In our financial planning practice, we believe that you should focus on what you can control.
The rising gas prices can’t be controlled. You cannot control the fact that foodstuff prices have increased nearly 9 percent over the past year. You cannot control the fact that rent and housing costs are skyrocketing across the nation, either.
And, although how much money you earn is somewhat within your control, increasing your earnings is a long-term play. It’s not something that happens immediately.
What is within your control right now? Your spending and savings habits.
To Combat Inflation, Focus on Your Cash
When it comes to staying within your budget in the face of rising external costs, the first thing you should focus on is how you spend your money. Where does your monthly budget go to?
Don’t worry: Maintaining a rice-and-beans lifestyle isn’t required to save extra cash. And, honestly, being as frugal as possible is not a sustainable approach for most people.
It’s all about making intentional and mindful choices.
Here are 6 ideas to help you achieve that:
Consider reducing discretionary spending.
You should examine your budget and consider if the category (or perhaps simply the amount of money in the category) aligns with your values and goals.
For example, perhaps family time is an important value. If that is the case, then a weekly dinner out with your siblings and their kids might be a non-negotiable ritual for your family, even though someone else could argue it’s not an essential expense since you could just cook dinner at home.
But what you gain from that experience could provide far greater value than what it actually costs. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to keep that expense in your budget. You could offset the cost by committing to bringing your own lunch from home during the workweek, so you can fully enjoy the meal out with family.
That is one example that isn’t universal to everyone, but it will be unique to you. The point I’m trying to make is that we all have different values, which means our discretionary spending should look different. There is no objective way to say that spending your money one way is right, but spending it another way is wrong.”
That’s where so much financial advice on saving money falls short: it makes a judgment call on what’s worth it, and what isn’t. However, only you can decide which specific items should remain in your budget, and which should be eliminated.
Try shopping somewhere else.
If you want to save money, look for ways to switch expensive products for cheaper alternatives. Instead of opting for the name brand or the pricier high-end choice, choose the generic brand or the plain mid-range option.).
You can save money by changing where you shop.
You can also apply this strategy to other places where you spend money. Instead of eliminating, why not try switching?
For example, are you absolutely required to have a $200 monthly gym membership, or would you still be able to achieve your fitness goals if you switched to a gym with a $50 per month membership?
Consider postponing upgrades for a while.
Every piece of technology we own seems to have a constant stream of upgrades coming out. But if you feel pressured by inflation, please refrain from upgrading your devices right now.
Unless you will absolutely need a functional device, consider holding off on spending extra for something brand new. Stretch out the life of your technology as much as possible, and save the extra cash you’ll have by simply waiting.
This concept goes far beyond gadgets. Inflation shouldn’t last forever, and you shouldn’t have to keep a tighter grip on your cash flow than you’d ideally like forever either.
Before you buy, borrow or bargain.
It is smart to find alternative ways of getting the things you need when inflation is high. There are occasions when it can make sense to borrow items or purchase them second-hand.
An example that feels especially relevant for our family right now is baby equipment: Babies grow and change so fast!
We have purchased a few new items, but we have saved hundreds, if not thousands, by accepting gently used items for our daughter.
Of course, you should still make sure that the things you’re purchasing are nice, well-made, and of value to you. If buying used items isn’t your preferred method, then borrowing and swapping with friends and family can work just as well.
You can automate your bills.
It is important that you do not lose money for no reason, such as by paying late fees because you forget to make a payment or pay a bill. Consider enrolling in an automatic payment plan or setting a calendar reminder to avoid paying more money than necessary towards your bills.
That will help ensure you don’t lose money while you’re trying to save a little extra.
Besides adjusting how you spend, you can also take a look at your short-term spending goals and see how you can adjust them to fit your current budgeting needs.
You might want to adjust your savings strategies.
If you feel like your goal is out of reach because of skyrocketing prices, consider extending your timeline. That will mean you can save a smaller amount each month while still making progress.
Let’s say your goal was to save $12,000 over 12 months, requiring you to save $1,000 to meet that deadline. If you extend your goal to 20 months, you will be able to save $600 per month and still reach your goal in the future. This will also free up $400 per month to put toward current needs while costs are higher.
To live a life you love, adjust your spending.
When it comes to sticking to a budget in times of rapidly rising inflation, there are many ways you can adjust your spending while still enjoying the life you live.
Remember that the best way to use your money will be unique to you, and that taking some time to examine your budget and spending habits will be able to help you with this. It is possible that what works for your sister’s family will not work for yours, and vice versa.
Understand what you value and figure out if there is any discretionary spending you can pause or change.