50 Ways to Beat Inflation

Inflation is higher than it has been in America since 1974. It is not merely a policy problem, but a major financial threat for every family in America, and most families throughout the world. Regardless of what one thinks about policy, we all need practical ways that we can fight inflation. Here are a few:

  1. Make a budget and keep track of your spending. Know where your money is going rather than wondering why it somehow floated away.
  2. Substitute generics. Name brand products are often more expensive than generic products and yet generics are just as good. If you haven’t tried a generic, now is the time.
  3. Avoid prepared foods and use basic foods instead. Prepared items such as bag salads or pre-grated cheese are much more expensive than non-prepared items.
  4. Comparison shop. Look at price per ounce at the grocery store, and compare prices online before you go to the mall. When at a store, look online to see if an item is cheaper elsewhere, and if the difference is worth the time and gasoline.
  5. Substitute products. If fresh and frozen vegetables have different prices, and you can’t taste the difference, buy the cheaper one. The same is true for products from azaleas to zip ties. If you can accomplish your goal with a less expensive alternative, do it.
  6. Plan your meals and eat before you go shopping. Don’t let impulse buys and poor planning increase your more time, money, and transportation costs.
  7. Cut back on meat. Going meatless a few meals a week will save money, since meat is generally more expensive. Going meatless will also improve your health.
  8. Buy in-season fruits and vegetables from local farmers when possible. You will save money and help your community.
  9. Don’t waste food. Learn to love leftovers. Your bank account will thank you.
  10. Find bargains. Coupon clipping from the local paper or mailers is a good start, but coupons are often available on the internet as well.
  11. Decrease discretionary consumption. While we can’t stop eating, we can stop eating at restaurants. While we can’t stop buying necessities like toilet paper, we can usually delay buying new clothes, furniture, and nick-nacks.
  12. Enjoy less expensive entertainment. Minor league, college, or high school sports, concerts from local bands, and amateur entertainment are usually cheaper, and often a lot more fun, than entertainment from the biggest names.
  13. Get free entertainment. Hikes, nature walks, playing in the snow, building sandcastles, and singing together give us comradery and joy while costing nothing.
  14. Use local resources like the library, museums, and parks rather than commercial equivalents.
  15. Don’t shop when you are upset. You will spend more money and get things that you don’t need.
  16. Beware of rebates. Manufacturers use them because they can charge customers full price and only about 40% of customers actually get the rebates. Many people just never get around to getting their money back. When they try, some companies make it exceedingly long and hard to get the rebate. Remember, customers are giving the manufacturer a zero-interest loan for every day between when they buy the product at full price and when they deposit the manufacturer’s rebate. Rebates can be good, but be careful.
  17. Drive less. The simplest way to save money on gasoline is to drive less. Planning trips to accomplish your goals in fewer miles is one way. Cycling, walking, carpooling, using public transport, and going in a more efficient car can help.
  18. Drive slower and more consistently. I used to drive back and forth to Charleston, seventy miles from my home, at 75 to 80 miles per hour. I drove in the fast lane and accelerated or decelerated too much. When gas prices skyrocketed, I set my cruise control at 70 and moved to the right lane. My gas expenditures dropped by about 10% with little or no change in trip duration. Gas prices did what my wife had been trying to get me to do for years.
  19. Make sure that you don’t already have at item before you buy another one. Americans’ pantries, closets, and garages burst with stuff, and we often forget what is in them. Everyone has bought something, like notebooks and markers for school, and discovered that they already had what they needed. The same is true for canned goods in the pantry.
  20. Use secondhand items when possible. Make sure they are clean and serviceable. Used cars are often a better deal than new ones.
  21. Be satisfied. You don’t need the most impressive watch, the fastest car, or the sexiest outfit. You don’t need to “keep up with the Joneses.”
  22. Buy loss leaders. My wife and I were in Target yesterday and found bottles of glue for $0.25 each, a great deal. Stores use loss leaders to get people inside, hoping that they will buy more, and more expensive, items.
  23. Pass stuff on. Our youngest child, Sarah, has a friend, Elise, who is a little younger and a little smaller. Elise has three younger sisters. Sarah takes care of her clothes, and when she outgrows them, they go to Elise. When Elise outgrows them, they pass on to her sisters. Outfits are worn until they wear out.
  24. Turn off the television. The whole point of advertising is to make us dissatisfied. If we are content, we don’t need whatever they are selling. Only by making us discontent can they make a sale.
  25. Limit your consumption of all media – print, audio, video, and social – for the reasons above.
  26. Consider reusable items instead of disposable ones. They may be cheaper in the long run and are likely to be better on the environment. Thrift shop plates may be less expensive than paper plates over time.
  27. Buy in bulk. You can save money. Paper towels, laundry detergent, and dishwasher soap are likely to be used before they go bad, but bread and milk are not. Canned goods may or may not be a good buy in bulk, depending upon your tastes and lifestyle.
  28. Pack your lunch as many days as possible during the week instead of going out to lunch.
  29. Beware of shrinkflation. Shoppers remember the prices that they pay but not the size of the container. Manufacturers keep prices the same and decrease product volume to keep their profits high. Keep this in mind when shopping.
  30. Investigate discount stores and use them if they actually save money. Don’t forget to include time and transportation costs.
  31. Use rewards programs carefully. It is good to get discounts and free stuff (flights, hotel nights, gas, etc.) but you are opening yourself up for intrusive advertising and privacy violations. Only use rewards programs if the benefit to you outweighs the cost.
  32. Make it, do it, or grow it yourself. When we found rotting boards in our deck, we bought the supplies and I replaced them, rather than having someone else do it at more than three times the price. Herbs are expensive to buy but cheaper to grow.
  33. Develop skills. Carpentry and plumbing are useful and cost saving skills, as are cooking and sewing. Further, you get a sense of accomplishment for a task well done. Work that you do yourself is non-taxable, so the grasping hand of the government stays out.
  34. Comparison shop online. Look for what you want on Craigslist, Ebay, and other sites in addition to big companies like Walmart or Amazon. Consider going directly to the manufacturer rather than to a middleman to buy online.
  35. Shop during a tax holiday. Keep Uncle Sam, and his state and local colleagues, out of your wallet.
  36. Internet service. Call your provider (typically the retention department) and ask for a lower rate if you are not currently under a contract with them. They will likely give you a better rate to keep you as a customer.
  37. Adequately insulate your house. Use foam wraps to insulate exposed hot water pipes, put insulation in your attic, use thermal curtains or insulating blinds on windows, and seal leaking areas around doors and windows. Install double or triple pane windows.
  38. Properly maintain your house. Replace HVAC filters regularly. Keep the thermostat high in summer and low in window, dressing appropriately even indoors to save money. Do not blast the air conditioning while wearing a sweater to keep yourself warm. Smart thermostats can help.
  39. Become more self-sufficient. A family with a wide swath of skills is less likely to need help from outside. They can also help others who lack similar skills.
  40. Learn to barter. If you need several pieces of siding and a friend has the right siding but needs his deck power washed, you can wash his deck in exchange for his siding.
  41. Credit cards. In general, do not pay any annual fee. Pay off your balance every month. Do not have more cards than you need. Debit cards are like checks, but have the major drawback that a thief can empty your bank account. Customer risk with credit cards, by contrast, is usually $50.
  42. Time projects. Elective projects may be able to wait until the price of raw materials, such as lumber, goes down. Watch for sales.
  43. Monetary moves. Consider refinancing a mortgage and locking in a fixed rate on debts. Even better, use money in low interest-bearing accounts (like savings accounts) to pay off high interest debt.
  44. Invest well. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are government bonds that help protect bondholders from inflation. Continue investing in 401-K and retirement accounts getting as much as possible in matching contributions.
  45. Avoid lawyers, and especially avoid the court system. Try to work out disputes directly with the other party if possible, or at least with mutual friends or acquaintances. Be willing to lose a little if need be.
  46. If you are safe and healthy, consider raising your health, auto, and other insurance deductibles to get lower rates.
  47. Be a key link in your community. No one is completely self-sufficient, especially in the modern world. Having a group of friends, for example, through church, broadens the capabilities of everyone in the group.
  48. Share tools and equipment. Nancy and I were repainting our shutters but did not have a long enough ladder to reach the second floor. We borrowed an appropriate ladder from a friend rather than paying to rent one.
  49. Find and use buy-nothing groups. Communities often have buy-nothing groups in which members post things that they want to get rid of. One man’s trash truly may be another’s treasure.
  50. Live a healthy life. Exercise, a good diet, restful sleep, no smoking or drinking alcohol, and doing all the other things mentioned on this list will help keep you out of the doctor’s office.

Following the ideas above will not make inflation go away, but will minimize its impact on you and those you love.

Author: MD Harris Family Institute

MD, MPH, MBA, MDiv, PhD, ThM, DECBA Colonel, US Army (ret)

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