The overall inflation rate remains fairly low, but the costs of certain items have been rising for months, putting consumers – who have to buy these items – under stress.
While many expenses can be cut or postponed, it’s hard to do anything about the budget items of food and gasoline. We have to eat and we have to get to work and back.
In fact, consumers do appear to be spending slightly less on food. According to a report by CredAbility, a financial services counselor, overall spending on food was down 2.5 percent in February, among the company’s clients.
However, spending on gasoline was higher. The company says spending on gasoline was up more than seven percent in February from February 2010.
"Gas and groceries are among our basic necessities," said Michelle Jones, senior vice president of counseling for CredAbility. "Both our commute and putting food on the table are getting more expensive and, for families already struggling to make ends meet, these added costs only make it more difficult."
How can you save money on both food and gasoline? Here are some tips or saving on gas:
- Look for opportunities to carpool - Work with neighbors and co-workers to share the expense of getting kids to school and driving to work.
- Telecommute - If your job requires little more than a computer, try and work from home one or more days per week to cut down on commuting costs.
- Look for the lowest prices - Websites, such as www.gasbuddy.com, keep track of gas prices throughout the country and post them. You can also download an app for your smart phone and get prices on the go.
- Look for discounted gas or rebate options - Some retailers offer discounts on gas for shopping in their stores or using a specific card. Costco offers a cash back rebate on gasoline purchased with the Costco American Express Card. Wal-Mart offers 3 cents off per gallon discount if you use a pre-paid gift card or store credit card.
- Pay cash for gas - If you don't know how much you are spending in gas, or you are struggling to pay off gas purchases made on a credit card each month, use cash to pay for gas.
- Lighten your load - If you have a trunk full of stuff, you are getting fewer miles per gallon. Empty your trunk and save.
- Keep the appropriate air pressure in your tires to get the best gas mileage. Reduce the cost to cool down a hot car by using a sun-shade in the front window and parking in a shady area.
- Plan your day so you can combine trips and drive fewer miles.
- Drive the speed limit-speeding reduces your miles per gallon.
Here are some tips for saving on groceries:
- Make a list, and stick to it - While grocery shopping can be expensive, it is often the unplanned purchases that put the bill over the top. Plan your menus for the week and make a list of things you need before you go to the store.
- Take advantage of coupon savings, special purchases, and buy one-get one promotions - Coupon savings are usually worth the cost of the Sunday paper. In addition to manufacturer's coupons, sites like www.couponmom.com compare in-store specials at many grocery chains. A great sale or double or triple coupon values may make it worth the trip to a store you don't usually go to. For staple items with a long shelf-life, stock up during sales. Avoid buying things you wouldn't normally buy just because you have a coupon.
- Use technology to help you save. There are many apps to help you organize your lists, find coupons, track prices at stores in your area and more. Grocery Pal shows you what's on sale at your local retailers. Apples2Oranges allows you to compare prices on various sizes to see which offers the better deal. Grocery Gadget can help organize your shopping list and track prices for maximum savings. Most apps are available for multiple devices.
- Buy in bulk, sometimes - It may be cheaper to buy 3 dozen eggs, but only if you don't end up throwing out a dozen because they have expired. Compare prices on bulk purchases. Consider shopping for bulk items with a friend and share the cost.
- Eat before you shop - Shopping on an empty stomach will always cost you more at the store. Have a snack before you go and you'll be less tempted to impulse buy.
- Don't limit your shopping to eye level - Many lower cost items, including store brands, are stocked on higher and lower shelves while higher priced items are at eye level.
- Don't assume items are cheaper because they are a larger size or displayed separately - Take a calculator along to determine the price per ounce or pound so you can get the best deal. And remember, larger is not always better. Buy only what you will use.
- Save on eating out - While it may add slightly to your grocery bill, packing your lunch can save you a hundred dollars or more per month when compared to eating out.