We all know inflation is draining our bank accounts, but have you wondered just how bad it’s gotten? How much more are you spending right now just to stay alive?
Suddenly we’ve got an answer: $433 a month.
Yes, the number crunchers at the financial firm Moody’s Analytics figure that the average American household is now spending $433 more per month to buy the same food and gasoline and various goods and services that we were all buying a year ago.
Four hundred and thirty-three bucks! No wonder we’re all broke. Basically, if you’re living the same life you were living in late 2021, it’s costing you that much more just to break even.
That’s not sustainable, so everybody’s got to make changes. We got to thinking: What could you do to make up that extra cash you’re parting with each month?
Below we’ve got a list of eight changes — some big, some small — to make up that difference. Some of them might surprise you. By the end of this article, we’ll have tallied up $433 worth of slick moves to help you balance your books.
1. Eat Lunch at Costco Twice a Month
Costco prides itself on its hot dog and soda combo, which still costs just $1.50. The price has stayed the same since 1985.
For context, the combo — which gets you a jumbo dog and a 20-ounce fountain drink (plus free refills!) for $1.50 — should cost well north of $4 by now, adjusted for inflation.
Why so cheap? Here’s an explanation from Costco CEO Craig Jelinek: “I came to (Jim Sinegal, co-founder and former CEO of Costco) once and I said, ‘Jim, we can’t sell this hot dog for a buck fifty. We are losing our rear ends.’ And he said, ‘If you raise the effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out.’ ”
Projected savings: If you’re spending a total of $3 to replace two ordinary restaurant lunches per month, then we’ll say you’re saving $20.
2. Sell Something on eBay
Need cash? There are lots of things in your home that you may look at and say “Can I sell that? Probably not.”
But what if all the “probably not” items could actually have a home? What if even the strangest things — like empty boxes or broken electronics — could earn you a little money?
We’ve put together a list of 20 of the best things to sell on eBay — some of the most bizarre objects we can dream up to show you that they’ll actually sell.
Projected earnings: If you set your mind to it, we bet you can make at least $30 every single month this way.
3. Sell Your Poop
Looking for an easy side hustle? Every time you poop, you might be flushing money down the toilet. Your poop could save lives and make you some cash in the process.
It’s true. Some medical companies will pay healthy donors for their stool. Your precious sample is then used for microbiome studies or in treatment of patients with Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that causes infections in the colon.
The amount you earn with each donation depends on the company. GoodNature offers $25-$75 per visit, up to $1,500 per month. Poop With Purpose pays $50 per donation, up to $1,500 per month. HumanMicrobe pays $500 per stool donation.
Potential donors must be 18-50 years old, at a normal weight, nonsmokers and with no history of gastrointestinal disease or drug or alcohol abuse.
Projected earnings: To be honest, $1,500 per month might be a little optimistic. Let’s be conservative and go with $100 instead.
4. Cancel a Streaming Service
We’d say “Cut the cord,” but if you’re as broke as we are, you’ve probably already canceled cable. (If you still have cable, though, cut the cord.)
The problem is, if you’re anything like us, you’re probably subscribing to more than one streaming service. Maybe you’ve even lost track of how many. After all, there’s Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Paramount+, Peacock, HBO Max and Apple TV+, among others.
Check out our comparison of all the streaming services — costs, type of content, number of available titles and more.
Projected savings: If you drop a couple of subscriptions (you can get by with fewer), we bet you’ll save at least $20 per month.
5. Inflation-Proof Your Pantry With a $65 Two-Week Meal Plan for Two
Buckle up. Now we’re getting serious — and more ambitious.
Clearly the price of groceries is out of control. Now, if a $33 weekly grocery bill for a couple ($16.50 per person) to afford three square meals a day sounds a little crazy, you’re not wrong. But we did it anyway.
While you could get by eating ramen and peanut butter sandwiches for a while, scrounging like a college student indefinitely doesn’t have much appeal. Instead, we put together a $65 two-week grocery list of nearly 30 items that’ll net two adults fairly well-rounded meals without skimping too much on the good stuff.
This two-week grocery spending plan can be stretched to accommodate a family of four simply by doubling up on ingredients — and cost. Or expand this plan to a month if you prefer to track your family’s budget and compile a shopping list on a monthly basis.
Groceries are a huge part of everyone’s budget, so you should also look for free printable coupons or try our favorite tricks for saving money on groceries.
Projected savings: Everybody’s got to eat, but there’s more potential for savings at the supermarket than you might think. If you really commit to lowering your grocery bill, we bet you can save in the ballpark of at least $180 a month.
6. Turn Down the Thermostat
Here’s something that’ll send a shiver down your spine: Heating your home is going to be noticeably more expensive this winter.
In fact, Americans are about to see the largest spike in their heating bills in more than a decade. But we’ve got eight tips to help you lower your heating bill. For example, close off unused rooms, insulate your windows (it’s cheap), add a little weather stripping and block out drafts from the bottoms of exterior doors.
If you take the entire year into account, the cost of cooling, heating and lighting your home is massive. Although it requires a small initial investment, try installing thermal curtains or a programmable thermostat. Or check out these creative energy-saving ways to slash your utility bills.
Projected savings: We think you can save at least $30 a month on heating and cooling your home.
7. Look for Cheaper Car Insurance Every 6 Months
Have you been paying your car insurance bill to the same old company for years and years? You have, haven’t you? In that case, you’re probably paying too much.
Every six months, when it’s time to renew your policy, take a little time to look around for a better deal.
If you want, there are any number of apps that’ll happily do this for you. Options include Everquote.
Or you can just do it yourself. Check out The Penny Hoarder’s guide to the best car insurance companies.
Projected savings: It’s reasonable to think you can save at least $25 a month this way.
8. Take a Few Simple Steps to Save on Gas
Filling up the gas tank can be a thoroughly miserable experience as you watch the counter flip past $40, then $50, and keep on going.
But you can save money on gas based on where you fill up, how you pay, when you visit the gas station, how you drive and even the condition of your car.
We’ve compiled 20 smart tips to help you spend less on fuel. Most notably, join a fuel rewards program, use apps like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas, fill up early in the week when prices tend to be lower — or simply ease off the gas pedal and slow down.
Projected savings: We’re going to say you’ll save $28 per month on the dot. Why not?
Make a Habit of Looking for Savings
There we go! Make these eight changes — some big, some small — and bingo, presto, you’ll achieve $433 per month in savings and extra earnings.
You don’t have to stop there, either. If any of these strategies aren’t working for you, here are four others to try:
- Pick a cheaper grocery store. You might not be shopping for food at the least expensive option. Compare prices, which you can typically find online.
- Get a haircut every eight to 10 weeks instead of every six.
- Before you shell out for things like furniture or baby gear, check out Buy Nothing groups on platforms like Facebook and Nextdoor to see if one of your neighbors is looking to get rid of something similar.
- Get a side gig to boost your income. Here are more than 30 legit ways to make extra money online.
Way to fight that inflation monster!
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.