Inflation Ruining Your Life? Here Are 8 Ways To Cut Your Cost of Living

Source: Leeloo Thefirst | Pexels
Source: Leeloo Thefirst | Pexels

When I was in college about 10 years ago (*gasp*), I used to be able to afford a week’s worth of groceries for $60. That included all the usual college staples like milk, eggs, and ramen noodles, plus all of the ingredients to make my famous peach sangria. Ah, what a time to be alive. Compare that to last week, when I spent $60 dollars on some kale, almond milk, a box of cereal, and chicken. I felt like I had been accidentally double charged as I walked out of the store, but unfortunately not. I know I’m not alone in wondering how we got here—I’m not sure how many more “just going to pick up a couple of things” trips where I spend more than $60 I can take.

If you’re feeling the pinch on everything from food to rent to going out on the weekends, join the club. It can be a tough pill to swallow when your expenses keep going up but you’re not doing anything differently or, unfortunately, making more money. Your cost of living primarily depends on your location, as well as inflation rates, which have unfortunately been steadily increasing over the past few years as a result of supply chain issues, world events, and increased demand (the holy trinity, if you will).

However, even if you live somewhere with a relatively low cost of living, it’s likely you’ve noticed that things have gotten more expensive recently. While you can’t easily pick up and move to a less expensive state or change the inflation rate, there are a few things you can do to cut some of your expenses and make your dollars stretch a bit further.


1. Be strategic with your food budget

Food is one of the expenses you’re likely noticing more and more these days (at least I am!). To help get the most bang for your buck, it’s best to go into the store with a strategy. Take some time to meal plan what you want to make for the week and write out exactly what you need. This will help you avoid buying food that will go bad before you can eat it or falling victim to impulse purchases. Ordering online can help you stay on track and on budget without the temptations of the chip and candy aisle, and opting for a more affordable grocery store can ensure you get the most out of your budget.

Once you’re home, meal prep whatever you can in advance so you have food ready to go and won’t be tempted to order in or go out to eat because you’re feeling too lazy to cook (which happens to the best of us). In economic times like these, save eating out for intentional splurges.


2. Evaluate hidden energy costs

This might seem like advice your dad would dole out, but hear me out! Regardless of whether you rent or own your place, chances are you’re probably on the hook for at least a few utility bills and they can add up, fast. My energy bill from this time last year to today has increased by almost 75%… yikes. To keep utility expenses low, consider getting creative and opting for things like candles and blankets to set a cozy mood instead of using your overhead lighting and throwing on the A/C or heating.

Try air drying your clothes whenever possible, and unplug items that aren’t in use but are still consuming energy: think toasters, blenders, phone chargers, etc. In the same vein, try to reduce your water consumption by limiting your everything showers to once a week (don’t shoot the messenger!). As a bonus, it’ll help the environment too!


3. Cut unnecessary recurring expenses

Not speaking from experience or anything, but I bet you have a few recurring subscriptions hitting your credit card that you don’t even know about and could likely do without. Now’s a great time to evaluate your streaming options (do you need five or could you get away with just two?), your gym memberships, and any automatic reloading you’ve got set up for things like your Starbucks card. I like to opt out of these things for a month as a trial and if I really miss it during that time, I’ll add it back into my budget guilt-free.


4. Transportation

In addition to food, one of the first things I noticed increasing in price recently was the gas and maintenance needed for my car. If you’re in the same boat, now’s a good time to see if you can reduce how often you drive recreationally, shop around for the lowest insurance and maintenance costs, or even consider if it makes sense to sell your vehicle altogether. Some cheaper transportation options include transit, carpooling, biking, or walking, which can help you reach your fitness as well as your financial goals. If you need a car but it’s not always in use, consider loaning it out on a carshare program to make some extra money; you can host your car like an AirBnB with services like Turo. At the very least, reducing the amount you drive your car for fun versus necessity will put a few more dollars back in your pocket.


5. Housing

Housing costs often make up the biggest part of our budget, so it might be worth looking to see if there are any ways you can save here. If you’re in a position to move, you might consider looking for a smaller place or moving to a less-expensive part of town. And if you’ve got the space, looking for a roommate is always a good option, especially in bigger cities.

Depending on where you live, you might be able to negotiate a reduced rate with your landlord if you pay more upfront or offer to cover more of the utilities. If sudden rent increases have been an issue for you, check with your city to see if there are rules for how much a landlord can legally raise your rent over a certain time period to make sure everything is by the book. If you own your place and have extra space available (even if it’s just storage space or a parking spot!), consider renting it out to someone else and making some money off of it.


6. Learn some DIY and repair skills

I believe that being able to fix basic repairs is something everyone should know how to do. If you’ve never tried to mend a hole in your shirt or fix a broken shelf before, now’s a great time to learn! Having the mentality of trying to fix things as Plan A can help you save a lot of money instead of having to completely replace something every time there’s a minor issue or hire someone to come fix it. There are so many free tutorials for fixing almost everything on YouTube or TikTok, so take a few minutes to see what it would entail before shelling out for a brand new version.

I was recently able to fix my washing machine that wouldn’t drain by watching some videos online, saving me a huge repair bill and giving me a new topic of conversation at parties all in one go (I know you definitely want to invite me to your parties now).


7. Opt for free or low-cost activities

With everything being so expensive right now, finding a fun, free thing to do can feel like you’ve struck a gold mine. With the summer in full swing, challenge yourself to find cheaper activities and events to entertain yourself while saving some money. Some of my recent favorites have included a potluck movie night, making a gourmet dinner at home with my husband instead of going out to eat, and going for a long hike in my city to reconnect with a friend. All of these activities allowed me to spend time with people I care about and saved me a ton of money. I also love Googling free events and activities whenever I’m looking for something to do in a new city and I’m always surprised by how good they can be (free cocktail making class, anyone?).


8. Try your hand at negotiating…everything!

I might be the world’s biggest fan of negotiating. I love to negotiate everything, but it’s definitely been an acquired skill that I have to use regularly, or else I lose it. If you’ve never tried negotiating before, find a low-stakes situation, research some strategies, and give it a go. Things like cell phone bills, streaming service fees, and insurance premiums are great opportunities to ask for a discount or freebie, especially if you’re willing to leave for another provider.

It can be a little nerve-wracking to have the conversation, but saving even $10 a month on a service frees up $120 a year to put towards other things, like a fun activity or your savings goals. On the career front, if you’re coming up to a promotion, raise, or yearly review, make sure to negotiate your salary, and ask if your company can provide a cost-of-life adjustment (called a COLA) whenever possible.