By Ashley Reich
It seems like everywhere we look, prices continue to rise. Families are seeing their grocery bills increase, gas is getting more expensive by the day, and it seems as though there is no end in sight. One of the positive aspects of this inflationary period is that it has forced me to scrutinize every aspect of my financial picture. I have spent a great deal of time researching ways to quickly review your current expenses and determine if there are ways to cut costs. Believe it or not, companies are still looking to offer you a great deal; it just takes a little extra effort and time.
One of the highest expenses a family incurs is their grocery bill. Have you ever left the store and thought, what on earth did I buy for my bill to be that expensive? I have been there more times than not, and it is very easy for the cost at the grocery store to rise if you are not paying attention to what you are buying. Here are a few tips:
- Research grocery stores in your area for the best prices. I compare multiple grocery stores each week to determine who has the best prices, and sometimes, it is worth my time to buy items at two different stores to save extra money.
- “Cut” coupons – yes, coupons still exist, but they are mostly electronic now. Most grocery stores have electronic coupons you can load on your app and use to purchase items. One of my favorite stores to shop at is Kroger because they provide customer-specific coupons based on items you buy regularly.
- Take inventory in your home before shopping. There is a lot of money wasted on items you either don’t know you have or buying more than needed. Before you start a shopping list, take an inventory of your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer to avoid overspending. Additionally, I like to see it as a challenge to utilize what I already have to make meals more creative and to stretch my money further.
- Buy your groceries online vs. shopping in the physical store. I save hundreds of dollars annually by not entering a grocery store. It is very common to be shopping the aisles in a store and see items you think you need but never will actually use. I have been a believer in online shopping way before the pandemic made it popular. I have a simplified and reoccurring list of items I purchase each time I shop, and I stick to that list without being overwhelmed by unnecessary products.
With gas at an all-time high and continuing to rise daily, you are probably considering how you can walk to work or hook your kids to the back of a bike to save extra money. Let’s look at a few practical ways to save money on gas without having to make unrealistic changes.
- Download the GasBuddy app. This app is free and will provide you with the ability to search for gas in your current area to find the lowest price. Additionally, you can sign-up for their savings card (not a debit or credit card) that will give you an extra discount.
- If your car takes FlexFuel, now is the time to use that type of gas. It will regularly run about $1.00 less per gallon and will save you quite a significant amount of money.
- Condense your trips or carpool with a friend to reduce the extra time spent on the road. I have a workout class that I attend every Monday night with my two other girlfriends. We all live within 5 minutes of each other and take turns driving so that all three of us are not driving to the same location and wasting gas. On the weekends, we tend to make mindless trips. Consider what you must do for the day and figure out the best way to accomplish your to-do list while making the fewest trips.
- Walk or ride your bike to places where it makes sense. No, we do not want you riding your bike on a busy highway or walking on winding roads, but maybe there are stores close to your home that you could consider walking to get exercise and save on gas. We have a grocery store less than a mile from our home. If I need just a few things, I will walk to the store and get some fresh air at the same time.
- Cell Phone – I recently switched to another provider and cut my bill in half! There are many cell phone companies overcharging customers for cell phone service, and it is worth taking some time to look into other companies that could save you money. Also, look at your data plan to determine if you are paying for additional data that you are not using. I have also gone as far as paying off my cell phone instead of paying an additional fee per month and getting rid of costly insurance on the phone.
- Home and Auto Insurance – if you have not asked for a quote recently on your home and auto insurance from other companies, this will cost you nothing to do and will allow you to see if there is another provider that will give you a better price for the same quality. I did this several months ago, saving me almost $40 per month!
- Electricity – take a look around your home to see if you are leaving extra lights on throughout the day. If you work outside the home, make a habit of turning off all lights before you leave. Review your A/C (or heat in the winter months) temperature to see if you are setting it too low, especially for the hours you are not at home. Changing your air filters regularly will also allow your systems to run more efficiently.
- Subscriptions – it seems as though there are subscriptions for everything these days! A subscription can get you when you sign up for a free trial and forget to cancel, which unintentionally adds another monthly cost. Review all your subscriptions, list them out, and determine which ones you really need vs. ones that you watch rarely and could cut out of your budget. Subscriptions are usually inexpensive in comparison but can quickly add up.
- Monthly vs. Annual Pricing – pay attention to services that allow you to pay annually to save money. For example, Amazon will charge you less per month if you pay the annual rate vs. the monthly rate when you break it down. Workout apps, book subscriptions, online shopping apps, etc., often will give you a lower rate if you pay upfront. Consider what you regularly use to determine if paying upfront makes sense for you.
Regardless of the changes you decide to make, it is imperative that you budget monthly to track where you are spending your money. You are probably making one too many trips to Starbucks during the week that could be cut back, or perhaps you have things in your home that you could sell to make some extra cash. If you have buried your head in the sand with your finances, now is the opportune time to start. Take an inventory of your expenses and bills today and see where you can save. You will feel like you have given yourself a raise after just doing this simple exercise. Lastly, hang in there and control what you can control. This will not last forever, but getting a handle on your money now will save you for the future.
Ashley Ann Reich has been with Liberty University since 2007, first working in Student Financial Services before transitioning to her current role of Executive Director of Government Affairs. During her time at LU, Ashley started the first financial literacy program reaching thousands of students in budgeting, paying down debt, and planning for the future.