The inflation rate may be lower this year than in 2022, but the 12th Edition of the Ernst & Young Future Consumer Index indicates 94% of consumers are still worried about the high cost of living.
Saving Money on Gasoline
A 2021 Statista report estimates 220 million licensed drivers in the U.S., with about 285 million licensed vehicles. Americans love their cars, and they drive a lot. In fact, the same report estimated Americans drove 3.17 trillion miles in 2022. It stands to reason that saving gasoline could be a big part of saving money.
Kelly Anne Smith with Forbes reports the national average for gas prices in the United States is $3.77 per gallon. That’s 6 cents lower per gallon than in 2022 but still higher than most drivers would like.
There are many practical ways drivers can reduce their gasoline bills. The first — and most obvious — solution is to drive less. People can use mass transit where it’s available and be more mindful about their driving habits where it’s not. Drivers should plan to consolidate errands into fewer trips to save gas and money. Walking or riding a bike to nearby stores saves gas and is good for your fitness level, so it’s a win-win.
Technology can help save on gas prices, as well. Smith recommends downloading a gas app that shows the prices at nearby stations to find the cheapest prices in the area. These apps work wherever you are, so finding cheaper gas while on vacation is as easy as finding it at home.
Smith also suggests joining rewards programs where you fill up most often. Most major gas station chains have a rewards program, so drivers can usually find one wherever they live.
Those who pay their credit cards off each month may be able to get cash back on their gas purchases. Some cards offer a cash-back percentage, which makes buying the gas on the card an attractive option.
Fill up on Mondays. Surprisingly, gas is cheaper on Mondays in many states. It’s most expensive on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
According to Alexandria White with CNBC, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates Americans spend about $5,703 annually on food. Buying groceries is a necessity.
It isn’t difficult for consumers to save money on their grocery bills, but it does require some self-discipline. Experts recommend shoppers make a list and stick to it to minimize impulse buys and to estimate what the list will cost each trip.
White suggests shoppers use that trusty cash-back credit card for grocery purchases when possible. Some banks offer a rewards card that pays cash back up to 6% on grocery purchases. It only makes sense if you pay the balance in full every month, but the savings do add up.
Another tip? Join the store’s loyalty program. These programs offer coupons and specials to reward customers so they can save money, too. For example, Kroger cardholders get one point for every dollar they spend at the store and can redeem those points for discounts at their gas stations. Spending $100 in-store earns a 10-cent-per-gallon gas discount.
The old method of clipping coupons has had a digital makeover, as most coupons are now available online. Bear in mind, saving only works if you need and will actually use the items you’re buying — and as long as you have someplace to put them.
Those coupon clippers toting a 3-ring-binder who stack up paper coupons to stockpile toilet paper may save money, but where will you put all those rolls?
Most experienced grocery shoppers recommend buying the store brands to save a lot of money. That brand name can of green beans is $1.50, while the same size store brand is on sale for 79 cents.
Don’t be afraid to comparison shop for the best deals.
John Dealbreuin of Financial Freedom Countdown agrees. “As an early retiree, I can see how the increased inflation has wreaked havoc on the household budgets of individuals living on a fixed income. To keep my grocery bills under control, I have substituted name brands with generics.”
Nearly every phone on the market has a calculator function. Learn to use yours and use it at the grocery store. Round up prices on items so you’ll know what you’re spending before you get to the register. Rounding up the price generally takes care of the sales tax (if you live in a state that charges sales tax on groceries), so it’s an accurate estimate of your spending.
Other Ways To Save
Americans, in particular, have been feeling the pinch from high inflation rates. “In 2022 and early 2023, inflation reached a four-decade high, causing prices of most items to increase dramatically,” says Prakash Kolli of the Dividend Power financial independence site. “Even though inflation has tapered off, the price increases are effectively locked in now. The main challenge is that incomes have not kept up, so people have less purchasing power than before the pandemic.”
Kolli advises consumers to limit credit card debt to help them ride out the current economy since interest payments are higher.
Synchrony Bank offers timely advice for people who are nervous about the economic climate. For starters, build up an emergency fund. While saving money is a good thing, people should have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved in case of a real emergency.
Experts at Synchrony also encourage homeowners to do minor home improvement projects to help increase their property values.
People should also defer purchases of big-ticket items unless it’s a necessity, like the refrigerator breaking down beyond repair. Even if a large appliance must be replaced, budget-conscious shoppers should consider whether they really need a lot of extra features on the appliance since a more basic model will be cheaper.
United Nations Federal Credit Union experts also recommend tracking their spending, staying on a budget, and prioritizing paying down high-interest credit cards.
Sometimes, a significant life change helps people save money, no matter the condition of the economic climate. Ashlee Fechino, travel writer at The Happiness Function, says, “In 2016, my husband and I moved from Colorado to Oklahoma to cope with the inflated cost of living in Colorado. It was the best thing that could ever happen to us. Our quality of life has improved drastically, and we could afford a beautiful house without being married to a ridiculous mortgage for the rest of our lives.”
Whether inflation is a factor or not, taking stock of your finances, cutting expenses, and paying off debt is sound advice.