Find Savings with Smarter Everyday Spending
Keeping older cars, deciding not to upgrade cell phones, and skipping morning lattes can support your larger saving strategy.
We’ve been living with record-breaking high inflation for a while, but the economic pinch is likely to get more painful in the coming year. The International Monetary Fund recently issued a gloomy forecast for the U.S. and global economies for 2023, projecting that U.S. growth will shrink to 1% and that persistent high inflation and additional interest rate hikes will raise the risk of a recession both here and abroad.
With consumer prices showing no signs of moderating—groceries rose 12% over the last year, while energy costs jumped 13.1%, and the sticker price on new cars was 9% higher—people have begun adjusting their spending habits. Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., reported that people are buying fewer groceries, opting for store brands, and bypassing more expensive beef for pork, for example. Individuals are also racking up credit card debt to pay for the higher cost of living; credit card balances increased by 13% in the last year—the largest increase in 20 years.
A recent survey by Consumer Reports found that 64% of Americans were extremely or very concerned about rising costs due to inflation, and 72% said that their households were moderately to extremely affected by higher prices.
Challenging economic times ahead call for greater belt-tightening. Small economies around the edges of your daily expenses may help, but they aren’t likely to free up enough extra cash to build an emergency fund or to have enough savings to deal with a financial setback or to achieve a long-term financial goal.
Here are some ways to cut big-ticket expenses so you’ll have more savings in the bank:
Keep Your Current Car
If you can get by with your old wheels, now is the time to avoid a trip to a car showroom. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average new car price hit $48,301—11% higher than in 2021 and the highest average price on record. And there are no bargains in used cars either; low inventory has pushed the average used car price to $33,341, which is 43% above normal markups. And the higher cost of borrowing money means a monthly car payment will take a bigger chunk out of your paycheck today. Instead, spend money on repairs to keep your old car running. And try to reduce other car-related costs.
Talk to your insurance agent about lowering your car insurance premiums by raising your deductibles or taking advantage of discounts for low mileage, safe driving, anti-theft features, and good credit scores. If you have a car you’re not driving, you might be able to sell it at a premium. At the very least, you may want to reduce or cancel the insurance for that car.
Repair Major Appliances vs. Replacing Them
If your refrigerator or stove conks out, investigate the cost to repair it rather than replacing it. Refrigerators, washers, and dryers should last 10 to 14 years, and dishwashers will run for eight to 12 years. If the appliance is nearing its life span, repair may make sense if it costs less than half the price of a replacement.
But if you have to replace a major appliance, the good news is that retailers may have excess inventory that they sell at a discount. Higher mortgage rates have put a damper on home sales, so fewer people are buying appliances to outfit a new kitchen. Appliance manufacturers also release new models during the last months of a calendar year, so you may get a deal on last year’s model. Buying a floor model can also get you a discount. Another option is to buy a pre-owned appliance from a used-appliance store or a repair shop.
Updating Personal Technology
It’s likely that you are spending more money on online streaming and music services and cloud subscriptions than you realize. During the pandemic, spending on streaming platforms nearly doubled, with consumers spending an average $55 per month on streaming services, according to a consumer survey by J.D. Power. But even as the pandemic lockdown lifted, more than half of surveyed households continued to subscribe to four or more streaming services.
Take stock of the shows you and your family watch often and determine which streaming service delivers your must-have shows. You can save hundreds of dollars per year if you cancel those you use infrequently, or cancel once your favorite series has ended. If your entertainment spending is 5% or 10% of your overall budget, make sure that includes streaming services. Don’t subscribe to a duplicate cloud storage service; you only need to back up your data in one cloud.
Find ways to trim your cellular bills. One estimate by budget software firm Mint found that some people were paying one carrier $1,342 annually for cell phone service, and those who subscribed to a rival paid only $891 annually. WalletHub has a cell phone calculator that lets you compare the cost of various plans.
Don’t automatically upgrade your cell phone each year. The technology in older models is still more than adequate, and you can prolong your phone’s life by replacing the battery and deleting photos and apps you no longer use.
Budgeting for Food
Sticking to a budget at the grocery store is challenging as double-digit price increases for most food items have become the norm. And the price hikes are expected to continue into 2023.
You can trim your grocery bill each week by opting for private-label brands, which cost up to 25% less than name brands, and shopping at warehouse clubs where you’ll pay less per unit by buying in bulk. Instead of loading up on meat, start cooking with cheaper sources of protein, such as beans, peas, and lentils.
Plan your meals for the week and bring a list—one trip to the store saves on gas and avoids overspending on costlier convenience foods.
Use an app such as Ibotta or Checkout 51 to earn cashback on groceries.
Use Gas Sparingly
The highest average price for gasoline last summer in the U.S. was more than $5 per gallon. Prices at the pump have dropped somewhat, but the price of fuel remains volatile. Choosing a gas station with lower gas prices can save hundreds per year in weekly fill-ups.
Apps such as GasBuddy, Gas Guru, and AAA can help you find the cheapest gas price in your area. Filling up at warehouse clubs can also lead to savings. On a road trip, fill up in states with lower gas taxes. And watch the speedometer; driving evenly and at the speed limit will save gas. Keep your tires fully inflated and remove a drag-producing roof rack.
Smarter Energy Use and Managing Costs
By installing a programmable or smart thermostat, you can automatically cut energy costs by adjusting your air conditioning or heating to a more energy-efficient setting when you are away from home or asleep. Adjusting your thermostat by seven or 10 degrees from its normal setting for eight hours a day will save as much as 10% per year on heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Huge increases in fuel costs and pent-up consumer demand after the pandemic significantly drove up the cost of travel. Being able to travel is important, but now may be the time to choose a destination within driving distance of home instead of booking a luxury vacation at an exotic locale.
If you have to fly, be flexible with your travel dates and times and use services such as Hopper and Google Flights to find the lowest prices.
Another way to save on travel costs is to rent a condo or house on Airbnb or Vrbo and use the kitchen to make your meals instead of eating at restaurants.