The latest inflation numbers are out, and it’s bad. Inflation is at its worst since the 1980s — though I’m guessing you already knew that. Your ever-increasing food and gas expenses tell the inflation story more clearly than any official report.
If there was ever a time to get serious about sticking to a budget and saving money, it’s now. Because you may not have a choice. Either employ some serious budgeting hacks or see your checking account overdrawn before your next payday.
So, let’s get into it. Here are seven easy budgeting hacks that’ll help you fight back against inflation and keep control of your finances.
1. Share your receipts
Apps like Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, and Amazon Shopper Panel will give you cash rewards for sharing your receipts. There is a privacy trade-off to consider — which you may not be OK with. But if you don’t mind sharing your purchase info, you can make some extra dough.
I’ve used all three apps casually for 12-18 months and have earned:
To me, that’s all free money (the best kind of money, right?).
Currently, I’m not using Ibotta as much as the other two. While I’ve made the most money with Ibotta, it’s cumbersome to use. Fetch and Amazon Shopper Panel are less time-consuming, which I prefer.
Note that Amazon Shopper Panel is invitation-only, but you can download the app and join the waiting list.
2. Use a cash-back credit card
If you have good credit and you’re responsible with credit cards, use a no-fee, cash-back card for all regular purchases. The trick is that you must pay off the balance every month. Rolling over balances will quickly wipe out the cash you’ve earned.
Look for a no-fee card that returns 1.5% to 2% on all purchases. Be leery of cards that give you higher rewards on certain categories. Your situation may be different, but I earn less on those.
I use a Citi Double Cash card regularly. No annual fee and you earn 1% on purchases and 1% on payments. You can redeem those points as a statement credit or use them to buy stuff on Amazon. I always opt for the statement credit because the conversion rate of points to dollars is higher.
3. Transfer debt balances you’re rolling over
Inflation is on the rise, which means interest rates are likely to keep ticking up too. Head off interest rate hikes on your variable debt (that is, credit card balances you’re rolling over) with balance transfers.
Some credit cards allow you to convert portions of your debt into fixed-rate loans. This is a decent option if the rate is acceptable and the conversion will help you pay down debt faster.
Even better is the 0% balance transfer. You’ll spend 3% of the transferred amount on a transfer fee. If you pay off the balance over the next 12 months, that 3% fee will be substantially less than the 16% or 17% you’ll pay by leaving the debt on your regular credit card.
4. Use browser extensions for cash back
If you’re an online shopper, a cash-back browser extension is a must. These bits of software notify you when a product is available for less on a different website. They also check coupon codes to get you the lowest price possible in the shopping cart.
- Capital One Shopping
- Lolli (gives you cash back in crypto)
- Invisible Hand
5. Buy discount gift cards
This budgeting hack is another no-brainer — though you have to be organized to implement it. Buy gift cards at a discount for the stores you shop regularly. You will save 1% to 15% on your purchases.
You’ll see the smaller discounts on popular stores like Target and Walmart, and bigger discounts on retail brands like H&M and Under Armour. Below are some notable discounts currently available on gift card marketplace Raise:
- Target 2.7% off
- Walmart 2.1% off
- Belk 5.1% off
- H&M 13% off
- Old Navy 15% off
- Total Wine & More 6% off
These are easy savings. They also stack on top of savings you’re getting from cashback extensions and credit cards.
6. Share your favorite tools
Many of the tools and apps that help you save also reward you for bringing your friends on board. Rakuten, for example, runs specials where you can earn $30 for referring friends who later make a purchase. Your friends, too, earn $30 in the process – so it’s an easy sale. (The Rakuten link above — this one — is my referral link. We’re friends, right?)
7. Sign up for text messages
Text messages are the new email. I’ve been signing up for text messages like crazy lately. It seems many merchants really want my phone number — because they’re willing to give me coupon codes in return. I’ve only unsubscribed from the ones that send me way too many notifications. I figure that’s my way of providing feedback on their messaging program.
Don’t leave money on the table
Inflation stinks. It forces us to work harder to make ends meet. There’s some good news, though. The budgeting hacks you adopt now will help in today’s economy and tomorrow’s. You can keep lowering the cost of your spending long after this inflationary period ends — which will happen eventually.
So, get your cash back now, and let’s look forward to better times ahead.