Inflation is back and we are all feeling it to varying degrees. Many of the investments we’ve used to generate additional cash like stock market gains, crypto gains and margins from side hustles are also down. The economic uncertainty also makes many of us want to beef up our emergency funds just in case.
How can you make more money and increase your net worth in this environment? It’s time to get back to the basics with cash. While I am always the biggest proponent of focusing on generating income over focusing on cutting costs, it’s time for a quick checkup on spending, cash and personal cash flow while you work mid to long term on increasing your income.
Track Your Spending And Keep Your Budget Updated
Got a little lax on tracking your spending and sticking to a budget? If you’re short on cash, immediately stop spending money on wants and look for ways to reduce spending on needs as you recalibrate.
Then, go back and figure out where you’v been spending your money and what your cash flow looks like relative to your spending. A lot of credit cards have dashboards now that show you what categories you’re spending your money on every month. Checking accounts also have dashboards that show you your cash flow month over month. Start here.
Next, either update your budget or build your budget. Are there categories you can cut back on? Subscriptions you can cancel? Remember, spending cuts don’t have to be forever. Build a plan for the rest of the year. Define your needs verse your wants, and which wants are most important to you. Know that some of your needs are significantly more expensive than they were at the beginning of this year and budget accordingly.
The first part of increasing the amount of cash you have is to reduce the amount of cash you’re spending in the first place.
Unsubscribe from Emails And Get Off Social Media
Short on cash? Remove the temptation to spend cash by unsubscribing from emails and getting off social media. So many ideas of how you can spend your money are right in your face because companies and social media have gotten incredibly good at advertising things you like. They know what you’ve purchased before, or other posts you’ve looked at. Unsubscribe from emails and get off social media so you never see the deals, outfit ideas or dream vacation ideas. And trust me, there will be deals coming, because lots of retailers over ordered and they are going to need to clear inventory in the second half. Remove the temptation before it begins and when you truly need something search for the deals at that time.
Get Reimbursed For Medical / Health / FSA Expenses
Have you already spent money that you should be able to get reimbursed? This is an easy way to get back some cash quickly. For me, the first place I look are my medical / health/ wellness expenses because I have a FSA and my company offers a generous wellness benefit. This is a chore I loathe and always put off submitting my receipts until the end of the year so I can do it one time. But, I collected all my receipts a few weeks ago and submitted everything so far and got almost $400 back from just at home covid test reimbursements and figuring out the FSA eligible items I could submit.
At Home Covid Tests
At home covid tests bought after January 15, 2022 in the United States can be reimbursed through your insurance! Requesting reimbursement for at home covid tests through Caremark was an easy process for me and a few weeks later I received a check in the mail.
FSA Eligible Items
Some programs offer automatic reimbursements for prescriptions and doctors payments. Set that up once and it makes this process so much easier! But, there are other items that qualify for FSA reimbursements too. Did you know tampons and sunscreen are FSA eligible? So are many other items. If you have a FSA, it’s not just for prescriptions. See if anything else you’ve spent money on qualifies this year.
Wellness Program Reimbursements
My company offers a wellness benefit where we can get gym memberships, boutique classes, gym equipment and more reimbursed up to a certain amount! I took a few spin classes while I was out of town and submitted those for reimbursement. Check what is covered under these plans because you may be surprised how many wellness items you can submit for reimbursement. For example, I was surprised to learn recently that fitness trackers were eligible.
Use Your Gift Cards
You don’t have to cut back your lifestyle at first if you’re short on cash. Look for gift cards you already have to stores, restaurants and services you use and use those up first. Double up with deals or coupons to have the gift cards last even longer.
Use Your Credit Card and Reward Points
Did you rack up a bunch of credit card points in 2020 and 2021? Now is the time to use those. To make your credit card points go the farthest, know the cash value of your points. My credit card points are worth the most when used for travel, about 1.5 cents each. So, I always use the points on that credit card for travel. In a pinch, I’ll redeem for cash back and store gift cards.
The same goes for reward points. After staying at home for so long, of course many of us have the travel itch! Airline and hotel prices are at multi year highs now, use your hotel and airline points instead of booking for cash. If you can be flexible on dates, look for dates that require less points or set alerts on Google flights if you must use cash.
Save Money on Food
It seems like every time we go to the grocery store we feel the pinch of inflation more and more. It’s no longer a few dollars here or there. A trip to the grocery store that used to be $70 is now over $100. Use these tips to reduce the amount you’re spending on food.
Reduce Food Waste Through Closet Clean Out, Meal Planning and Grocery Lists
The first step we took to save money on food is reducing food waste. Go through your cabinets and find what’s expiring soon, and what ingredients you have. Plan meals that use these ingredients or find recipes that only require 1-2 more ingredients to buy. Write down everything you need to buy and don’t buy anything else not on that list.
As a household of two, many items we buy have way more product than we need. To make cheeseburgers we’ll buy a pound of hamburger meat and then the bag of buns will have 6 or 8. We’ve tried to get better with meal planning and now the week we make cheeseburgers we’ll also make BBQ chicken sliders. We’ll buy frozen fruit instead of fresh fruit, or freeze fresh fruit if we haven’t used it yet.
Instead of trying a new recipe that calls for a bunch of ingredients we’ll probably never use again, we’re also sticking to recipes that have less than 5 ingredients. We also are now walking to the grocery store, which is a great deterrent to buying anything we don’t need. Much harder to carry extra home than to drive it home!
Look for Deals on Food
We usually shop at Trader Joe’s but more recently we’ve gone back to the traditional grocery store. This grocery store now has all of their coupons online and with a quick 5 min search we can digitally clip coupons. Waiting to buy staples until they are on sale and buying and bulk are additional ways to save on food costs.
Personally, we don’t shop at Costco since we’re a small household and there are few things we need to buy in bulk. Even if something is cheaper per oz to buy in bulk if you end up throwing most of it away you’ve spent more than you would have if you bought the smaller size. A deal is not a deal if it’s something you wouldn’t have purchased in the first place.
Cut Out the Junk Food
I love junk food, and especially living in the city and walking around it’s so nice to get a refreshing juice or ice cream on a hot day to treat myself. Before, it’d be like $3, maybe $5. But now, with inflation plus the iPad tips these treats are costing closer to $10 each time. When I shop at Trader Joe’s I always end up with a couple of their almond butter cups and mint chocolates. These small purchases can add up and combined with everything else at some point you can’t afford everything like you used to. When you’re bootstrapping your budget, you need to decide what is most important.
Save Money on Transportation
There are no shortage of news headlines about how bad gas prices are these days, and advice to save money on gas by carpooling, doing several errands all at once and checking your tire pressure. Are there ways you can skip driving all together by biking or walking somewhere? It also may be cheaper to buy something online or get it delivered depending on the shipping and delivery prices.
If you live in a city, there are so many options available to save money. Get a membership for a bike or scooter rental company. Take public transportation. Walk when you can.
Identify Substitutes for Purchases and Celebrations
Some purchases you can’t delay, or don’t want to delay, so how do you use less cash to buy them when prices are soaring? Look for substitutes. If you need a dress to wear to a wedding, look on Amazon or on second hand sites like Poshmark. Keep in mind resale price too as Amazon you likely won’t be able to resell but a quality brand on Poshmark you can likely sell after.
If you’ve recently moved and need to furnish your house shop estate sales, buy nothing groups and these other money saving tips.
Refuse to stop traveling after being stuck at home for a few years? Pair up with a friend that lives somewhere fun and stay with them for a few days and invite them to spend a weekend at your place in return. Instead of the more expensive hotel, pick a cheaper hotel or cheaper room within the hotel. Celebrate a birthday in a backyard with a BBQ instead of going to an expensive dinner. Always look for the cheaper options and determine if the more expensive option is really worth it right now.
What are ways you’ve used to bootstrap your budget recently?