6 Expenses Money Experts Are Cutting Back on During Inflation

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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Groceries

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 Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card while shopping with the e-commerce giant to earn 5% cash back on her purchases (at Amazon.com 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.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

  • Rewards

    5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; 1% back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $100 Amazon.com gift card upon approval

  • Annual fee

    $0 (but Prime membership is required)

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    15.74% to 23.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Dining out

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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Rewards

    $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    18.24% – 25.24% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Gas

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

On the American Express secure site

  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $350 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

    0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers from the date of account opening

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Self-care

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!”

Entertainment

Travel

Bottom line

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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