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So far, 2022 seems like the year of exorbitantly high prices for everything around us — from gas, food and travel to utility and housing costs. Although the latest numbers from August show that inflation has cooled down a bit, it's still record-high and is expected to stay that way through the end of the year.
While many Americans by now have adjusted their spending habits to account for these increased costs, we were curious to see what the experts themselves have been cutting out.
Select spoke to several personal finance gurus about the cost-saving moves they're making to cope with inflation and asked them to comment on their own spending habits. Here's what they had to say — perhaps there's something the gurus are doing to save money that you haven't thought of yet.
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It turns out that nobody is numb to the sticker shock we've all seen in the supermarket aisles lately — not even the experts. Like many Americans, they, too, have altered their shopping lists to account for higher costs.
Melanie Lockert, personal finance blogger and author of "Dear Debt," based on her long-standing blog of the same name, says she's buying less fish than she typically would at the store and putting a pause on snacks.
Bola Sokunbi, certified financial education instructor, founder of Clever Girl Finance and author of "Choosing to Prosper," has also become very particular about grocery shopping. With the prices on basic items such as eggs, milk and breakfast meats being higher now, she's only buying as much as she knows her family will eat without wasting.
"My grocery budget and list are very much focused on the essentials," Sokunbi says. "The 'nice-to-haves-but-not-necessary' are not a priority on my list due to the high costs." She says she would rather use any extra money to bulk up her emergency savings given the ongoing economic uncertainty, as well as buy into the market to take advantage of the dip.
Marsha Barnes, certified financial social worker and founder of The Finance Bar, agrees about going line item by line item to determine expenses that are nice-to-haves versus need-to-haves. "Getting back to the essentials in this season with business and personal expenses feels refreshing," she says.
And while Laura Adams, host of the Money Girl podcast, hasn't necessarily cut expenses during inflation, she says she's more mindful about buying non-perishable grocery items in bulk through Amazon's Subscribe & Save program.
"It offers a significant discount for bundling monthly orders of various products, such as packaged food, canned beverages, soaps, paper products and health supplements," Adams says, adding that she uses branded rewards credit cards to earn even more from her spending at certain stores where she shops the most.
For example, Adams says she will use the Prime Visa while shopping with the e-commerce giant to earn 5% cash back on her purchases (at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, and Whole Foods Market). When ordering grocery delivery, she'll use the Instacart Mastercard® to get a free year of Instacart+ membership, plus 5% cash back on Instacart app and Instacart.com purchases. There are also some Chase credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which offer up to $15 in monthly Instacart credits. "Ensuring you get the most out of every purchase is one way to fight inflation," Adams says.
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Another big category when it comes to cutting down on spending has been dining at restaurants.
Jim Droske, president of credit counseling company Illinois Credit Services, goes out less than he used to. He admits, however, that he isn't kicking his daily Starbucks habit just yet, as he finds that both the coffee and the pleasant interactions with the baristas fuel him.
"I've become more adventurous with cooking in the kitchen and trying to make those meals you'd only typically eat at a restaurant," Droske says. "Like grilled calamari and homemade pasta — that's a lot of fun! It's more work, but it's fun to look up a new recipe, grab a glass of wine and roll up the sleeves."
Droske isn't the only one who's experiencing newfound excitement in the kitchen. Sokunbi has also traded dining out for making fun treats and meals with her kids at home.
Beverly Harzog, consumer finance analyst and author of "The Debt Escape Plan" and "Confessions of a Credit Junkie," says dining out was killing her budget so she started cooking more. "I love it!" Harzog says. "I have an herb garden on my deck so I don't have to buy herbs at the grocery store. My goal was to save money, but I ended up with a new hobby."
Lockert also says she's implemented a rule for dining out: She'll either eat a meal or just go out for coffee but won't do both at the same time.
In a similar vein, Kara Stevens, personal finance blogger at The Frugal Feminista, says she has become more intentional about using what she already has in the house, opting to meal prep with what's in the fridge instead of grabbing lunch somewhere else.
If you do decide to dine out, be sure to pay with a credit card that rewards you for your restaurant spending. For instance, the $95-per-year Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards® points on all dining, including takeout and certain delivery services. If you prefer to earn cash back, the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a generous 4% cash back on dining purchases.
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Though gas prices have fallen since the early summer surge, they're still high enough that money experts are being cautious of just how often they fill up at the pump.
"Personally, the biggest thing I am cutting back on is gas and traveling around as it still costs me over $100 to fill my tank even with the price of gas going down," Sokunbi says. "Prior, it would cost me about $65."
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, personal finance blogger at Making Sense of Cents, pinpoints fuel as one area she is spending less on these days. With diesel being over $5 a gallon where she lives and her car getting "awful fuel mileage" — less than 15 miles per gallon — filling up costs a lot of money and also seems really wasteful, she explains.
"I do have the great privilege of being able to work from home, so it does help that I really don't need to go anywhere very often," Schroeder-Gardner says. "But I do think about the trips and errands that I need to make a little more carefully."
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We heard from one expert who says she has cut back on going to the nail salon given the higher costs. What used to be a weekend routine has now dwindled down to bi-weekly pedicure appointments — and instead of getting manicures at the salon, she does her own at home.
"Now, I get a pedicure every two weeks," Harzog says. "I still go to the nail salon for pedicures because I want to support small businesses. And it's a nice treat I kept for myself!"
Some experts are looking to see where they can save when it comes to the cost of the things they use to entertain themselves.
While Bryan Kuderna, certified financial planner and author of "Millennial Millionaire," says he's not cutting back on any essential purchases, he is in the process of getting rid of cable and leveraging streaming services.
Lockert says she's been utilizing the Libby app and her library card to read books at no cost. "When making purchases, I consider my enjoyment or return on investment and my time and energy commitment as well," she adds.
If you're looking to cut down on subscription services, there are tools out there that can track recurring payments for you and potentially even negotiate bills on your behalf.
It's no secret that the high cost of gas this summer has made any sort of airline getaway an expensive endeavor. For this reason, Stevens says she has cut down on international travel.
Financial writer Miranda Marquit has recognized, too, that the regular contributions made to her travel fund would be eliminated should she find herself needing to cut back. "So far, I've been lucky enough that my budget has been able to absorb the higher costs," Marquit says. "However, I do prioritize my expenses, identifying which items would be the first to go." In addition to travel, she also included potentially cutting out subscription services and dining out.
Lauryn Williams, certified financial planner and founder of Worth Winning, notes that more of her clients are now more open to taking a road trip instead of an expensive faraway vacation that entails airfare. "Many tried [road trips] out and loved [them], discovering they enjoyed visiting nature parks, which can be much more affordable than resort vacations."
Fortunately, there are many travel credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees), that offer bonus points, miles or cash-back on these purchases. Some cards also offer other money-saving incentives like free checked bags and airport lounge access.
While Americans wait to see how the rest of the year will play out inflation-wise, it's not a bad idea to continue cutting back on spending in the meantime. Consider the expense categories that experts are trimming, such as groceries, dining out, gas, self-care, entertainment and travel.
Information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card, click here.
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