Inflation is an increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services; consequently, inflation corresponds to a reduction in the purchasing power of money. Whether you’re becoming inflation-conscious or you simply don’t want to overpay, it’s always a good time to find ways that give you more bang for your buck. Searching for better value doesn’t need to be a painful exercise in scrimping and saving.
Here are ways to stretch your money during inflation.
1. Use the sunlight method
There’s an old adage in business and journalism that says: “sunlight is the best disinfectant” – meaning, if there’s something that you want to improve, shine it in the bright light of day and take a good look. Research shows that we tend to change our behavior simply by being aware that we’re being observed.
The same principle applies to your money: put your spending in the sunlight and observe yourself. Take a look at your bank statements and see what expenses jump out – perhaps that streak of food deliveries weren’t all that satisfying, or those new jeans don’t seem as stylish as the price tag suggests.
2. Spend where it counts and save where it doesn’t
Each of us has different values and preferences for what’s important to us, and the key is to know what really makes a difference to your wellbeing. On the flip side, sometimes there are things we think will make a bigger difference than they actually do. Food shopping is a great example.
Love organic produce? Buying from the farmer’s market down the street is probably worthwhile – but perhaps you can offset their higher prices by grabbing pantry staples in bulk from the value superstore. Less waste on the unimportant stuff leaves you and your cash free for the next goal.
3. List it out
Making your money stretch means cutting out nonessential purchases that don’t bring you much value; the best way to avoid overbuying is to make a list before you head out. We’ve all heard that you should stick to a list and not grocery shop when hungry, and the same principle applies to other types of shopping.
Keeping a running wishlist of other things like clothes, gifts, and even holiday destinations will help you to differentiate what you really want from what just seems like a good idea at the time. Stores and online shops are scientifically designed to induce spending. Impulse is your enemy, and your shopping list is your best shield.
4. Bulk up (carefully)
Buying essentials and nonperishables – like paper towels, frozen vegetables, and toiletries – is such a good savings trick that entire retail chains have sprung up based on this single idea. It’s an added benefit that you’ll also save time since you won’t need to go shopping as frequently. Just be careful not to catch the “bulk bug” by stocking up on too many different items, though – it’s never a bargain to buy something that you don’t really need.
5. Be loyal
Leaving money on the table is a surefire way to shrink the power of your dollars. Loyalty programs offer discounts and freebies for repeat purchases, and most of the time you can sign up for free rewards that don’t expire. Picking up a punch card at your favorite cafe might get you a free latte at zero cost to you, just like a rewards card at your grocery store could bank your coupons and store credit.
6. Consider going meatless
Looking for a new challenge that’s good for your wallet and the planet? Consider cutting down on your meat consumption. Beef, pork, and poultry are usually more expensive than their leafy tablemates, and they’re one of the big contributors to climate change, too. Challenges like Meatless Mondays or Veganuary are great ways to see if these dietary changes work for your lifestyle. Even if the flavor doesn’t quite do it for you and you ditch the diet, you’ll have saved a few bucks towards your next steak dinner.
7. Keep an eye on the calendar
Whenever you have the flexibility to choose the timing of a purchase – especially for big things like cars and appliances – it’s worth knowing when it’s likely to go on sale. Black Friday and January are huge sale seasons for just about everything, but you can be strategic and look for product-specific sales throughout the year.
For example, new cars usually go on sale in September at the end of the model production year; furniture prices typically get reduced in September when summer moving demand dies out; clothes go on sale at the end of the season; the housing market is always changing, but winter in cold weather climates is often a time when the market is quiet. The rule of thumb is that prices are low when demand is low, so look out for low-demand seasons to find good deals.
8. Let technology do the work for you
Shopping online isn’t just convenient – it can help you easily find free savings. There are a number of apps and browser extensions that earn you cash back and save money with discount codes when you shop online.