It’s not your imagination. Prices really have been going up. What’s more, it’s anybody’s guess how long they’ll continue to rise. You can, however, reduce the impact of these increases by shopping smartly and making some lifestyle changes. Here is a quick guide to what you need to know.
The two ways to beat inflation when you shop
There are basically two strategies you can use to beat inflation when you shop. The first is to pay close attention to the specifics. Overall inflation figures tend to conceal differences in inflation for individual products and services. You may therefore find that you can save by swapping out one product for a similar alternative.
The other is just to apply generally astute shopping strategies to maximise your chances of getting the best possible price for whatever you do buy. You can combine this with strategies to minimize your consumption of products and services so you get the most out of your purchases.
Taming your heating bills
Right now, for many households, the most concerning aspect of inflation are probably its impact on your heating bills. The price of gas has risen significantly. The price of electricity has increased sharply but, at present, by nowhere near as much.
Now is probably not the time to be making significant alterations to your heating system, for example installing a new boiler. It is, however, very much the time to look at how you are using your heating. To begin with, make sure that your home is insulated to the max. Small touches like draft excluders and checking window sealant really do make a difference.
While gas is so expensive compared to electricity, see what you can do to minimise your use of it. For example, instead of using your gas central heating to heat the whole home, could you use plug-in radiators to heat the areas you need? Similarly, instead of having your gas central heating come on at night, could you use an electric blanket and/or a plug-in radiator on a timer?
Could you simply reduce your use of heating? For example, if you’re working from home in the daytime, could you put on extra layers instead of having the heating on? Could you at least turn the heating down?
Again, now is probably not the time to be making significant changes to your transport unless they are really necessary. If you’re using public transport, then make sure that you’re getting the best deal on your tickets.
This could mean seeing if your employer offers season ticket loans (many companies do). That might make it possible for you to afford an annual ticket. These are generally the most economical option. What’s more, you can usually get a refund for unused months if you change jobs.
If you’re still driving a petrol car, then learn how to drive with maximum fuel efficiency. Basically, this means driving steadily, limiting sudden acceleration and deceleration and moving smoothly into turns rather than cornering sharply. Keep a close eye on your tyre pressure. Your tyres will deflate quicker in cold weather. Also, try to limit the amount of weight in your car.
For most people, the key to saving money on food is to meal-plan effectively. This not only allows you to plan your food shopping for maximum economy but also minimises waste. With inflation high, be prepared to be flexible on what you do and don’t eat.
For example, if you eat meat, try keeping it for a treat instead of having it with each meal. When you do eat meat, use economical cuts as much as possible. If you have any space at all, try growing some of your own food. Even something as simple as sprouts in a jar can add a whole lot of flavour and nutrients for very little money.