Prices are up on everything from groceries to gas to even household expenses like energy, with a chance costs may continue rising. Even though you can’t control the sharp increase in consumer prices, you can control how much you spend. In some cases, you could be wasting money without realizing it in the form of unnecessary purchases or service add ons, missed deals and not comparing rates. Spending time to scrutinize each bill and figuring out how to plug these monthly bill leaks can help you afford this higher cost of living with less stress.
Review this guide on how to hack your monthly bills and stretch your budget.
Food prices are up 8 percent on average with favorite meats such as steak soaring 25 percent. You don’t have to give up these foods completely to save, but incorporating a few meatless meals throughout the week can dramatically lower your overall grocery bill.
More importantly, however, is to start meal planning strategically by looking for recipes that use overlapping ingredients in order to really limit potential food waste. For help planning your weekly meals and organizing shopping lists, tap into services offered by sites like eMeals and TheFresh20.com. Keep in mind, opting for frozen over fresh can cut grocery spending by 30 percent and avoid buying fresh foods in bulk since this can also lead to spoiled food faster.
Gas prices have reached record highs with the average price per gallon hovering over $4. To save, compare gas station prices using the GasBuddy app to find the cheapest fuel options in your area and pay with cash when possible which cuts 10 to 15 cents off a gallon compared to swiping a credit or debit card. Otherwise, consider opening a gas rebate credit card which you can find at sites like CardRates.com. For example, the Discover It cash back card gives you 5 percent cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter one of which includes gas stations.
Don’t overlook your grocery rewards for potential savings at the pump either. For instance, Kroger’s Fuel Rewards program rewards shoppers with 1 Fuel Point for every $1 spent on groceries which can be redeemed for savings at Kroger or participating Shell stations.
According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling costs are up nearly 50 percent for some regions. Get ahead of rising prices by being strategic with your energy use. Do chores like wash dishes and clothes during the day as rates are lower during off-peak hours. Meanwhile, installing a programmable thermostat can help you avoid wasteful energy use when you aren’t home and unplugging unused gadgets can shave 10 percent off your total bill.
You may not be able to live without your smartphone, but you can cut your bill without sacrificing service or coverage. In fact, a recent study by Reach Mobile with expert commentary by Purdue Professor Mung Chiang found that 90 percent of mobile users waste money on unnecessary unlimited data plans even though they only use a fraction of their allotment.
Figure out how much data you and your family need by tracking usage and get help with apps like My Data Manager. This way, you can find a cheaper plan that best fits your needs so you aren’t wasting money. Otherwise, consider switching to online-only carriers like Mint Mobile which sell premium wireless service in bulk at a discount, offering talk, text and data for just $15 per month.
Everyone has heard that new and used car prices are up at around 40 percent, but many drivers don’t realize that auto insurance is also costing more these days. According to the 2022 State of Auto Insurance Report, auto insurance rates have risen 3 percent nationwide this year alone. While you can’t exactly cut out this expense entirely, you can lower your premium by increasing your deductible or switching providers. To find a cheaper auto insurance provider in your area, run a quick comparison using a search engine like TheZebra.com which will provide quotes instantly.
When was the last time you calculated how much you spend on subscriptions? The average family today is spending roughly $273 per month on subscriptions alone, which is often much more than many even realize. In fact, a study found that 89 percent of Americans underestimated just how much they spend on these services.
Now’s a good time to go through your statements and figure out which subscriptions you want to keep and which you can let go of. There could even be services you’re paying for that you forgot about or didn’t know about, like that video game app your child purchased accidentally.
Reports found that clothing prices have gone up 4.2 percent but you don’t have to spend more if you’re looking for new threads for you or your kids. Instead, consider swapping. Sites like Swoondle Society allow you to trade gently-used children’s clothing, shoes and accessories for like-new outfits. Otherwise, shop resale sites like Poshmark or ThredUp.com to save anywhere from 60 to 90 percent off regular retail prices.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for used, look for clothing coupons from deal aggregators like CouponFollow.com which organize discount codes by store name. You can find deals like 10 percent off at GAP, 40 percent off at Old Navy, 20 percent off at Aeropostale and 20 percent off at Kohls.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer-savings expert, writer and frequent on-air contributor who is passionate about helping families find simple ways to spend less and save more. Andrea has appeared on popular shows like Today, Good Morning America and NBC Nightly News. Her advice and articles have been featured in New York Times, Time, Money, Forbes and Real Simple.