It’s no secret that the United States has been dealing with some crazy inflation lately. Everything from gas prices to the cost of groceries has been skyrocketing. But I’m betting that your budget, much like my own, hasn’t grown in proportion to that increase in your cost of living.
In times like these, finding ways to pinch your pennies and save money can be key to avoiding debt and still getting to enjoy life. Here are 11 tips we have on ways you might be able to manage the rising cost of living.
1. Order Less Takeout
At the end of a long day sometimes the last thing that you want to do is cook. But if you plan carefully, it’s much cheaper to cook at home (and healthier too in many cases), which can be key to giving you more spending money in other areas.
When cooking at home, remember to start out by meal planning. This sets you up for success because if you haven’t planned what you’ll make and picked up what you need the chances of you actually making dinner when the time comes are low.
Another important tip is to shop in your pantry and refrigerator before you shop at the grocery store. Rather than picking recipes and then getting the ingredients to make those recipes, see what you have and consider what you could make to use some of those ingredients, especially if they are nearing their expiration date. Needless to say, wasting food you’ve already purchased is not a good way to save money!
Finally, don’t be afraid to eat leftovers. Eating leftovers for lunch the next day saves you both time and money!
2. Review Your Credit Card Bill for Subscriptions You’re No Longer Using
Remember that free trial you signed up for and forgot to cancel? Yeah, me neither. But when money continues to come out of your credit card every month it can easily slip by unnoticed. Even if it’s just $12, small charges like these add up. So review your last credit card bill and cancel any subscriptions you don’t use or that you feel good about sacrificing to save a little extra money each month. Apps like Truebill are another way that you can easily manage all of your various subscription services.
Eating leftovers for lunch the next day saves you both time and money.
3. Identify Areas Where You Currently Splurge That Could Be Modified
We all have areas in our lives where we splurge unnecessarily. Try to identify where you spend more out of want, rather than need. For example, if you typically buy luxury skincare, consider saving where an expensive product has less impact such as a cleanser or moisturizer. Or if you’re a big makeup lover, ask yourself whether you really need a high-end mascara (drug store ones are pretty great) or if the high-end lip gloss could really be that much better.
Splurging in certain areas is fun and a healthy part of budgeting, but it should always be mindful. The key is to find the places where the difference in cost yields less difference in the quality and cut those splurges out of our habits.
4. Go on a Spending Freeze
This definitely takes some willpower, but it’s a surefire way to save money if your budget has been put in a crunch due to all the inflation lately. (One woman went on a spending freeze for a whole year and saved $24,000!) Buy only your necessities: groceries, gas, utilities, necessary toiletries, etc. But no extras. No buying a new lip gloss just to try it out or ordering new clothes when the ones you already own are perfectly fine.
If you currently do your grocery shopping at a store like Target, consider shifting to stores like Trader Joe’s, Aldi, or Ralph’s that are reasonably priced but offer fewer areas for you to impulse buy in the way that tends to occur at a one-stop shop like Target. Because let’s face it, we may want another throw pillow, but we don’t need one.
5. Find Ways to Spend Time with Friends That Are Inexpensive
Trying to control your spending and having a social life at the same time can be tricky. One simple solution is for you to take the lead. Reach out to make the invites so you can ensure the activities are within your budget.
Rather than going out for drinks or dinner, try having a game night. Or host a dinner party where everyone brings something that they made. You could even meet your friends at the park and chat while each of you bring along your own dinner to eat together. Host movie night at your house rather than going to the theater or plan a DIY spa night. Social activities and spending money don’t have to go hand in hand!
Take the lead on social activities so you can ensure they’re within your budget.
And don’t be afraid to be upfront if you have to be. Let your friends know that while you would love to go out with them, you’ll just have to stick to an appetizer that you can go in on before eating food you brought from home. Good friends will understand, and you can enjoy their company without sacrificing your wallet.
6. Give Up Your Daily Starbucks
For you, it may not necessarily be Starbucks. But identify a daily or very regular spending habit that, while you enjoy, is unnecessary and could be cut out. It may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re doing it often enough, it’s adding up.
7. Be Mindful of Your Utility Use
This seems obvious, but sometimes we all need a reminder. There are straightforward ways like taking shorter showers. I recommend even setting a timer to really push yourself to get through it quickly.
Make sure you turn off the lights when you leave a room. It sounds simple, but it’s an important habit for keeping your electricity bill low.
Try running your dishwasher at night! The energy grid is typically less busy, and so you will actually save money this way. Plus, you can empty it the next morning and have all your dishes ready to go for the day.
This summer, try not to use the air conditioning until you absolutely need to. And I mean really need to. Think about what people did before air conditioning. Go outside and sit under a tree. It’s the coolest place you can be! Head to your neighborhood pool if you have one. Open the windows at night, or keep your blinds closed during the day to help keep the house cool. If you have ceiling fans, running them counterclockwise can make the room feel up to five degrees cooler. Alternatively, raise the air conditioner a few degrees, which can save you 2-3% on your cooling costs.
8. Use Community Resources Like the Library
Reading is a pretty common hobby for women. But it can also be a pricey one, especially if you’re buying new books often. Online reading subscriptions are likely less expensive ways to go about this hobby, but an even more inexpensive option is to try out your local library. You can read books you may never have gotten to otherwise, and you won’t have to spend a dime.
Enjoy free community perks like the pool, concerts in the park, and farmers’ markets.
Don’t forget about other community resources like the community pool, concerts in the park, farmers' markets and craft fairs, and summer festivals. Look into what your area has to offer and take advantage of it. Getting creative will likely enrich your life, and your wallet will be grateful.
9. Utilize Thrift Stores
Not spending any money on clothes is obviously the best option. (See the tip about going on a spending freeze.) But, that’s not always realistic if you really do need something, or just have the urge to freshen up your wardrobe. But if you can, thrift stores are a great way to get good quality pieces for much less than they would cost at retail value. It’s also much better for the environment! I call that a win-win.
10. Skip the Organic Produce
Now, if organic is important to you, be my guest. You’re free to buy the groceries you want to. But conventional fruits and vegetables, as well as other non-organic products, are completely safe to consume and are typically much less expensive. So if your budget is tight, consider whether organic products are really important to you, and remember that conventional produce is just as nutritious.
11. Create and Follow a Budget
My last tip may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s absolutely key. You can’t save money if you don’t know how much money you have. Create a purposeful budget. Sit down at the beginning of each month and plan where your money needs to go: paying off debt and bills, monthly expenses, utilities and groceries, savings, and fun money. And then check in with yourself at the end of each day and each week. This will help you to stay on track and make you more aware of how much you’re spending, especially in the credit card age where we lose the tangible sense that spending cash gives us. Check out a program like You Need A Budget if you want something more than just an Excel sheet.
Saving money is like learning a new skill – it takes time and intentionality. But in the end, it will pay off, both figuratively and literally!
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