The cost of consumer goods, including food, fuel, energy, housing, and even healthcare, is rising fast in the United States. In March 2022, the Consumer Price Index saw its highest year-over-year increase — a surge of 8.5% — since 1981. That index measures price increases across a range of common U.S. household goods and services. An 8.5% jump means that a basket of items that cost $100 a year ago costs $108.50 today.
Although economists predict the inflation rate will gradually ease throughout 2022, they also forecast prices will remain high. For the average consumer, that means rethinking the household budget is likely in order to help offset inflation’s ongoing effects.
If you’re feeling inflation’s squeeze on your finances, here are four ways you can cut your expenses to fight back against rising costs.
1. Use Telehealth Services to Reduce Healthcare Costs
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare costs rose exponentially in the U.S. Now, when fuel prices recently hit an all-time high, going to the doctor’s office is more expensive than ever. Fortunately, though, the pandemic didn’t just usher in higher healthcare costs. Lockdowns and a continually overwhelmed medical system also brought about the rise of virtual healthcare, a.k.a. telehealth.
If you’re looking to cut expenses, opting for virtual doctor visits over in-person office visits can help in a big way. That’s especially true if you’re uninsured, underinsured, or live in an area without easy access to quality healthcare facilities.
How do you go about getting virtual healthcare? The simplest and most affordable way is by subscribing to a service that connects you with an online doctor. You’ll pay a small, monthly fee for your subscription, and in return, you’ll get access to several on-demand healthcare resources. You can schedule appointments at your convenience and talk with your doctor about your health concerns via any internet-connected device. Urgent care, primary care, mental health care, sexual health care, and prescription medications are all available online.
In addition to your subscription fee, you’ll also pay for each telehealth appointment you have with your provider. But online doctor visits tend to be considerably more affordable than in-person care. In fact, a 2017 study found that telehealth visits cost an average of $79, while in-office visits cost roughly $146.
2. Be a Savvy Food Shopper
Between March 2021 and March 2022, grocery store food prices soared a whopping 10%, while restaurant food costs rose 6.9%. Since you can’t neglect to feed your household, it’s important to find ways to shop smarter when costs continue rising. For most people, that means cutting down on restaurant visits and looking for ways to save at the supermarket, too.
Here are a few simple yet effective ideas for saving money on groceries:
- Buy generic products in lieu of name-brand foods.
- Include more low-cost staple foods in your meals, such as rice, pasta, and potatoes.
- Reduce the amount of meat your household consumes.
- Buy foods in bulk when it makes sense based on per-unit item price.
- Use weekly supermarket sales flyers and coupons to plan lower-cost meals.
- Shop for produce and other seasonal items at local farmer’s markets if you can.
Money-saving shopping apps can also help you cut your grocery and other household goods expenses. Some apps give cash back at partner stores while others offer exclusive deals, rewards, and in some cases, free goods.
3. Pare Down Your Subscriptions and Eliminate Unnecessary Fees
Do you keep track of all the subscription services you pay for monthly? Or annually? If not, you could be throwing money away on services you rarely use and don’t really need.
Recent surveys show that over 80% of U.S. Of those households, most have four video streaming services, two paid music streaming services, and three paid gaming services. On average, those subscriptions cost upward of $55 per month.
In the short term, $55 might not seem like much. But add those costs up over a year, and you’re looking at well over $600. If you’re looking to save on expenses, getting rid of streaming services you rarely use can be a smart move.
Cutting other unnecessary fees, such as banking and credit fees, may also be something to consider. If you have a credit or bank account with high annual or maintenance fees, it may be time to switch providers. Doing so could save you hundreds of dollars annually depending on what you currently pay.
4. Reduce Your Energy Use
When inflation drives up energy costs, auditing and cutting down your energy use can keep more money in your pocket. If you’re like most households, you may be wasting energy on things you don’t even realize you’re doing. Phantom energy — electricity consumed by powered-off, plugged-in devices — could be costing you upward of $30 per month.
Unnecessary trips, especially solo ventures, could be costing you quite a bit in fuel expenses, too. Inefficient appliances, sneaky home air leaks, and even improperly inflated tires could also be driving up your overall energy costs.
To help reduce those expenses, be more mindful of your household’s energy consumption. Find and seal air leaks around doors and windows. Get your HVAC system inspected and serviced annually to ensure efficient performance. Set your thermostat higher in summer and lower in winter to reduce cooling and heating costs. Unplug electronics when they’re not in use and consider swapping out incandescent light bulbs for their energy-efficient LED counterparts.
Although inflation can make budgeting tough, you can squeeze more money out of your budget with simple spending tweaks. Rising costs give you an opportunity to look closely at your budget and decide which expenses are truly priorities. Ultimately, cutting your spending now in the face of inflation can even help you continue saving money when consumer prices level out.