Are you finding that many items you pay for on a regular basis still cost a lot? While the Consumer Price Index indicates inflation is cooling since last year, many everyday expenses continue to strain household budgets. If this sounds familiar, you may be seeking ways to keep costs down.
Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to help keep spending in check. Here are some easy-to-follow tips that make it easier to stick to your budget.
1. Don’t eat your paycheck
While it’s all too easy to overspend on trips to the grocery store, you can keep costs lower with better planning. Making menu plans each week and sticking to your grocery lists can help prevent impulse buying. Be flexible, however — if you see proteins or veggies on special while shopping, pivot to take advantage of good deals. Shopping for produce while it’s in season is another effective tactic, as well as choosing generic or store brands that are less pricey.
When putting away groceries, place items with a shorter shelf life front and center so you’ll remember to use them first. It’s also smart to make good use of your freezer — stocking up on good deals for proteins and storing leftovers you can use for future meals.
2. Keep gas costs lower
To help reduce gas consumption, consolidate errands geographically so you’ll log fewer miles. You can also save by searching online for the best local gas prices. Many members of wholesale clubs take advantage of their lower gas prices, and some grocery stores offer gas discounts for frequent shoppers as well. Spend a little time to research the best deals near you.
Not just how much, but how you drive also impacts gas consumption. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, keeping tires properly inflated and using the recommended motor oil for your car can mean better fuel economy. In addition, avoiding rapid acceleration and hard braking makes a difference — lowering mileage by 15-30% (highway) or 10-40% (city). And speeding can cost you: For every 5 mph you drive over 50, you’re paying an extra $0.22 per gallon.
3. Manage health care costs
One way to optimize your health care coverage is to ask your employer’s HR department about current benefits, plus additional programs you might qualify for, like refunds or discounts for gym memberships or other wellness benefits. Consider saving on prescription medications through a prescription discount service, comparison shopping different pharmacies and/or switching to generic medications.
It’s vital to get good vision care, especially if your health insurance doesn’t cover vision. The good news is, you can purchase a VSP Individual Vision Plan any time — without waiting for open enrollment — to see an eye doctor. VSP plans start as low as $13 per month and can help you save up to $200 per year, while also giving you access to the largest independent eye doctor network. Members also get access to benefits like 20% savings on additional glasses or sunglasses, including lens enhancements, from the VSP network of independent eye doctors within 12 months of your last exam.
4. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions
It’s easy to lose track of subscriptions (or “free trials” you signed up for and forgot about), so you’re paying for things you don’t actually use. Review your credit card and bank statements to identify and cancel subscriptions or memberships you no longer use, and make sure to review automatically renewed subscriptions and memberships.
5. Practical ways to lower utility costs
Keep an eye on your HVAC to ensure you’re not overheating or overcooling your house. Sticking to specific temperatures that are just a few degrees higher in summer or lower in winter that stay fixed when you’re home versus at night (or away) rather than constantly adjusting settings can help prevent unexpectedly high bills. A smart thermostat is one tool that allows you to better control your HVAC system, even remotely.
You can also lower the thermostat on your water heater by 10 degrees to save 3-5% on energy costs. If you’re in the market for a new water heater, installing an on-demand or tankless water heater can deliver up to 30% savings compared to a standard storage tank water heater.
Following some of these tips should help take the sting out of monthly bills, making it easier to keep to your budget — and even start saving a little.