| September 14, 2012

Stretching Your Income During Inflation

Gas and food prices have been fluctuating in recent months, making it difficult for consumers to predict expenses and maintain a budget.

Many analysts project the drought that occurred in the Midwest earlier in the year will impact food costs significantly in the coming months. Further, gas prices, which have spiked in recent months, may remain elevated in the future, after climbing an average of 28 cents in August, Reuters reports.

When inflation sets in, many households have difficulties setting and adhering to a money management plan because unpredictable prices make it challenging to set spending limits for necessities. As a result, many families find they are overextended financially during this period, and as a result, must dip into savings, cut out other expenses or go without. While developing a money management strategy can be difficult during these periods, there are steps consumers can take to help stretch their income until prices decline.

In difficult economic times, people need to be able to get to work. To help lower costs, consider carpooling with co-workers or neighbors. This can be a mutually beneficial arrangement that can apply to taking the kids to school, attending community events and even grocery shopping. Individuals who have the option to telecommute may also save money by taking advantage of this benefit. Those who are willing to take more extreme steps may also consider trading in or selling their vehicle in favor of a more fuel-efficient car. This may provide them with more life-long savings if gas prices remain elevated for an indefinite period.

There are also several ways that households can keep their grocery bills manageable when the cost of vegetables, fruits and grain products rise. First, shoppers lose out on significant savings when they fail to clip or download coupons, or don’t take advantage of weekly sales. Obtaining coupons isn’t what it used to be and consumers don’t have to spend hours cutting them out of the newspaper. Instead, there are several mobile applications that allow shoppers to download and print them. Most grocery stores also offer rewards programs that are free to join and only take a moment to sign up for. They typically provide automatic discounts for items at the register, and some extend other rewards – such as discounts on gasoline – to members.

Lastly, consumers may want to invest in a large freezer that can house meat, frozen vegetables and fish that was purchased in bulk and on sale. This can help consumers take advantage of large discounts without the worry of wasting their food.

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