By: W. Kirk Taylor, CFP®
With consumer prices (housing, food, and energy) surging to a four-decade high over the past year, uncertainty about when inflationary prices may ease makes the concept of stretching your dollar, or saving more money, significantly more relevant.
Moreover, investors are increasingly concerned about the decline in stock prices this year, and the growing prospects for a recession, perhaps later this year or in early 2023. Consequently, now is the perfect time to reflect on how you can cut costs and stretch your cash flow.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss this exact topic during an interview with Lindsey Mastis on her ABC 7 show, “The Wellness Desk”. We discussed several beneficial tips for stretching your dollar and negating some of the effect of rising prices.
You can watch the hour-long broadcast here or below you can read a synopsis of the moneysaving tips and tricks I discussed with Lindsey.
Consider Store Brand vs. Generic Brand Products
An important yet dismissed tactic to save more money is to explore buying store-brand, or generic, products instead of name-brand ones. For example, when comparing only eight products, shoppers at Walmart can save up to $13.00 or 45%, in comparison to purchasing solely name-brand products.
If you were to purchase the name-brand products, you would spend $32.90, whereas the Walmart-brand products (just one generic example) cost only $16.59 in total, resulting in almost a $17.00 difference. This concept of utilizing store-brand products is vital as food price inflation continues to rise drastically in grocery stores and even restaurants.
Cut Your Utility Costs
When trying to cut your utility bill, here are various options to consider:
Install a “smart” thermostat
- Doing so can save up 12% – 15% on your heating and cooling costs.
- One of the most popular smart thermostats only costs around $130.00.
- Explore the programmable features or settings that your current thermostat may have to reduce your bills.
Seal or insulate your home
- Up to 20% of the inside the walls of your home air is lost due to poor insulation and air leaks, which usually start in the attic or basement.
- By weatherizing your home, you can save up to 10% annually on your energy bill.
- Install weather stripping around doors and windows and be sure to caulk around outlets and pipes.
Reduce the humidity in your home
- When your house is humid, the air conditioner has to work harder to lower the temperature.
- Keep your house at 30% to 50% humidity.
- You can do this by taking shorter showers with cooler water and covering pots and pans while cooking
- Install a dehumidifier on your HVAC system. A quality dehumidifier can cut humidity in your home by as much as 50% in an hour and a half.
Close your blinds
- Three-fourths of sunlight from your windows is transferred into your house as heat, which forces your air conditioner to work harder and longer.
- Close your blinds during the day when it’s hot to promote a cooler household.
- Try using “smart blinds,” or motorized shades, so you can adjust them according to a set schedule based on the sun rising and setting or remotely, as needed.
Use energy-efficient light bulbs
- Although LED, CFL, and halogen incandescent light bulbs cost more up front, they use dramatically less energy than regular light bulbs.
- If you use energy-efficient bulbs, you may be able to save up to $45.00 annually.
- There are endless options to save your water:
- Turn off your faucet when washing your hands, brushing your teeth, and shaving.
- Limit your showers to five minutes (or less); install water-saving showerheads.
- Repair leaky faucets or pipes; and consider a rain barrel.
Other Tips & Tricks
In addition to cutting your utility bill, consider these ideas:
Make more meals at home
- Although it is easier to go out to eat, making your own food at home is tremendously cheaper, even given the recent surge in food prices.
- Find a feasible balance between preparing your own meals and treating yourself to a meal at a restaurant.
Consider cutting back on expensive habit
- If you smoke, drink alcohol, or consume coffee every day, consider cutting back on these habits or cutting them out entirely.
Utilize inexpensive transportation
- Consider walking or biking when feasible. This is a great way to save money and stay in shape at the same time.
- Explore carpooling with friends.
Explore comparison shopping
- Various thrift stores and clearance racks offer the same quality of clothes at cheaper prices.
- Buy clothing at the end of a season when retailers look to unload unsold inventories.
If you are willing to make long term commitment to lowering your costs, consider these capital investments:
Invest in solar panels or solar-powered roofs
- Solar panels have the ability to capture the sun’s energy and convert that energy into usable energy, even on the cloudiest day.
- Although solar panels are not cheap upfront, they became a worthy and important investment. Here’s why…
- Solar panels pay themselves off over time.
- They will intensely cut down your electric bill.
- Fewer fossil fuels will be used for energy, meaning less carbon dioxide will enter our atmosphere.
- They have little maintenance, are reliable, and extremely quiet.
- You may be able to can profit from selling your excess energy to the National grid (your house will be connected to the National grid at night when your solar panels are not at use).
- According to statistics in Ohio, solar panels can save an average of $56,775 during one’s lifetime, while taking 7-8 years to fully pay for themselves.
Drive an electric vehicle
- Electric vehicles (EVs) cost much less to operate than traditional gas-oriented automobiles.
- You can charge your car either at home or at public charging stations.
- EVs are completely emission-free.
- It costs only $9.00 to fully charge a 200-mile range electric vehicle.
- Some energy utilities may offer incentives for electric vehicle charging.
Install tinted windows
- Tinted windows can reduce energy costs, as your energy bill goes down without remembering to close the blinds.
- The temperature in your home is more easily regulated as tinted windows create consistency across rooms that may be hotter or cooler.
- They provide the same benefits of window replacement without the expensive cost.
- Sun damage on furniture near windows is prevented, while sun glares decrease.
- Tints can block up to 99.9% of UV rays, reject up to 79% of solar heat, and reduce up to 87% of the sun’s glare.
- Safety and security increases for your home, as there is privacy from others, and the tint makes it harder for the glass to shatter.
- Window tinting is around $150.00 to $220.00 per pane.
- Whereas, replacing windows can cost up to $900.00 per pane.
- The average cost for tinting is between $1,000.00 and $2,500.00, as it depends on the total amount of square footage covered.
- They are water-resistant, along with the option of having a scratch-resistant coating.
- There are three main kinds of window tinting:
- Solar control, which rejects the sun’s energy, and reduces energy bills and house damage.
- Decorative, which give privacy while transferring visible light, can inhibit your view in either direction, and are usually frosted or etched.
- Security, which is a structural brace for glass (supported by a structural sealant) and are anti-tear tints.
- You can even tint your windows yourself!
- Although it is usually more cost-efficient to hire a professional, Home Depot and Lowe’s offer two types of window films: silver and ceramic.
- It is relatively easy to do but it is recommended to practice before application.
- Some films may not be compatible with your glass causing long-term damage, so make sure to research before purchasing and applying your own tints.
Overall, there are limitless opportunities to save money and offset the impact of rising prices. Find what works best for your personal experiences and keep a mind open to any tactic that may assist in conserving cash flow. Organize and prioritize your spending based on your vital needs, so that you are spending money on the things that matter the most to you.
No matter the outlook for inflation in the coming years, stretching your dollar, whenever and wherever it makes sense for you, is a smart thing to do. Always remember to keep calm and save on! ■