12 Ways to Get Around Inflation on Gas, Groceries, and More


Even if the inflation outlook is trending a bit brighter in recent weeks, you may still feel a pinch in your wallet. Maybe you’ve taken some basic steps — using coupons at the grocery store or dining out less often — to stretch your money, but if you want to do more, here are 12 ideas to beat inflation.

Get free mulch. Accepting free loads of wood chips from local tree trimmers is an easy way to save money on gardening, says Kate Russell of the daily garden. Mulch protects the soil, feeds plants, and looks nice, but it can cost anywhere from $15 to $65 per cubic yard. Instead of shelling out the money, take advantage of the fact that many tree trimmers will drop off a load for free to avoid the fees most municipalities charge them to dispose of removed trees and limbs at local landfills or recycling centers. “All you have to do is leave your name and number with a local tree trimmer and make your driveway available when they have a load,” says Russell.

Join a Buy Nothing group. The Buy Nothing Project was created so that people could give items to others in their communities, and it’s all free. “Before you buy something new, see if someone in your area may be giving an item away,” says Julianna Poplin of the habit of simplicity. Find your nearest group in the Buy Nothing Project app or by searching Facebook groups.

Schedule a day with no fees. “Don’t use cash. Don’t use your credit card. Don’t stick your hands in your pockets for nothing” for a full day, says Andrew Gonzales, president of loansempresariales.com. Once you get used to not spending money for a day, try doing it twice a month, once a week, or even for a whole week. “If you’re prone to impulse buying, this is a great way to hit the financial reset button,” says Gonzales. “It gives you more control over where your money goes and makes you more aware of what you buy when you finish your day without spending.”

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Buy frozen foods. “Frozen seafood is usually less expensive than fresh, and there’s no rush to cook it,” says Jenna Helwig, food director at very easy magazine. “Frozen berries last much longer than fresh, but are just as nutritious and perfect for smoothies. You can save $2 on 10 ounces of frozen raspberries compared to fresh,” she adds. “And you’d have to buy several bunches of fresh spinach to equal what’s in a box of frozen.”

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Reduce salon costs. Find out if your salon offers reduced prices for haircuts, color and other services when training new stylists. Some designate a day/time of the week or month or post dates on social media. “And, if you live near a beauty academy or cosmetology school, you may be able to get services at a greatly reduced price,” says Susan Jones, senior wealth manager at plancorp. “For example, Boca Beauty Academy [in Florida] … offers a haircut and color starting at about $30, well below the going rate of $150 or more at other salons in the area.”

Buy discount gift cards. It is rare to find a discount on gift cards. But when it does, it’s an opportunity to stretch your budget, says Bryan K. Chavez, national deals editor for living on the cheap. However, only buy cards for retailers you already frequent; buying every discount card you find will void any savings. Although Chavez finds most of his discount cards online at sites like PayPal Y neweggit has also taken advantage of supermarket promotions and direct offers from retailers and restaurants.

You can also find gift cards at stores like Costco or Sam’s Club, where discounts range from 5 percent to 25 percent. “Part of my strategy is to set aside money every month to use in December, when gift card discounts are more plentiful,” Chavez says. “Every year, he gives me about $600 for a gift card shopping spree. For me, it’s like I’m prepaying for next year’s goods and services at my favorite places to eat and shop, but at a discount. With this plan, I can make a ‘profit’ of about $150 each year.”

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Use it or lose it. Recurring payments can be difficult to keep track of, especially if you use autopay. Make a list of your subscriptions, like streaming services, gym memberships and meal kits, says Erin Ellis, a financial advisor at Philadelphia Federal Credit Union. “Go through each one on the list, and if you haven’t used it in a month, cancel it,” she says. “Eliminating these unnecessary expenses can lead to big savings.”

Second hand store. Check thrift stores, garage sales, and online marketplaces for deals on used furniture, clothing, toys, gifts, and home decor. Jane Topolovec-Vranic de Keep my craft habit, a DIY and decorating blog, found two nearly full cans of designer-brand paint on Facebook Marketplace for just $20, which she used on an accent wall in her bedroom. And instead of buying faux fur at more than $20 a yard for a craft project, she bought a men’s leather jacket at a thrift store for $4. Once deconstructed, it provided over ½ yard of genuine leather. “Find items that are new or in good condition, and set a budget in advance so you don’t overspend,” she says.

Grow your own herbs. “Why pay $5 for three sprigs of rosemary when you can have fresh herbs all year long?” says professional gardener Jen McDonald, founder of garden girls, a design firm in Houston. Parsley, sage, chives, thyme, rosemary, and oregano are easy to grow year-round in a sunlit window and produce a bountiful harvest. A pot, soil, and starter plants will cost about $20.

Reduce energy use. Utility bills are another place you can cut costs by making simple changes around the home. A microwave uses up to 80 percent less energy than an oven, for example. Or a toaster oven typically uses 33 to 50 percent less energy than a conventional one. According to the Department of Energy, washing dishes by hand costs about $40 more each year than running a fully loaded dishwasher. By replacing the five most frequently used light fixtures or light bulbs in your home with Energy Star certified products, you can save up to $75 each year. And if you plug your electronics into a power strip and then turn it off when not in use, you can save up to another $100 a year.

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Dive into drugstore skin care. If you shop at beauty stores like Sephora or Ulta, try the beauty sections at other stores: Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Target. Heather Muir, director of beauty at Real Simple, says that while the packaging may not seem as luxurious, brands like P&G-owned Olay have big R&D budgets, so their ingredients and technology are as good or better than — expensive brands. For example, instead of an expensive moisturizer, try Olay or CeraVe. “In addition to saving money, you may be pleasantly surprised that some work even better at a much cheaper price,” she says.

Decelerate. Tire friction and air resistance mean that speeding increases fuel consumption. Although cars achieve ideal fuel economy at various speeds, gas mileage often drops dramatically at speeds over 50 mph, says Will Gogolak, an assistant professor of finance at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. “It is well said that every 5 miles per hour beyond 50 miles per hour equates to paying 7 to 10 percent more per gallon of gas, or about 27 cents based on average national gas prices from [about] $4 a gallon.”

Denver-based writer Laura Daily specializes in consumer advocacy and travel strategies. She finds her in dailywriter.net.