Inflation. It seems to be the topic of every conversation these days (besides Taylor’s killer new album), and rightfully so. These past few months have seen record-high rates of inflation, which is basically the cost of goods and services increasing. That’s dumbing it down a lot (economists reading, forgive me!), but the bottom line is that you’re likely seeing inflation impact your day-to-day costs of living, especially for things like gas, food prices, rent, and travel. You know, all things that are easy to live without.
With inflation rates seeming to increase month over month, a lot of people are now looking for ways to save money without drastically changing their lifestyle. Is it possible? Yes. With a bit of creativity, I’ve been able to keep my expenses largely the same, and I’ve got some tips to share so you can too.
1. Walk whenever possible
I know, I know. This one is pretty basic, so let’s get it out of the way first. With the cost of gas being super high right now, there’s a lot of motivation to walk more than you might have previously. My rule is to try to walk to places that are less than 45 minutes away from my house to avoid hopping in the car or grabbing an Uber for short errands. That’s not to say I never jump in my car for a quick coffee run or when I don’t have time to walk (#guilty), but I’ve been trying to cut back as much as I can. I’ve also been a lot more strategic about taking road trips—my husband and I used to love going for drives out of the city on the weekends, but we’re limiting it to once a month right now to keep costs down.
2. Eat in season
If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you might have noticed that things like strawberries and grapefruit are super expensive at the moment (like $3.00 per grapefruit!!). That’s because these foods typically grow in the summer months (unless you live somewhere really warm, in which case I’m jealous) and need to travel a long way before they get to the grocery store. All those travel costs are then passed on to you in the form of increased prices—boo. By shopping for things when they’re in season, you’ll be buying produce that was likely grown closer to where you live and didn’t have to travel far to get to the grocery store, meaning it’ll be cheaper for you. As a bonus, eating produce that’s in season is also great for your health, so it’s a win-win!
3. Try out grocery delivery
This tip might seem a bit unconventional, but hear me out! I don’t know about you, but when I’m wandering the grocery stores I tend to grab a lot of things that I may not, let’s say, strictly need (that new flavor of Ben and Jerry’s, I’m looking at you). When I started to notice that my grocery bill was increasing each time I went to the store, I decided to try out grocery delivery. The benefit—in addition to saving time—is that you can put a bunch of stuff in your cart and then add or remove things to make sure you’re staying on budget. Can you also do this in the grocery store? Sure, but I personally don’t have the willpower of Wonder Woman and always end up with a much higher bill when I get to the checkout than I had planned for.
In terms of those delivery fees, you can minimize or reduce them by trying a few different stores (lots of them have no fee for the first few deliveries!), searching for promo codes, or getting a friend to refer you to get some money off. Even with the added delivery fee, this trick has helped me rein in my grocery budget a lot the past few months.
(Psst! Opting for delivery can also reduce how much you spend at other places, like Target…but I’d never recommend cutting out a Target run, that’s just #selfcare.)
4. Explore free or cheaper activities
It might be the inflation or it might be the fact that I’m aging (gasp!), but I think my days of bar hopping on a weekend might be behind me. I love grabbing fancy cocktails as much as the next gal, but lately it’s been harder and harder to justify the cost. Instead, my friends and I have been trying to find cheaper, or even free, activities to do. This has recently included a day of window shopping with coffee in hand, an at-home Friendsgiving potluck dinner, and fitness classes that we were able to attend for free using trials! Getting creative with cheaper activities also ensures nobody is feeling financially strapped after hanging out, which can sometimes happen when you and your friends have different income levels, and isn’t fun for anyone.
5. Avoid moving unless it makes sense
In addition to gas and food, another area where inflation is having a significant impact is housing costs. In major city centers, rents have been increasing rapidly as landlords try to recoup costs of increased utilities and maintenance expenses, and mortgage interest rates have been steadily rising. If you’re currently living somewhere that has a cap on yearly rent increases (which a lot of cities do!), it might make sense for you to stay there until things level out a little bit.
If you’re set on moving or your current living situation is no longer plausible, make sure you’re moving somewhere where the rent is around the same cost or lower if possible. If it’s a more expensive place, make sure you factor in potentially more expensive insurance, utilities, and overall living costs (that bigger place won’t decorate itself!). On that note, be extra careful right now of rental contracts with weird clauses about increasing the rent more often than once a year, and make sure you know your rights per your city/state to make sure you’re not getting roped into paying more than you need to.
6. Revisit recurring expenses
On the topic of expenses, now is a great time to carefully comb through your recent bank statements to make sure all of your expenses are accurate, affordable, and needed. If you’re finding inflation is hurting your bottom line, this might be a great time to cut back to one or two streaming services instead of having five, cancel underused fitness memberships, and double check that all charges make sense (I once realized that my water bill was automatically charging my card twice because the system glitched when I put in my card info online…fun times!). Be ruthless in cutting out things that you don’t use often—the goal here isn’t to remove everything fun until you’re only spending the absolute bare minimum, but to remove things that are costing you money that you can put towards other things, like your financial goals.
7. Be strategic with big purchases
You know that new couch/washer and dryer set/designer bag you’ve had your eye on? Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but right now might not be the ideal time to pull the trigger and buy it. The cost of shipping goods combined with delays in manufacturing have created an environment where a lot of things are inflated in cost compared to their true value, which means you’ll be paying more for the same thing. Trust me, you’d love that designer bag even more if you could pay $1000 less for it.
That being said, there are still good deals to be had! The key is to do your research and then keep an eye on sales to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday on the horizon, it’s likely many bigger purchases will experience a temporary dip in price that would be great to take advantage of (assuming you’ve budgeted for it and can afford it—no amazing deal is worth going into debt for!). Bonus points if you can combine a great deal with extra perks, like cash back from a site like Rakuten or additional coupons from Honey.
8. Ask for a raise
I’m a big fan of asking for raises. Like my mom always said, nobody can read your mind—if you want something, you have to ask for it. If you’re finding that things are tight with your current salary, it’s worth mentioning this to your manager or HR team to see if there’s anything they can do. A lot of companies are proactively giving inflation raises to retain talent since it’s a lot cheaper to keep a great employee happy instead of hiring someone new (a fact you can use in your conversation!).
It’s important to arm yourself with recent wins and how you help your team succeed instead of leaning on the “I can’t afford my lifestyle” angle since the former is typically more successful and sets you up to be viewed positively in the conversation. If you need help with negotiating, check out this awesome interview with negotiation expert, Fotini Iconomopoulos. And if getting a raise isn’t an option, think about picking up extra hours or monetizing a side hustle. There are always ways to bring in extra money if you get creative!