7. Divide and Conquer with a Second Checking Account
While having a second checking account may not seem to make a difference when it comes to staying frugal, it can work wonders. By having one account dedicated to bill-paying and another that is used for all spending – including groceries – it helps ensure that you don’t accidentally spend too much cash, resulting in late fees or other penalties that come with missing a bill payment.
Plus, a separate spending account shows you exactly what you have available for groceries, gas, and similar expenses during the pay period. You aren’t fooled by the look of extra money that can happen when your bill-paying money is mixed with your spending cash. For example, before your rent or mortgage is paid, it may look like you have thousands of dollars available, even though that money is technically allocated to a bill. That illusion could encourage overspending.
The separation essentially gives you better visibility into how much you have available. As a result, you may be more cautious.
8. Look for Transportation Alternatives
High gas prices aren’t easy to shoulder. Since that’s the case, you may want to explore various alternatives. For example, if you live near a colleague, you could arrange a carpool to your workplace to reduce your commuting fuel costs. Public transportation can cost far less than driving, too.
If you have access to free shipping or delivery, see if you can handle most of your shopping using those retailers. That eliminates the need to head to the store. Plus, it may reduce impulse buys, which could work in your favor.
9. Take Your Comparison Shopping to the Next Level
Comparison shopping at several stores can help you find bargains. However, many people limit themselves to specific stores. For example, they’ll only look at chain grocery stores when comparing food prices.
However, by broadening out, you could find real bargains. For example, some drug stores have excellent loss leaders in the grocery category. Your local butcher, greengrocer, or farmer’s market may also be chocked full of bargains.
Consider all of the stores in the area that sell what you’re after. Then, include them in your price comparison to ensure you’re spending as little as possible on what you need.
10. Remain Vigilant
Ultimately, inflation could remain an issue for quite some time. Since prices may fluctuate dramatically in the coming months, staying vigilant is essential. Don’t simply buy the same products week after week, assuming they’re the best deal. Instead, calculate the cost per unit and comparison shop every time. That way, if the situation shifts, you’re still getting the best deal.
Do you know of any other ways to stay frugal during inflation? Have you used the techniques above and want to tell others about your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the military for past 13 years. She has taught Personal Financial classes on every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is an AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals.