Prices are rising and wages aren’t keeping up… what’s family to do? Here are 7 Reliable Ways to Stretch Your Dollar further.
Things are so expensive!
Inflation is currently at a 40 year high at 7.5% this month. Oil prices have surged to $115 a barrel causing gas prices to tick close to, or over, $5.00 a gallon. Mortgage rates are average over 4% this month, a full percentage point higher than last year and almost 2% higher than 2 years ago. Rent has increased at a staggering rate the nation over, launching an average of 10% upwards nationwide, while some places boast an increase of 25% to even 40%.
To top all of this off… despite the great resignation, salaries truly haven’t increased, at least not for most of us. There are the fortunate few who are gaining an estimated 3% to 4% raise this year, according to Fortune Magazine. But for the rest of us? Wages are stagnant or not keeping up with the tightening dollar. Honestly, things are getting so tight for some of us that any way you can find Stretch Your Dollar is golden.
The Pandemic has taken an unfathomable cost, both in terms of human lives and human livelihoods. So many lost their jobs during the height of Covid 19 and many of us have yet to be able to return to work, either due to health, lack of opportunity, or the biggest one here – childcare. Add in the uncertainty of the World at large and the massive military questions that are roiling borders…. and it leaves pretty much everyone uncertain, stressed, and broke.
….and I’m stopping here. You already know all of this, or you wouldn’t be here, reading this. Apologies – I’m preaching to the choir, aren’t I?
All the reasons money is tight aside, what you really want to know is how to stretch your dollar further when times are tight.
Things may look rough and the future uncertain, but there ARE ways we can make our funds stretch to meet our needs. Some of these are trite and obvious, while other ideas may be new to you. Regardless, taken together, they can make a significant step forward in your journey to stretch your dollar.
1: Make a Budget
This holds true for any time in your life, not just when you are trying to stretch your dollar. Make a list of all your monthly expenses, from housing costs to utilities, car payments to insurance. Write it all down, including the due dates and the amounts. Then estimate what you spend monthly on groceries and entertainment, along with miscellaneous expenditures.
The totals may be surprising to you, but it gives you a clear snapshot of where you are NOW. This is your starting point. For right now, you may not be able to change the amount due to housing, utilities, or insurance, but the other expenses are variable.
You still have to eat, and you need to put gas in your car. You can arguably even justify that Netflix subscription, even though it’s now edging at almost $20 a month…. still a bit salty about that. These are monies spent that support your life, and in some ways, your lifestyle. Some of them are going to be non-negotiable for you.
If you are passionate about your gym membership, then cutting it from your monthly expenses, even though it is extraneous, is probably not acceptable to you. Money is one thing, but happiness also plays a part. It’s hard to stick to any kind of budget if you have to cut so much that you are miserable. My monthly ‘have to have’ is my Kindle Unlimited subscription.
The rest of those ‘extra’ expenses are up for grabs. If you don’t need four streaming services, cut one or two. If you are paying for credit monitoring that another one of your credit cards offers, cut it. Eating out four times a week? Try cutting back to twice. Morning coffee? eh…. keep the coffee. Also, avocado toast. Seriously, no one ever bought a house by eliminating avocado toast.
Need some advice on how to make a good budget? This site offers some good ideas. I’m not affiliated with them and their opinions are their own.
#2: Track what you spend
You already know what you are supposed to be spending each month or week based on the budget you made. But now you need to know what you REALLY spend, and how that budget needs to be streamlined.
Track each and every purchase you make, along with the necessary expenses like housing, etc.
Every cup of coffee, tank of gas, bag of chips, parking fee…. all of it. Write it down, tally it, then total the amounts at the end of the month.
These figures are going to help you adjust the above budget. Some of the expenses are going to have to stay and be included in the budget, while others will be superfluous. Those extra expenses do nothing to stretch your dollar and should be eliminated or reduced.
Seeing everything in black and white will help you do that, and it will keep you honest.
This is one of those steps that can be surprising to, well, almost everyone. Did you know that almost every bill you pay every month is negotiable? It’s true. A simple phone call, and a healthy dose of perseverance, can reduce your monthly bills dramatically.
Depending on your state, you may have mullite options when it comes to energy choice. If one company offers the same energy at a lesser price, it’s only responsible to switch – or call them up and ask them to match their competitor’s price – or beat it.
Your phone company; how long have you been with them? Many companies reward loyalty if you ask. And if they don’t, many other companies offer amazing short-term deals for new customers.
Experian Credit has an excellent article on how to negotiate your monthly bills in order to stretch your dollar further. I am not affiliated with them and receive no compensation for this link, I just think it’s a really great article.
#4: Make a List
You might have heard the old adage; Never Go to the Grocery Store When You are Hungry. That is incredibly true, yet another adage you should be following is, ‘Never Go to the Grocery Store Without A List.’
When you visit your local grocer, be it weekly or every other day, try to never venture into those doors without a list. Marking down what you need, and JUST what you need, is a sure-fire way to avoid impulse buys and stretch your dollar further.
#5: Buy in Season
This one won’t save you as much as the above few tips, but it will help you stretch your dollar further, and with inflation at a record high, every little bit helps.
Despite the plethora of vegetables and fruits available at the store, produce truly is seasonal. Buying strawberries in December will cost you a fair penny more than buying them in June.
If you want to know what is in season in your state, an easy way is to see what is on sale in the produce section. That is generally a good indicator. Another convenient, and slightly more reliable way, is to check Seasonalfoodguide.org. This site is flush with numerous produce varieties and will narrow down when they are in season where YOU are at.
Like the above links, I am not affiliated with them, nor do I receive compensation for this link. I just really like the search engine and how it can help stretch your dollar.
#6: Buy Generic
Sorry, but it must be said. Name Brand products can, and often SHOULD, be replaced on your grocery list with their copycat Generic varieties.
I was at the store yesterday and found a popular cereal my children enjoy priced at $4.87 for a meager 16oz box. That’s roughly $0.30 PER OUNCE! For cereal, that just hurts.
Conversely, the generic equivalent, with an admittedly less attractive box, clocked in at $2.87 for the same size. That’s $0.17 per ounce – a much better deal. Which one do you think I bought?
It won’t save you thousands, but it’s an easy and quick way to stretch your dollar further.
#7: Pay attention to price per ounce or unit
The above example broke down a box of cereal in the price per ounce – which is a foolproof way to evaluate what you are REALLY spending.
One way to stretch your dollar is to buy according to THOSE prices if you can. For some, this might be harder than for others, as it might require you to spend a little bit more on the front end to save on the back end.
Let’s consider Pasta Sauce. Imagine that you are looking at two jars of sauce, same brand but different sizes. One is 32 ounces and priced at $3.99, while the other is 16oz and priced at $2.99. If you only have $5 to spend and you still need to buy the pasta, you are obviously going to buy the $2.99 and a VERY cheap bag of Pasta. But if you have $10 to spend, then buying the more expensive jar makes better fiscal sense, and here’s why:
The 16oz jar, though cheaper, is actually more expensive per ounce at $0.18. The 32oz jar is a better deal at $0.12 an ounce. The first will serve 4 while the second is double that, either serving 8 people or making 2 meals for 4 people.
If you have the money to buy larger or in bulk, then it will serve your pocketbook better in the long run. Again, this is just if you CAN. If you can’t, then the other ways on this list to stretch your dollar will hopefully get you to a point where you eventually can.
And there you have it!
7 reliable ways to stretch your dollar further. Do you have other ways to make ends meet? Leave a comment, I would love to talk and learn new methods and tricks.
I am working on a post for unusual ways to save or earn money – something it seems we all need in today’s age.