With increasing costs for so many basic necessities, 2022 has been a tough year financially. Many families are trying to “claw back” (a.k.a., recover) the purchasing power that inflation has taken away through a financial “triaging” strategy of increased income, reduced spending, and/or changes in shopping habits and product and service purchases.
Looking for ways to improve your cash flow to counterbalance the higher costs associated with inflation? Consider the following ideas for nine spending categories.
Prescription Drug Discount Cards-
Recent research studies found that the cost of medications has risen faster than the rate of inflation and that 1 in 4 adults find it difficult to pay for their medication. As a result, some cut their pills in half or skip doses. Prescription drug discount cards can often help to reduce drug costs; they are available at no cost online via websites or apps. Examples include SingleCare, GoodRx, ScriptSave, WellRx, and Blink Health.
Saving electricity can help reduce utility bills. Three commonly recommended practices to reduce electricity use are: 1. replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs that use less energy and last longer, 2. turn off lights when a room is unoccupied, and 3. unplug electronics, individually or by using a power strip, when they are not in use.
Estimated cost savings for the latter is $100 to $200 per year.
Experts recommend buying money-saving Energy Star appliances. This is especially important for devices that are used continually, such as a water heater. Other suggestions include lowering water heater temperature from 130 degrees to 120 degrees, washing lightly soiled clothing in cold water, cleaning the lint trap of clothes dryers after each use, and only running full loads in a clothes washer or dishwashing machine.
Heating and Cooling
Recommended practices to save money include using ceiling fans as a substitute for (or compliment to) air conditioning, turning the thermostat down (winter) or up (summer) when away from home or asleep (this could total as much as much as 15 hours per day!), and using shades, blinds, or drapes to protect against heat and cold. The objective is to reduce the temperature difference between inside and outside air to reduce energy consumption.
Many people are reviewing their phone/television/internet provider “bundles,” dropping services they rarely use, and sometimes replacing current providers with other available options. Experts recommend asking current providers for special deals and “loyalty rewards” and ways to lower fees, comparing alternative service providers, and considering streaming services in lieu of cable or satellite dishes if there are appreciable savings.
Money-saving tips that can add up to significant savings, especially if combined, include:
- Buying store brands instead of national brands (if cheaper)
- Cutting out expensive snacks and beverages (a.k.a., “junk food”)
- Shopping with a smaller cart (if possible) or even a basket
- Using coupons (or double coupons) on needed grocery items
- Combining a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon or price break
- Earning free food or cash back by using a supermarket rewards/loyalty card
- Reducing food waste at home by managing refrigerated leftovers
Strategies to reduce costs at restaurants include drinking complimentary water instead of soda or other beverages, ordering an appetizer as a meal, and splitting an entrée, dessert, and/or appetizer with others. If individual portion sizes are large, take some food home for another meal. Also search for restaurant coupons online or at highway rest stops and earn free meals by joining a restaurant rewards/loyalty program.
Gasoline and Car Expenses
Some common recommendations to spend less money on gas include performing regular maintenance checks, keeping tires properly inflated, not hauling around a lot of unnecessary “junk” inside a car, and comparing at least three insurance companies for the best price (with available discounts) on auto and property coverage.
Experts also note that the word “recommended” is different than “required” when it comes to the use of premium fuel. In addition, use an app like Waze or GasBuddy when traveling to find the cheapest source of gas when you need it.
Shop second-hand clothing sources such as thrift shops, consignment stores, and a wide variety of online clothing resellers. At department or discount stores, get rewarded for clothing and many other purchases with a shopping rewards app, points, cash-back certificates, or other loyalty discount. For entertainment expenses, look for lower-cost ticket options or, better still, free events sponsored by local governments, non-profits, or businesses.
Think of the above list as a menu in a New Jersey dinner. The “menu” of money-saving ideas is long, and you cannot possibly “consume” everything. Pick the ideas that best fit your spending patterns and lifestyle.